Thoughts About Norm Borlaug for his 100th Birthday

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Norman Borlaug Congressional Medal, Wikimedia Commons. Norman Borlaug would have been 100 years old last week.  He has been called “The Man Who Fed The World,” and “The Father of The Green Revolution.”  Norm Borlaug was the first plant pathologist to be awarded a Nobel Prize (1970) – for contributions to world peace. For all of use who are fellow plant pathologists, his work has been particularly inspiring. It is a good time to look back at how the challenge of feeding the world population was met during Borlaug’s career, because we have a similar challenge ahead of us.

Play it Hard – A Tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug

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The International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and Biology Fortified have produced a special video tribute to the late Dr. Norman Borlaug, a legendary CIMMYT scientist who developed high-yielding, semi-dwarf wheat that started the Green Revolution which is credited with saving over 1 billion people from starvation. The release of this tribute coincides with The Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security, on what would have been the 100th birthday of Dr. Borlaug. His message of increasing food production and the importance of using science in this effort are still important today – perhaps more than ever

Reductionist thinking and GMOs

While the article GMOs, Silver Bullets and the Trap of Reductionist Thinking has garnered some praise, I was hoping for more here and was left unimpressed. Written by Jonathan Foley, Director of the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, the article begins by stating that GMOs have come with “Big Problems”. He goes on to elaborate several points that are actually either old myths, untrue, or not really GE specific. In the move from “lab into the real world” he states that “they end up being very disappointing.” I wonder how many growers across the globe would agree with that.

Forego a hamburger, feed a person

Steaks by Robert Burns of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service via Flickr.

I eat meat. More specifically, I eat feedlot beef from major supermarket chains and generally enjoy it. Nonetheless, the implications of a recent study have me questioning whether I will eat meat in the future. In their paper, Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare, Cassidy et al. present the case that we could feed an additional 4 billion people by growing food for people rather than for livestock. We could do this because feeding crops to livestock is inherently an inefficient way to feed people. In the U.S. (worst case country in this paper), only 1/3

The fruits of climate change

Zaiger pluot, courtesy of BMRR on Wikipedia.

Zaiger pluot, courtesy of BMRR on Wikipedia. The other day I found myself looking through the plant patents held by the Zaiger’s Genetics team. The Zaigers, a family of plant breeders led by a UC Davis Plant Pathology graduate, have developed some very cool fruits. You may know of the pluot, and apparently they have a peach with low acid that has taken the world by storm. They have developed many plants with important and beneficial characteristics besides taste – but they taste great too. I know some people dislike patents, but I have no objection to people who have