Texas A&M's Borlaug to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Texas A&M Agriculture's Dr. Norman Borlaug will be presented the Congressional Gold Medal July 17 for unparalleled efforts at "bringing radical change to world agriculture and uplifting humanity," according to the U.S. Congress.

The presentation of the medal, created specifically for Borlaug at the U.S. Mint, will be at 10 a.m. in the Capital Rotunda.

Borlaug, 93, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 - the first ever to receive the prize for agricultural efforts - for his international research which led to wheat varieties that helped feed millions of starving people. He is distinguished professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University where he has been actively teaching, lecturing and consulting since 1984.

In measures passed by the Senate last September and the House in December, Borlaug was credited with "saving billions of people around the world ... (he) saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived."

"Dr. Borlaug's life-long work in fields throughout the world is a shining example of the importance of agriculture, not only for feeding starving people, but for economic and political stability," said Dr. Elsa Murano, Texas A&M University System vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences. "We are honored to have shared in his work for more than two decades at Texas A&M, and we applaud this recognition of his legacy."

Borlaug is often called the "Father of the Green Revolution" to depict the color and quantity of wheat planted in the world as a result of his development of smaller, easier-to-harvest plants which were nurtured the fertilizer, water and weed-preventing chemicals.

"There is no magic in high-yielding seed," Borlaug once said. "People have to know how to grow, when to plant, how to control weeds, how to manage water."

He bred a dwarf wheat first in Mexico because the traditional varieties there grew so tall that the stalks would bend over, losing the grain heads on the ground. His developments increased Mexican wheat production sixfold.

From there, Borlaug took the improved varieties to India and Pakistan in the mid-1960s though scientists then thought those nations of explosive populations and poor land were a hopeless cause.

But the effort worked. When Borlaug's work began there, India produced 11 million metric tons per year. That country now is the world's second largest producer of wheat and is expected to bring in 73 million tons this year, according to the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Borlaug has continued to work globally, maintaining research in Mexico each spring and teaching at Texas A&M each fall.

"It's difficult to come back to the United States and talk about food shortages when we have been blessed throughout history with abundance," Borlaug recalls.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given by the legislative branch of government, bestowed on those who have made a significant "act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States."

George Washington was the first recipient on March 25, 1776. Borlaug also joins the ranks of the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Dr. Jonas Salk, Mother Theresa of India, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King and more than 100 other recipients.

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