In 1970, Dr. Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime dedicated to improving agricultural technologies and capabilities around the world. He is credited with starting the “Green Revolution” by introducing new wheat varieties and crop management practices that have saved millions of lives in the poorest, hungriest countries.
In 1986, Dr. Borlaug founded the World Food Prize, given annually in mid-October, to inspire people to attain the highest levels of achievement in improving the quantity, quality, and availability of food in the world. Dr. Borlaug built his organization with the philosophy that confronting hunger and poverty can bring people together across even the widest political, religious, ethic, or diplomatic divides.
The World Food Prize has been awarded to individuals from around the world, and in many different areas, including soils, plant and animal science, rural development, water and environment, public policy, and more. The winners of the World Food Prize are leading the way toward sustainable food systems for the current 7 billion and the projected 9 billion people in the world.
One would think that the altruistic mission of the World Food Prize in recognizing individuals who have made huge contributions to ending world hunger would make it free of controversy. However, the organization has repeatedly been criticized for awarding the prize to scientists from biotechnology companies such as Syngenta and Monsanto.
Frank Cordaro, who organized an “Occupy World Food Prize” protest said the prize was “all part of the very same system of the corporate elite…the system that gives the 1% all the power and corporate agriculture is built on that system.”
He believes that the prize is skewed to the big biotech companies, even though a brief look at the recipients over the years shows a huge variety of recipients, including heads of NGO’s like Heifer International and Bread for the World, U.S. Senators who have helped lead worldwide efforts to feed schoolchildren, and individuals who have pioneered micro-lending, micro-irrigation, and many other incredible improvements to agriculture and poverty.
It is unfortunate that the mere mention of “biotechnology” brings such a knee-jerk reaction from people and organizations who oppose the development of GMO crops. It is also unfortunate that such prestigious foundations are accused of catering to big agricultural companies when even the most shallow research shows otherwise.
Recipients of the prize are focused on ensuring that the world is able to meet the demand for food, which is forecasted to increase by 60% by 2050. Chronic hunger is a fact of life for an eight of the world’s population. The 34 recipients of the World Food Prize have done more to feed the world than the entire anti-GMO movement and their hangers-on ever will.
2014 Recipient Dr. Rajaram working with women in India.
Increasing food production enough to feed an exploding world population will be impossible without the hard work of the men and women who have been awarded the World Food Prize, and the thousands of others like them who spend their days striving to feed the world’s hungry. Biotechnology and genetically-modified foods will play an increasingly large role in future food production, and the scientists who are developing these crops will be worthy to receive the world’s highest recognition, the World Food Prize, for their work.
For more information on the World Food Prize, visit their website by clicking HERE.