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Happy Birthday
An Important Birthday to Celebrate

Today would have been the hundredth birthday of Norman Borlaug, one of the most important and under-recognized innovators of the 20th century. Borlaug created a new version of wheat that dramatically increased crop yields around the world, and especially in places like India and Pakistan. His innovations prevented famines and may have saved as many as one billion people from starvation.

Much as they did in Borlaug’s time, Malthusians today fret that overpopulation is pushing our planet’s resources past the point of collapse. Borlaug’s centennial is as good a time as any to remind ourselves of not only the promise of technological advancements like GMOs, but also the existence of geniuses who consistently surprise us with improvements to our health and quality of life. The Malthusian naysayers will always be with us, but then so too will innovators like Norman Borlaug.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Shock! Horror! Genetically-modified wheat saves a billion lives. Ban it at once! [/sarcasm alert]

  • Jim__L

    So, is anyone doing similar sort of research for fisheries?

    • Andrew Allison

      Aquaculture is booming (, the bycatch issue ( ), which wastes more than half the fish caught, is finally being addressed, and other methods of increasing yields being explored ( But God forbid we consider genetic modification LOL.

      • Jim__L

        Fascinating to see the tonnage of wild-caught flatlining in the early to mid 90’s and the tonnage of farm-raised taking off like that. I wonder how far aquaculture can be extended?

        • Andrew Allison

          The trajectory for aquaculture looks pretty impressive. There’s a variation of it called sustainable fishing, which would allow the overfished species to recuperate and perhaps even increase the sustainable catch, but in the short term the big win would be dealing with the bycatch problem. Another interesting idea would be the deliberate overfishing of invasive species like Asian Carp. Even if Americans can’t be persuaded to eat fish which is prized in the Orient, it makes great food for aquaculture.

          • Jim__L

            So Malthus is in bad shape after all. 🙂

            By the way, Bay Area Greens are very much against farmed fish. Go figure.

          • Andrew Allison

            I fear that Malthus will be proved right in the long run. The increase in food production which has supported greatly increased population has occurred in a very benign climate (I read once that a six degree decline in temperature would, for example, eliminate wheat production in N. America). There’s at least the possibility that all that missing heat is holding off an incipient Ice Age. Burn, baby, burn!
            Much as it pains me to acknowledge the fact, the Greens have a good argument about aquaculture, namely the effects of very high concentrations of fish (fecal pollution and disease transmission). They are, of course — let the people starve — Malthusians at heart. LOL

  • lukelea

    This is also a good time remember how American environmentalists shamelessly lobbied to deny the benefits of the green revolution to the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa in the interests of the preservation of indigenous agriculture. (Plants before people.) Just one more example of a sick ideological sub-culture with too much influence in America.

    • El Gringo

      Just as European environmentalists are shamelessly lobbying to deny the benefits of GMO crops to the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Luddites will be luddites.

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