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Borlaug turns 95, lends name to $10 million Monsanto scholars grant

Texas

Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Nobel laureate hailed as the father of the "Green Revolution," celebrated his 95th birthday in Dallas March 25.

Borlaug, a researcher and plant breeder, was honored by dozens of friends, relatives, colleagues and dignitaries at the Northwood Country Club for his lifetime commitment to fighting world hunger.

In his name, the Monsanto Company Co., of St. Louis committed a $10 million grant over five years--the Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program--to identify and support scientists interested in improving research and production through wheat and rice breeding, company officials said.

The grant is also named after Dr. Henry Beachell, a Borlaug contemporary and pioneer plant breeder who died in 2006.

Borlaug, who was greeted by a standing ovation at the luncheon, said he was honored to have his name attached to a scholars program designed to help young scientists improve food production.

He added that it will take cooperation across scientific disciplines to meet the ever-growing demand for increased food production as populations boom in countries worldwide.

"Now I ask all of you to pull together," Borlaug said. "There's no room for specific disciplines. We all have to work together, not just for one crop, but for all basic crops.

"We must never forget that this population monster is a big threat to the social and economic stability of the world."

"He has inspired us and pushed us to accomplish more," said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of the college of life sciences at Texas A&M University, where Borlaug has been a distinguished professor since 1984.

"Happy birthday, Norm," he said.

Hussey read from proclamations and notes sent by Gov. Rick Perry and former president Jimmy Carter.

Suzanne Hale, acting administrator for USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, said Borlaug is one of her heroes.

"At USDA, we all take pride in what you've done to feed millions of people all over the world," she said.

Fathers of the Green Revolution

Born March 25, 1914, Borlaug remains active in the fight against world hunger. Along with his work through Texas A&M University, he chairs the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative and remains involved in the World Food Prize and Borlaug Fellows Program established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He also continues to collaborate with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and through the SG 2000 partnership of Sasakawa Africa Association and the Carter Center. Currently a resident of Dallas, he is a plant pathologist and plant breeder whose efforts to develop and deliver improved wheat varieties have been credited with saving more than 1 billion people from starvation. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions. Borlaug was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2006. In addition to Borlaug, only four people have been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, The Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize: Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elie Wiesel.

Beachell was a world-renowned plant breeder whose cultivation of a new rice plant led to greatly increased yields of the crop in developing countries of Asia.

While working for IRRI in the 1960s, Beachell and others crossed rice plants to produce a new variety called IR8. The resulting plant produced more heads of rice on a shorter and stronger stalk. IR8 is credited with savings millions of lives in Asia. For his work, Beachell received the World Food Prize in 1996 with Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush.

The extraordinary contributions of the two men have come to be known as the "Green Revolution."



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