Nobel-winning agricultural scientist Borlaug dies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Norman Borlaug, the U.S. agricultural scientist who received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for developing high-yielding crops to prevent famine in the developing world, has died at age 95, Texas A&M University said.

Agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug speak at a ceremony where he was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, at the Capitol Building in Washington July 17, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Borlaug, hailed as a central figure in the “green revolution” that made more food available for the world’s hungry, died on Saturday night from cancer complications in Dallas, the university said in a statement.

The “green revolution” -- the development of crops such as wheat that delivered better yields than traditional strains -- is credited with helping avert massive famines that had been predicted in the developing world in the last half of the 20th century.

Borlaug served as a distinguished professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University, located in College Station, Texas.

Experts have said his crusade to develop high-yielding, disease-resistant crops saved the lives of millions of people worldwide who otherwise may have been doomed to starvation. His efforts to develop new crop varieties helped alleviate food shortages in places such as India and Pakistan, helping make developing countries self-sufficient in food production.

He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2007, Borlaug also received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor of the United States.

“We all eat at least three times a day in privileged nations, and yet we take food for granted,” Borlaug said in a recent interview. “There has been great progress, and food is more equitably distributed. But hunger is commonplace, and famine appears all too often.”

In 1944, he was appointed as geneticist and plant pathologist assigned the job of organizing and directing the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico.

This joint undertaking of the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation philanthropic organization focused upon scientific research in genetics, plant breeding and related fields. Within two decades, he succeeded in finding a high-yielding disease-resistant wheat.

The Iowa-born scientist then worked to put newly developed cereal strains into extensive production.

“It is the hope of the Borlaug family that his life be an example to all. We would like his life be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind,” his children said in a statement released by the university.