Norman Borlaug, Agriculturalist

Presentation by Norm Vietmeyer

Norman Borlaug & Norm Vietmeyer
Norman Borlaug is the Norwegian-American hero no one knows but everyone should know. As humanity doubled its numbers in the past half century only a miracle kept the food supply rising. That miracle was this kid who was born in tiny Iowa village where Norwegian attitudes and language prevailed.

An eventual Nobel Peace Prize winner, Borlaug expressed the character traits Nordic people pride themselves on – hard work, modesty, practical intelligence, a sense of compassion for others. And he put those traits to work for the world’s hungry and disadvantaged masses.

Before Borlaug, crops were bred for specific locations; he bred them for global use and thereby almost instantly raised food production in at least 100 countries. Before Borlaug, crops were tall and getting taller; he bred them half size and thereby raised farming’s efficiency and more than doubled yields. Before Borlaug, crops routinely collapsed from disease; he bred in immunity to the major threats and thereby gave decades of protection from crop collapse.

Though he worked with wheat, his example led the way for the breeders of rice, corn and other crops. It is why the global famine predicted to take at least 200 million lives never eventuated. It is why we eat so well and so cheaply. And it is why people in the know say that “no one has ever done more to lessen human misery or to increase human happiness than Norman Borlaug.

Over a period of 25 years, Noel Vietmeyer recorded several hundred of Borlaug’s personal recollections, and now has presented them in three volumes filled with fascinating insights into the very special life of this unique son of Norway. Copies will be available for purchase.

For those who are interested, we will show a movie featuring Norman Borlaug as he was in 1968 when a British television network featured him as its Man of the Year. This will be the first public showing in 42 years.

Noel Vietmeyer, a Fairfax County resident, earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of California. During a long career at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. he produced over 30 books describing innovations that can benefit Africa, Asia and Latin America. Vietmeyer was also a prolific freelance writer, producing some 200 articles for publications such as National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian, Encyclopaedia Britannica, World Book, International Wildlife and Ranger Rick.

The photo shows Norman Borlaug and Noel Vietmeyer during their first meeting in July 1982. [at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona]