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September 16, 2009

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Borlaug was well-known and respected in India. I recall reading about him in the newspapers back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The green revolution made an enormous difference in India. In the mid 1960s, the spectre of the Bengal famine of 1943, which had killed about 3 million or more people, was still very real. A major drought in 1965 forced the Indian government to triple its wheat imports from the US. People such as Paul Ehrlich, in his infamously wrong book, "The Population Bomb", were predicting mass starvation in India. While India's foodgrain production was increasing steadily since 1947, it would not have been sufficient to feed a large and growing population without the green revolution.

The green revolution is a paradigmatic example of good science followed by good public policy resulting in huge benefits for large numbers of people. I don't know the history of the green revolution well enough to judge if all the credit should go to Borlaug. Given the impact of his work however, I think he deserves all the accolades.

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