Norman Borlaug was many things to many people. To his colleagues, he was a meticulous and rigorous agronomist, obsessed with obliterating wheat rust. To the beneficiaries of his science, who would have gone hungry without the crops he worked to improve, he achieved more than many world leaders have managed.
As the world gathers in Peru for the last Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations before a new agreement is signed, I wonder what my grandfather would have said to the parties convened here, in the year he would have turned 100 years old.
The pressures our planet faces are different to those faced in his time. He was working to combat plant diseases that threatened the food security of millions. For us, in today’s world, climate change is undoubtedly one of the biggest threats to food security, as extreme weather events regularly decimate crops and farmland.
Just like during the Green Revolution of the 1960s, he would have urged global leaders to find the answers in the science.
Despite the new challenges and tools at our disposal, my grandfather’s message would be the same today at COP20 as it was in the 1960s. We need less talk, and more action. Big data, digital tools and biotechnological approaches, like drought-tolerance application, are of no use unless we take them to the farmer.
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