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Borlaug Successor Helps Carry on Green Revolution

October 15, 2014

“I believe that the challenges of 21st-century agriculture and food production are surmountable compared to the past and can be overcome provided we can bring together new knowledge and delivery systems to farmers in a very sustainable manner…It will require all the resources from international research centers, national governments, foundations, NGOs and farmer groups together to synergize future agricultural technologies and food production.” – Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize Winner

World Food Prize President and Former Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn has said that “the single greatest challenge in human history is whether or not we will be able to “sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet in the year 2050.”

Dr. Norman Borlaug recognized this challenge early on and in 1986 decided to meet head on by establishing The World Food Prize. The World Food Prize is an annual award that he hoped would both highlight and inspire breakthrough achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.

Dr. Borlaug imbued this foundation with his philosophy that “confronting hunger and poverty can bring people together across even the widest political, religious, ethic, or diplomatic divides.”

He himself was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world. It was on the research stations and farmers' fields of Mexico that Dr. Borlaug developed successive generations of wheat varieties with broad and stable disease resistance, broad adaptation to growing conditions across many degrees of latitude, and with exceedingly high yield potential. These new wheat varieties and improved crop management practices transformed agricultural production in Mexico during the 1940's and 1950's and later in Asia and Latin America, sparking what today is known as the “Green Revolution.”

“Because of his achievements to prevent hunger, famine and misery around the world, it is said that Dr. Borlaug has ‘saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.’”

Over the past 28 years, The World Food Prize has been awarded to laureates from Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

As part of the 2014 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, October 15-16, 2014 in Des Moines, a special ceremony will take place honoring Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram as the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate. Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram worked hand-in-hand with Dr. Norman Borlaug and bred 480 varieties of wheat to provide nutritious grains resistant to rust disease and adaptable in a vast array of climates – building upon the successes of the Green Revolution.

Ambassador Quinn noted how highly appropriate it is to honor Dr. Rajaram – born in India and a citizen of Mexico – during the Borlaug Centennial Year:

“Dr. Rajaram worked closely with Dr. Borlaug, succeeding him as head of the wheat breeding program at CIMMYT in Mexico, and then carried forward and expanded upon his work, breaking new ground with his own invaluable achievements. His breakthrough breeding technologies have had a far-reaching and significant impact in providing more food around the globe and alleviating world hunger,” Quinn said. “Dr. Borlaug himself called Dr. Rajaram ‘the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world’ and ‘a scientist of great vision.’ It is an honor to recognize Dr. Rajaram today for his development of an astounding 480 varieties of wheat, bred to offer higher yields, resistance to the catastrophic rust disease, and that thrive in a wide array of climates.”

Individuals like Dr. Rajaram and tools like biotechnology will help carry on the Green Revolution. Biotech crops have already contributed significantly to global food security by increasing yields, lowering production costs, and reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.

With two billion people in the global community currently malnourished and the global population booming to over nine billion people by the year 2050, farmers will need to double annual food production in the face of climate change. To dramatically increase agricultural productivity to meet this challenge, we’ll need all the agricultural science tools available, including plant [and animal] biotechnology.

If interested in reading more on the theme and the discussion topics for the 2014 Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, visit the link here:  The 2014 World Food Day will take place Thursday, October 16.  The theme this year is "Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth" which has been chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers.  Read more on the 2014 World Food Day here.

Also, read BIO’s Is the Next “Green Revolution” Right Around the Corner?to learn more on the role of biotechnology as part of the Green Revolution.