CIMMYT History

CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program sponsored by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1940s and 1950s aimed at raising farm productivity in Mexico. The wheat specialist in the program, Norman Borlaug, worked with Mexican researchers and farmers to develop hardier, short-stemmed varieties that resisted devastating rust diseases and yielded much more grain than traditional varieties. The new wheat lines were bred and selected at diverse Mexican locations, which meant they were adaptable to a range of farm settings. The higher yielding varieties helped Mexico attain self-sufficiency in wheat production in the 1950s. Additionally, they were imported by India and Pakistan in the 1960s to stave off famine, soon bringing those countries record harvests. This led to the widespread adoption of improved varieties and farming practices, which became known as the “Green Revolution.” CIMMYT was formally launched as an international organization in 1966. Borlaug, who worked at CIMMYT as a wheat scientist and research leader until 1979, received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize because, more than any other single person, he helped to provide bread for a hungry world. He remained a distinguished consultant for the center until his death in 2009.