Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and world-renowned father of the Green Revolution, was posthumously awarded the prestigious Agricola Medal from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization during the recent World Food Security Conference in Rome.
The organization's director-general, Jacques Diouf, announced the award and paid homage to Borlaug's life-long efforts toward ending world hunger.
Borlaug, who passed away last year at age 95, has been credited with saving as many as a billion lives through his work in developing a high-yield, disease-resistant semi-dwarf wheat and the "shuttle breeding" technique, which significantly improved agricultural production in nations faced with serious food shortages.
Jeanie Borlaug Laube, Borlaug’s daughter, and Julie Borlaug Larson, Borlaug’s granddaughter and director for partnerships of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, accepted the award from Diouf.
“The conferring of this award to the memory of my grandfather further validates and recognizes his work and his legacy," says Larson. "But the challenge of helping feed an ever-growing world population and providing food security for all, especially those in underdeveloped and developing countries, continues to be and will remain the mission of the institute which bears his name and shares his vision.”
The Borlaug Institute, part of the Texas A&M University System, was named in honor of Borlaug, who served as a distinguished professor of international agriculture at the university from 1984 until his death in 2009. According to its website, the institute “strives to carry on Borlaug's legacy by promoting science-based solutions for the world's agriculture and food challenges” and currently leads or participates in numerous agricultural improvement projects worldwide.
World food day
The Agricola Medal was presented to Borlaug in conjunction with World Food Day, celebrated each year on Oct. 16. According to World Food Day materials, the day is “a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-around action to alleviate hunger.” It is observed annually on that date in recognition of the founding of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. The first World Food Day was observed in 1981.
“This is the 30th observance of World Food Day and I am especially proud to have been here to share in the posthumous presentation of this award to one of the world’s great humanitarians,” says Ed Price, director of the Borlaug Institute, who was in Rome for the conference and presentation.
Price noted that it was approximately one year ago that Borlaug passed away and that few if any people in history had done as much to promote world peace through agriculture.
“Most of us in the international agriculture community feel Norm’s impact – past, present and future – on improving the world’s security by improving global food security cannot be overstated,” he says.
Previous recipients of the Agricola Medal include King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand; French President Jacques Chirac; Chinese President Jiang Zemin; Pope John Paul II; President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey and India; President Johannes Rau of Germany and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is based in Rome, as are two other United Nations agencies addressing agricultural development and hunger alleviation – the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agriculture Development.