Norman Borlaug, the Man Who Saved the World from Starvation

And created the Frankenwheat we all now eat

Adelina Vasile
5 min readMay 20, 2021


Photo by Luca Huter on Unsplash

In 1950, Norman Borlaug was solicited by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government to research and develop a more productive variety of wheat. Borlaug was a brilliant American agronomist, and his contribution was supposed to save millions of people from starvation.

In some parts of the world, Mexico and an extended region of the Asian continent, there weren’t enough cereals to feed the people. The wheat they were cultivating was growing too fast, and its seeds were falling too soon.

Bourlog was eventually capable of creating a variety of wheat that was three times more productive and resistant than the one traditionally cultivated. It was the beginning of what we all know today as the Green Revolution. And the birth of Frankenwheat.

But What Is Frankenwheat, Anyway?

Frankenwheat is a term that some people — including expert researchers and doctors — apply to modern wheat.

They claim that the wheat we eat today has so little in common with the one our ancestors ate. It was, after all, obtained through genetic manipulation, ending up with 42 chromosomes instead of only 14 as the ancient wheat had.

The world needed wheat with a better yield, ideally more resistant to diseases, and capable of supporting a faster growth without the seeds falling off before harvesting time.

Borlaug went on to apply a genetic technique that allowed him to select the most resistant wheat types and performed what’s called backcrossing. He obtained varieties that better adapted to the clime in countries like Mexico.

Still, to make that wheat have sturdier stalks, the researcher had to insert a gene from a wheat variety cultivated in Japan. Adding a new gene showed the expected yield in the new wheat variety that was, afterward, grown worldwide.

But there’s so little research on how this gene can impact human health! In other words, we don’t know the long-term effects that this wheat has on our well-being. Here’s what we know…

Our Health Is in Our Forks



Adelina Vasile

Mother, educator, journalist, copywriter. I write about the things I need to learn myself. Check my Substack here >>