The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 33 It had beenmy incomparable privilege to work closely with Dr. Borlaug for more than a decade as president of The World Food Prize, which he founded, and which is headquartered inmy home state of Iowa. I spent those years endeavoring to fulfill his dream that this $250,000 prize would come to be seen as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.” That Borlaug is a legend in somany countries around the globe was reflected in the multiple events that celebrated his centen- nial in 2014. In Obregón, Mexico, a ceremony was held around a statue of Borlaug that was erected by the farmers with whomhe worked there. A similar event took place on the campus of the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research in NewDelhi, where yet another statue of Borlaug was installed. In Uganda, the theme of the National Agricultural Fair was taken fromBorlaug’s last words, “Take it to the farmer.” Closer to home, the University of Minnesota, where Borlaug earned his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees, announced that it would purchase a replica of our Iowa statue in the U.S. Capitol from the artist who created it, Benjamin Victor. In Des Moines, Iowa, a celebration took place at The World Food Prize Norman Borlaug Hall of Laureates. It therefore didn’t surprise me when Benjamin Victor contacted me a fewmonths after the ceremony at the capitol to tell me that he had received an inquiry about another possible purchase of a seven-foot Borlaug statue. What did stunme was the source of that inquiry: Iran. An Unusual Invitation The Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran was planning a half-day symposiumon Aug. 26, 2014, to commemorate the centennial. They told Victor that they hoped to erect Borlaug’s statue on their campus as part of that celebration. My amazement at this news was compounded a few days later, when I received an email inviting me to be the keynote speaker at the event. I learned that Borlaug was considered a hero in Iran, both for the impact his “miracle wheat” had had in the 1960s and for his advocacy of biotechnology. In fact, Iran had presented Bor- laug a goldmedal in 2000 to reflect his status as one of the leading agricultural scientists in the world. Although it would not be possible for Victor to create another statue in time for the event in Iran, I considered the merits of accepting the invitation to speak. Several things crossedmy mind. First, I found it extraordinary that the science of biotechnology— the genetic modification of crops, which is such a divisive subject between the United States and European allies or even among Americans—might provide a topic on which Iranians and Ameri- Kenneth Quinn addresses the symposium commemorating Norman Borlaug at the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran on Aug. 26, 2014 (inset). Held at the Institute’s campus in Karaj, the symposium drew more than 400 Iranian scientists and students and 10 international guests. Among the senior government officials in attendance were Hujjat al-Islam Mr. Hossein Saeidian, the official representative of the Grand Ayatollah (front row, left), and Mahmoud Hojjati, Iran’s agriculture minister (fourth from left). COURTESYOFKENNETHQUINN