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Nobel Winner Reflects on Work in Food Research

The Montgomery Advertiser
April 26, 2001
By Alvin Benn

Science-based agriculture is essential to fighting world hunger and should not be considered a frightening concept, Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug said Wednesday while in Tuskegee.

The 87-year-old scientist, who has been called the father of the "Green Revolution" because of his work in food genetics, said research into grain production is nothing new. He said it dates back to the 1940s "and before." "India and Pakistan are becoming self-sufficient," Borlaug told students and faculty at Tuskegee University. "I consider it a privilege to be have been involved in guiding this program."

Borlaug, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in agriculture, spoke at a luncheon following a roundtable discussion with TU students, many of whom were in awe of someone with his scientific credentials. "It's a great honor to have someone like him here," said Audrey Means of Mobile, who attended the luncheon. "It adds to the prestige of our school."

Walter Hill, who directs the university's college of agricultural, environmental and natural sciences, said descriptive words such as biotechnology and cloning can create fear and confusion among those unfamiliar with the subject. "One of our biggest problems is terminology," Hill said. "There has been research into food production for hundreds of years. We're just learning now how to do it in a better way."

Hill said medical research is accepted because of lives that are saved as a result of advances in equipment. He said the same benefits can be derived from agriculture if research is conducted "carefully and "We have a problem of obesity in America, but there is hunger in Africa and Asia," Hill said. "Agricultural research is vital to survival and is just what we do here at Tuskegee University."

Borlaug, who described himself a product of a "one-room country school" in Iowa, joined the Rockefeller Foundation in 1944 and was assigned to help Mexico improve its wheat and maize production. He soon led a team of international scientists who began work on improving the yield of wheat and rice. The team also trained technicians from around the world. The result was a strain of wheat characterized by higher protein content and higher yield. Much of his speech involved technical reflections and, when he saw some in his audience begin to look around the room or down at their plates, he offered a solution. "Go ahead with your salad and I'll ramble on," he said.

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