The Iowa native who founded the World Food Prize talked today about the hardships of starting programs to feed the hungry in third world countries. Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Prize for those efforts, but said events in Iowa set the tone. Borlaug says his father got money out of the bank in 1922 to build a barn on their Cresco farm just days before the banks collapsed in the great depression. He says the farm might not have even been as modest and able to produce and give him and his two sisters a start. He says, “Life in those good old days was a sort of precarious thing, and I think it conditioned me for things that would happen later.” Borlaug says the precarious adventure continued on one of his first projects to truck wheat seed from Mexico for use in India and Pakistan in 1965.He says on that first shipment, the Mexican government decided it was a political shipment and took control. He says that was nearly the kiss of death as everything went wrong. Borlaug says the Mexican government’s control slowed everything.He says the trucks were held up two days, and then had to detour through Los Angeles and Watts. He says that was the same day as the Watt’s racial riots and that required extra security that they hadn’t budgetted for. Borlaug says once the seed got on its way, it ran into another problem. He says it finally shipped out and after two nights of no sleep, he slept for 18 hours. He says he woke up and found that India and Pakistan were at war. The seed arrived to late to plant. Borlaug says they went to work on alternatives and were able to salvage something. He says he did a lot of praying, and when he came home at Christmas time, the crop look surprisingly good. Borlaug says the story points out how thin the threads are in third world development. Borlaug’s story was part of his speech to the World Food Prize Symposium on his 60 year’s of working in food production. The symposium is today and tomorrow in Des Moines to honor this year’s winners of the World Food Prize.
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