World Food Prize Laureates: A Legacy of Productivity

Posted by on October 9th, 2013 | 0 Comments »

Please join us for the release of the 2013 GAP Report® in Des Moines!

By 2050, the world will need to sustainably supply sufficient nutritious affordable food for more than 9 billion people. To meet the coming demand for food, fiber, and fuel, global agricultural output needs to double its current level.

The Global Harvest Initiative’s 2013 Global Agricultural Productivity Report offers five policy solutions required to sustainably feed the world in 2050 while decreasing the environmental footprint of agriculture across the value chain. Since 1987, the World Food Prize, often called that “Nobel Prize” for food and agriculture, has been awarded to women and men from around the world whose work has made significant contributions in these areas.

  • Science-based and Information Technologies
  • Investments in Agricultural Research and Development
  • Private Sector Involvement in Agriculture and Rural Infrastructure
  • Regional and Global Agricultural Trade
  • International Development Assistance

Science-based and Information TechnologiesEmbrace and Apply Science-based and Information Technologies

2013 Laureates
Dr. Marc Van Montagu, Belgium
Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, United States
Dr. Robert T. Fraley, United States

Continued innovation and adoption of new technologies throughout the agricultural value chain are essential to feeding the world in 2050. The 2013 Laureates pioneering work contributed to the emergence of “agricultural biotechnology”2013Laureatesand set the stage for engineering crops with novel traits that improved yields and conferred resistance to insects and disease, as well as tolerance to adverse environmental conditions. Their work has made it possible for farmers in 30 countries to improve the yields of their crops, increase their incomes, and feed a growing global population.


R&DInvest in Agricultural Research and Development

2011 Laureates
John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil

Public sector investments in agricultural research and development are critical for innovation, basic research and for making agricultural research and technology widely available. Vision and leadership are the keys to increasing public sector commitment to increasing productivity and reducing hunger and malnutrition. In 2011, John Agyekum Kufuor and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva received the World Food Prize for their personal commitment and visionary leadership while serving as the presidents of Ghana and Brazil, respectively.


A guiding principle for President John Kufuor during the entirety of his two terms as president was to improve food security and reduce poverty through public- and private-sector initiatives. Under President Kufuor, the Agricultural Extension Service was reactivated and special attention paid to educating farmers on best practices. As a result, Ghana’s cocoa production doubled between 2002 and 2005, and food crops such as maize, cassava, yams and plantains increased significantly, as did livestock production.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called upon all elements of Brazilian society to embrace his goal to ensure three meals a day for all citizens, to alleviate poverty, to enhance educational opportunities for children, and to provide greater inclusion of the poor in society. More than 10 government ministries were focused on the expansive Zero Hunger programs, which provided greater access to food, strengthened family farms and rural incomes, increased enrollment of primary school children, and empowered the poor. President Lula da Silva encouraged the participation of state and municipal governments together with the civil society and private sector, a strategy that was central to the rapid and significant decrease in the levels of poverty and hunger across the country.


Private SectorEnhance Private Sector Involvement in Agriculture and Rural Infrastructure Development

1989 Laureate
Dr. Verghese Kurien

Attracting capital investments is critical for agricultural and rural development. While some funds can be raised from foundations and public donors, an increasingly critical source is private investors and farmers, financial services, agro-industries, information technology, construction and logistics firms.

The innovation for which Dr. Verghese Kurien received the 1989 World Food Prize was his recognition that feeding the world’s citizens includes coordinating breakthroughs in production with effective management and distribution strategies.


Dr. Kurien’s career was dedicated to streamlining those strategies with the skills and knowledge of rural and small-scale producers, for which World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug called him “one of the world’s great agricultural leaders of this century.”

The cornerstone of Dr. Kurien’s endeavors is the individual dairy producer. In collaboration with farmers, cooperative managers, and public officials, Dr. Kurien successfully established the dairy program known across India as “Operation Flood” that, between 1970 and 1996, allowed dairy farmers to own and operate milk production, processing, and marketing for the urban areas around the country.n production with effective management and distribution strategies.

TradeRemove Barriers to Regional and Global Agricultural Trade

2007 Laureate
Dr. Philip E. Nelson

Farmers will grow more when they see a market opportunity. Trade barriers, be they policy and logistical, prevent famers, of all sizes, from taking advantage of future market opportunities through local, regional, and global trade.

Dr. Philip E. Nelson, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, was awarded the 2007 World Food Prize for his innovative breakthrough technologies which have revolutionized large-scale storage and transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables using bulk aseptic food processing.2007LaureateBefore the widespread use of bulk aseptic food processing, many of the foods being shipped around the world (or even locally) would spoil before reaching their final destinations. There was usually a rush to process and can fresh fruits and vegetables before they could be contaminated, spoil, or experience loss of flavor and nutritional value.

Dr. Nelson’s innovations greatly enhanced the effectiveness of preserving food. They have been especially effective in developing countries where much of the harvested crop was lost to spoilage. Up to half of the food supply was lost in these countries due to storage, packaging, and transport deficits. Many of these barriers have been torn down with Nelson’s advances.

Inter-Dev-icon-no-labelStrengthen and Coordinate International Development Assistance

2008 Laureates
The Hon. Robert Dole
The Hon. George McGovern

The emphasis on country-led development, monitoring results, and donor coordination needs to continue and be strengthened.

International development assistance in agriculture and nutrition will pay off in terms of decreased hunger and disease burdens and increased productivity and economic growth. Former U.S. Senators George McGovern and Robert Dole were selected to receive the 2008 World Food Prize for their bi-partisan leadership that has encouraged a global commitment to school feeding and enhanced school attendance and nutrition for millions of the world’s poorest children, especially girls. Since its inception as a pilot program, the McGovern-Dole Program has provided meals to 22 million children in 41 countries.

International development thrives when there is an emphasis on country leadership, monitoring and evaluation, and donor country coordination. The success of the McGovern-Dole Program helped renew interest in and support for school feeding. In 2002, the G8 and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) listed school feeding as a specific intervention in their action plans for poverty alleviation. The EU, Canada, and Japan are now among the major providers of resources to global school-feeding programs.2008LaureatesBeginning with the first cultivation of staple transgenic crops in 1996 until the present, biotech crops have contributed to food security and sustainability by increasing crop production valued at US $98.2 billion and providing a better environment by reducing the application of significant amounts of pesticides worldwide. Today, approximately 12 percent of the world’s arable land is planted with biotechnology crops.

There have been dramatic increases in the total acreage planted. Corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton are the major biotech crops grown commercially on a large scale and have become an integral part of international agricultural production and trade. At the same time, a wide variety of useful genetic traits have been bred into a large number of economically important plants, including most of the food crops, scores of varieties of fruits and vegetables, and many tree species.

On October 16, at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, the Global Harvest Initiative will release its fourth annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®). Updated with new data each year, GHI’s signature GAP Report® serves as a critical benchmark of agricultural productivity growth.

The 2013 GAP Report focuses on increasing productivity throughout the value chain in order to sustainably provide sufficient nutritious and affordable food for 9 billion people by 2050. Population growth and increasing incomes are putting more demands on agricultural systems and natural resources. Solutions need to be put in motion, now, to limit agriculture’s environmental footprint while increasing the availability of nutritious foods so all people may lead healthy, productive lives.

Please join us for the release of the 2013 GAP Report® in Des Moines!

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