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The World Food Prize: A Look Back at Innovations and Past Laureates

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the_world_food_prizeAs we prepare to celebrate the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates next week, we at Monsanto would like to take the opportunity to share some of the greatest accomplishments in agriculture and food production initiatives as recognized by the World Food Prize organization.

Over its 26-year history, the World Food Prize has honored many passionate individuals who have committed their careers to improving lives and inspiring change.  While we highlight a few Laureates below, we encourage you to learn about all of the World Food Prize Laureates. They are a true inspiration. 

Hon. Robert Dole & Hon. George McGovern – 2008 World Food Prize Laureates

Recognizing the relationship between hunger and educational performance, U.S. Senators Robert Dole and George McGovern created a non-partisan partnership to fight domestic and global hunger issues and improve access to education.  After reforming and establishing U.S.-based food programs like the Food Stamp Program and the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), respectively, the Senators went on to create a global school feeding and education program.

The Senators secured the support of President Bill Clinton, and the administration established a two-year pilot program called the Global Food for Education Initiative.  With funding in place, the U.S. Department of Agriculture supplied food and resources to school-feeding organizations throughout the globe, which resulted in a significant increase in school enrollment and attendance.

The success of the pilot led to a permanent solution – the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, or the McGovern-Dole Program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002. The program has since provided meals to 22 million children in 41 countries and increased school attendance by 14 percent overall and 17 percent for girls specifically. 

Dr. Modadugu Gupta – 2005 World Food Prize Laureate

Dr. Modadugu Gupta developed a two-prong approach to increase fish species for food supply in some of the world’s poorest regions. He established a low-cost method for teaching people to recycle and use farm waste to grow fish population in abandoned ponds, and he advocated the polyculture technique within these communities to enable multiple species of fish to grow in one environment while also increasing the nutritional value of the fish. 

Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren – 1995 World Food Prize Laureate

At just 31 years old, Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren landed in Africa and committed himself to saving the cassava, a hardy plant that provided 50 percent of a day’s caloric nutrition to 200 million people. Farmers in the region were helpless as the mealybug wreaked havoc on their cassava stock.  After years of research and fundraising, Dr. Herren developed a solution.

Dr. Herren discovered a Paraguayan wasp that kills mealybugs but does not harm other living organisms.  He introduced the wasp to African farms by releasing them from airplanes onto affected farmland.  Dr. Herren’s innovation controlled the mealybug and saved millions of lives, as well as the continent’s cassava stock reserved for famine situations. 

Dr. M.S. Swaminathan – 1987 World Food Prize Laureate

While Dr. M.S. Swaminathan was honored as the first World Food Prize Laureate, he’s more widely known for his outstanding accomplishments with wheat breeding in India. With a growing population outweighing food production, India was relying heavily on imported wheat to keep the country from a widespread famine. That is until Dr. Swaminathan committed himself to helping India become a self-sufficient food supplier.

Working with Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. Swaninathan developed an agriculture process that enabled wheat varieties to yield higher levels of grain, while also improving the stalk structures to support the increased weight of that grain.  He then found a way to educate Indian farmers on how to improve their crop production by applying his scientific discovery.  As a result, India was able to sustain ample crop production and end its reliance on imported wheat.  In just four crop seasons, Dr. Swaminathan’s efforts brought the total crop yield of wheat from 12 million tons to 23 million tons.

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