The Green Revolution’s Legacy

The World Food Prize Symposium will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, next month, and sadly, for the first time, Norman Borlaug, the founder of the prize, will not be present. Dr. Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, died on Sunday at the age of 95. While I may not have agreed with some of his strategies, I do agree with his sense of urgency about feeding the world’s hungry.

Since Dr. Borlaug began his work in the 1950s, the world has experienced unprecedented growth in both human population and food production. The increase in food production was thanks, in part, to some of the agricultural technologies Dr. Borlaug helped develop, including improved seed varieties and the use of inorganic fertilizers on crops.

Today, however, farmers, scientists, and others who are seeking solutions to the global food crisis are looking well beyond seeds to the larger food system, including how farmers water their crops, improve the soil, and market the harvest. They’re also looking for ways to mitigate some of the unintended consequences of the Green Revolution, including the overuse and misuse of pesticides and other agro-chemicals, increases in greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices, and the movement of farmers off the land as agriculture becomes increasingly more concentrated.

My colleague Brian Halweil will be speaking at the World Food Prize event next month about Worldwatch’s work to counteract these trends. Over the next year, we’ll be collecting stories and examples of innovations in agriculture that nourish both people and the planet. We’ll be highlighting them here and in our publications, including the 2011 edition of our flagship report State of the World.

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