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« If You Can't Start an Abortion Discussion With This... | Main | Explore Evolution »

July 27, 2007



I've come to know of Fritz Haber and the Haber process by which ammonia for nitrogen fertilizer is made, but never before of this Norman Borlaug.

The story of Haber tends to get discussed in terms of how unknown the consequences of an invention can be. Haber wanted to make it possible to alleviate world hunger and did, but he also made it possible for Germany to cut its reliance on other nations for food and so be able to go to war in WWI and WWII.

Haber's story is often contrasted with that of Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite for mining and then had things go from there to weapons.

Another story that gets thrown into the mix is than of the manufacture of the nuclear bomb which was intended first and foremost for war. To date nuclear blasts have killed about 200,000 but many credit the invention of the nuclear bomb with saving life mostly because it has become a deterrent to global armed conflict.

The study of the interaction of history and science would probably be very interesting, but it is hardly given a thought by historians or scientists.

What Borlaug started, the "Green Revolution", is not without controvery though.

The revolution created large agri-businesses that patented certain grains and wheats. The new seeds had to be purchased and couldn't be reused from year to year. New strains constantly have to be created to fight off disease that mutates. All that research costs money and increases the costs that small farmers have to pay. It also has caused the death of many strains of indigenous grains. The amount of pesticides has also skyrocketed.

There is two sides to every story - including this one. Here's one quick link I found -
Also take a look at the Wikipedia entry for it.

I wonder if Borlaug ever invisioned all the changes that came about from his work - good and bad.

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