Speculations about high-fructose corn syrup were a stretch.

This week America mourned the passing of Norman Borlaug, the great scientist whose development of dwarf wheat varieties helped Third World countries fend off starvation for many of their citizens. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work and is generally credited for helping save over 1 billion people from starvation.

Borlaug was also an advocate of using modern technology — such as genetically modified crops — to increase food production. He also calculated that organic agriculture couldn’t feed more than 4 billion people. But, he claimed that advancements in genetically modified crops could, and did, meet the demands of a growing global population.

Ironically, the same week that we honor Borlaug’s lifetime of work for humanity, a scientist who helped fuel many myths about high-fructose corn syrup has backed off those earlier statements in an interview published this week by FoodnavigatorUSA.com.

In 2004, Barry Popkin co-authored a study with George Bray in which they blamed high-fructose corn syrup for the rise in obesity rates. But in the interview published this week, Popkin said that he was wrong to single out high-fructose corn syrup as largely responsible for obesity.

“We were wrong in our speculations on high-fructose corn syrup about their link to weight… People are always looking for enemies. We said it needs to be studied more, that there need to be further studies. Anybody who talks about foods gets demonized or glamorized … You can’t stop doing what you think is right when science backs you up.”

Big Corn has come under attack from several angles recently, and this summer’s release of Food, Inc., the documentary that criticized modern agriculture, is just one example. Fortunately, agriculture’s success story over the past 50 years helps ensure that our food supply is ample and safe. Our challenge is to continue that success story so we may help feed the world in the coming decades.

Earlier this summer, Borlaug penned an editorial for The Wall Street Journal that provided some guidelines about how we’ll be able to feed future generations:

“Even here at home, some elements of popular culture romanticize older, inefficient production methods and shun fertilizers and pesticides, arguing that the U.S. should revert to producing only local organic food. People should be able to purchase organic food if they have the will and financial means to do so, but not at the expense of the world’s hungry — 25,000 of whom die each day from malnutrition.

“Unfortunately, these distractions keep us from the main goal. … Factor in growing prosperity and nearly 3 billion new mouths by 2050, and you quickly see how the crudest calculations suggest that within the next four decades the world’s farmers will have to double production.

“…[G]overnments must make their decisions about access to new technologies — such as the development of genetically modified organisms — on the basis of science, and not to further political agendas,” Borlaug wrote. — Greg Henderson, Drovers editor.