By the first half of the 20th century, the world had suffered the brunt of two consecutive and catastrophic world wars. Aside from the loss of families, friends, homes and jobs, the surviving population across the globe had a far bitter trauma to deal with – starvation. Wars incur unprecedented economic losses. Since the Great Depression of 1929, the food crisis had plagued thousands of lives and killed many more, especially in underdeveloped countries.
Following independence in 1947, India and her newborn neighbours like Pakistan were reeling under acute poverty, which, added on to an exponentially growing population, posed the threat of famines as dire as the infamous Bengal Famine of 1943.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
Norman Borlaug: The man who saved the war-ravaged world
In the late 1960s, noted biologist Paul Ehrlich floated his explosive theory of Population Bomb, which predicted that millions in the Indian subcontinent might perish as the food supply failed to multiply as fast as the population. However, in reality, such a drastic disaster could be prevented, all credits to one of the most unsung heroes of the world – Norman Borlaug.
The Nobel Peace Prize awardee American agronomist had also been awarded the Padma Vibhushan – the second-highest civilian honour from India, aside from the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal from his motherland.
Father of Worldwide Green Revolution
Recognised as the true father of the worldwide Green Revolution, Borlaug developed a miraculous strain of wheat that saved an entire planet from mass starvation. The semi-dwarf wheat strain, first piloted in Mexico by Borlaug, exhibited high yield, disease resistance and resilience to all weather and soil conditions. The variety thrived well in the Indian subcontinent, saving an undernourished population from impending doom.
Soon, the cultivation of his wheat strain spread like wildfire all over the world with developing countries importing Borlaug’s seeds in bulk. Production increased by nearly three times in the 30 years between 1960 and 2000.
Later, Borlaug reproduced his work on corn and rice as well, thereby ushering in the ‘Green Revolution’, which still holds relevance as a crucial chapter in the history of humanity.