Coming to PBS’s American Experience tomorrow, Tuesday, April 21:
THE MAN WHO TRIED TO FEED THE WORLD
American Experience broadcast (April 2020)
An exploration of the work of the father of the Green Revolution, who worked to end global hunger.
In the midst of the Cold War, following China’s Communist Revolution, the US government saw a path to keep other countries from embracing Communism: ensuring political stability and economic prosperity by increasing the global food supply to combat the destabilizing impact of famine. They turned to a modest agronomist, Norman Borlaug, who had previously worked on a project in Mexico to develop a new hybrid wheat that was highly productive and disease-resistant. Confronted by a devastating famine in India, whose rapidly growing population and food shortages seemed like a disturbing harbinger for the rest of the world, efforts were taken to address the nation’s approach to agriculture. Borlaug, working with Indian agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, faced resistance to their plan to implement a new modernized high-yield system that depended on costly resources, but won out in the end. While their efforts resulted in a bountiful harvest that combatted the famine – as well as the Nobel Peace Prize for Borlaug – their Green Revolution of global industrial agriculture left in its wake serious ecological, social, and economic consequences as well as the rapid urbanization of the world. Hewing to the standard American Experience informational format, director Rob Rapley explores Borlaug’s work and its impact, both positive and negative, and notably underscores that the agronomist clearly understood his efforts merely bought the world more time, and that we needed to address larger questions around population and the lack of resources.