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Brazil Loses a Great Friend

On the evening of September 12, Dr. Norman Borlaug, renowned agronomist and scientists, died in Dallas, Texas, after battling cancer and its complications.

A great friend to Brazil, he had visited the country on several occasions since the 40s when he worked to improve varieties of wheat and went in search for many types of plant worldwide, including in Rio Grande do Sul, where Beckmann and associates worked on wheat seed selection. In the 90s, he traveled several times to Sete Lagoas/MG to collaborate with Embrapa on the genetic aspects of a quality protein corn variety, known as “Opaco 2”.

In 1995, invited by Manah S.A., he traveled the Cerrado region and gave a talk to invited farmers and guests, when he issued his praise for “I am convinced that what is happening on the cerrado is one of the most spectacular event in agricultural development that has been accomplished in the world over the last hundred years.” (1995)***

He returned to Brazil at the beginning of 2004 on his own initiative, because he wanted to see what had happened in the Cerrado. Accompanied by Prof. Ed Runge from the University of Texas A&M and the President of the Fundação Agrisus F.Cardoso, he traveled through the states of Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Goiás, Minas Gerais and S.Paulo, giving a talk at the Higher School of Agriculture Luiz de Queiroz-USP in Piracicaba and visiting the Rector of the University of S.Paulo. After following the soybean harvest in Sapezal/MT, he accompanied the corn planting and said that “this is one of the most gratifying days of my life”.

He was present at the ceremony awarding the World Food Prize, created at his behest, when three agronomists were recognized for their work to recover the Brazilian Cerrado: Alysson Paolinelli (former Minister of Agriculture, creator of the Cerrado Program-PROCER in the 80s), Edson Lobato (EMBRAPA-Cerrado, Planaltina/DF) and Colin McClung, from the USA (IRI, Matão/SP).

In a recent article published in the New York Times last August, under the title “Farmers Can Feed the World”, he once again stated his belief that “Better seeds and fertilizers, not romantic myths, will let them do it.”

When he saw the new types of wheat and rice introduced into Asia in 1968 by Borlaug, Mr. William Gaud, USAID Administrator, exclaimed: “This is a green revolution”. This was the origin of his nickname “Father of the Green Revolution”.

Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and in his home country he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Liberty (1977), the Congressional Gold Medal (2006) and the National Medal of Science (2007).

The world mourns the loss of such a distinguished agronomist/scientist, an idealist, both modest and selfless, who was concerned about global food production now and in the future.


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