Home > Uncategorized > Happy Birthday Norman Borlaug

Happy Birthday Norman Borlaug

For those of you who don’t know him here ya go. He literally brought food for the hungry and his work helped lead to others preventing blindness in poor countries. Sick! (EDIT: Well not yet, it kind of sucks but the Greenpeaces and Sierra Clubs are saying no, which means more vitamin deficiencies) It’s funny he gets a lot of flack from certain environmentalists in spite of all this wonderful work he has done, just because he was the stud of the GMO movement.

I’ll let the man speak for himself:

Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

Speaking of food, I find Anthony Bourdain’s stance on vegetarianism deliciously accurate.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. orijinalbrand
    March 25, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    BDK, interesting topic you bring up. Regarding Mr. Borlaug’s comments about elitist environmentalists, i’m thinking I couldn’t agree with you more. The last thing we need is someone in DC telling local farmers how to farm. That being said, the same can be said for “do-gooder socialities” and “happy celebrities” going off to “less developed” countries and arrogantly attempting to make them emulate a “developed” country like ours.

    Your Borlaug quote really doesn’t seem to have anything to do with GMOs though. Being limited in my farming history, I asked my father what tractors, fertilizer, and irrigation canals had anything to do with this. His response was pretty scientific but did touch base on sustainability and our need for small scale. This is what he asked me to pass along to you:

    “Tractors replaced sustainable human and animal labor with non-sustainable burning of fossil fuels. We need to bring human and animal labor back to farming. This will necessarily drive us towards small scale and local production-consumption. Less developed countries (by our definition) should not aspire to emulate the consumtive, non-sustainable practices of the “developed nations” but rather determine how to become self-sufficient, importing nothing from “developed nations” and avoiding the urgings of these consumptive “developed nations” to shift their economies to commodity exporters (ie agricultural products) and value-added product importers (eg tractors.)

    I am assuming Mr. Borlaug was referring to artificial fertilizers made from petroleum refinement, rather than natural fertilizers such as manures, fish, and seaweed. The use of artificial fertilizers has resulted in the demineralization of the soil, resulting in nutrient poor vegetation and animals, and ultimately destroying the health of the humans who consume them. To farm sustainably, the farmer must manage the soil to enhance its long-term productive potential. This requires attention to four major aspects of soil: soil energy, foundational minerals, humus & biology, and trace elements. The artificial fertilizers (eg urea and amonium sulfate) provide quick bursts of energy (not unlike the current rage for power drinks) but ultimately exhaust the soil by preying on the other three aspects of soil (much as energy drinks give a false high and then produce an even more sluggish individual who needs to drink another energy drink just to stay awake.) The natural fertilizers (kelp, fish, manures, etc.) provide a more even and balance energy source that enhances the other three soil aspects. Foundational minerals such as available calcium and phosphorus are best supplied through insoluble rock powders (eg limestone, soft rock phosphate, gypsum, etc.) Certain geologic areas are more well endowed with these than others, which is why they have such fertile soils while many locations need to provide these amendments to balance the soil. Humus is the organic residue and metabolites left behind by biological activity. Artificial fertilizers and their cousins, chemical pesticides and herbicides, kill the soil biology, leading to reduced humus. Thus, the artificial fertilizers prop up the deficient soil to “grow” crops (eg you can grow crops in sand and even in water “hydroponics” if you add enough chemical fertilizer) but these crops are deficient in the minerals and biology necessary to support the animals who eat them. Trace elements such as boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc etc are required by the plant and the animals eating the plants to regulate growth and health. The best sources of these trace minerals are sea salts, seaweed, and various rock powders. Industrial agriculture as espoused by the USDA and the multinational companies supporting it (Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, etc) push the chemical fertilizers, resulting in the “mining” of the soil and ignore the fundamental aspects of creating and maintaining healthy soils. Unfortunately, not every place on the planet has good soils. Rather than prop them up artificially with chemical fertilizers, efforts should be made to focus local agriculture on what works best with the soil (eg don’t try to grow corn and wheat in africa) and adjust the diets of the local people (and their populations) to be in harmony with their local soils.

    Irrigation canals are one of the most inefficient uses of water known to man. One need only look at the desertification of the once fertile Middle East and to the decline of the once fertile mid-west and western valleys to see that this does not work for the long term. Man should be managing his soil to retain moisture efficiently and selecting crops that thrive in his local environment (rainfall, temperatures, etc.) focusing on irrigation canals is like focusing on cancer treatments rather than eating well so as to avoid cancer.

    Regarding GMOs, I am totally aghast at mankind’s hubris in playing with natural systems solely to support further human procreation and greedy lifestyles, seemingly racing to end the planet by overrunning its capacities. Like Nuclear Energy, it is idiots enjoying the present and not worrying about the future.”‘

    Hahaha… i think you may find that last part extreme. But i dunno… makes a lot of sense to me.

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