July 24, 2007

Greatest Living American?

Both Gregg Easterbrook and Jonathan Alter wrote encomiums to Norman Borlaug, the man who developed the dwarf-wheat hybrid back in the 1940s and 1950s, which kick-started the "Green Revolution" and helped countries triple and quadruple their grain production. In Easterbrook's eyes, Bourlaug is the "Greatest Living American." Now, as I've written before, it's easy to overstate the accomplishments of the Green Revolution (and the concerns about its sustainability tend to get dismissed much too quickly), but yes, the decline in world hunger thanks to Bourlag's work was certainly impressive.

Still, this passage from Alter's profile can't pass without comment: "Borlaug scoffs at the mania for organic food, which he proves with calm logic is unsuited to fight global hunger. (Dung, for instance, is an inefficient source of nitrogen.)" Oh, really? What about this study on how organic farming methods can produce more than enough to feed the world (which addresses the "dung" problem)? Is that no match for "calm logic"? Hm, well, apparently so.
-- Brad Plumer 9:56 PM || ||