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Congress Honors Norman Borlaug, Father of 'Green Revolution'

The agricultural scientist, whose work helped fight starvation in South Asia in the 1960s, receives the Congressional Gold Medal. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

American agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug has received the Congressional Gold Medal. The award is the highest civilian honor given by Congress. Norman Borlaug is often called "the man who saved a billion lives" and "the father of the Green Revolution."

His work helped fight starvation in India and Pakistan in the nineteen sixties. He won the nineteen seventy Nobel Peace Prize.

President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid presented him with his latest honor last week. The scientist is ninety-three years old. He still works as an adviser at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

In accepting the medal, he urged Congress and the administration to increase development assistance for agriculture. He said the world needs better and more technology to deal with hunger. In his words: "Hunger and poverty and misery are very fertile soils into which to plant all kinds of 'isms,' including terrorism."

In the nineteen forties, Norman Borlaug and a team developed highly productive and disease-resistant wheat for farmers in Mexico. About twenty years later, millions of people in India and Pakistan were in danger from grain shortages.

The improved wheat from Mexico also grew well in South Asia, combined with changes in growing methods. Norman Borlaug persuaded farmers to use more fertilizers and pesticide chemicals and to water their crops with irrigation systems. The results were big production gains that many believe saved as many as a billion lives.

President Bush noted that hunger still affects much of the developing world. He said the most fitting honor for Norman Borlaug is to lead a second Green Revolution that feeds the world.

Yet his support for new agricultural technologies has been criticized at times over the years. Some researchers worry about the effects of industrial methods of modern farming. Some have argued that Earth's resources are limited and not able to feed everyone.

Population researcher Paul Ehrlich, for example, wrote a nineteen sixty-eight book called "The Population Bomb." He predicted that population growth would cause widespread harm to the planet.

But now, some people are saying there should be greater attention and respect for Norman Borlaug. A major theme of his work is that people can deal with difficulties and that technology can improve their lives.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Jim Tedder.