In 1986, Norman Borlaug, an agronomist and Nobel Laureate who is widely recognized as the "father of the Green Revolution," established the World Food Prize. This annual international award, known as the “Nobel Prize for Agriculture and Nutrition”, recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
This year, four individuals share the Prize. All four work to improve the nutritional value of staple foods and to reduce hidden hunger: mineral and vitamin deficiency.
Dr. Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, of Dr. Robert Mwanga of Uganda, and Dr. Jan Low of the United States work for the International Potato Center. They were honored for developing the orange-fleshed sweet potato, the single most successful example of micronutrient and vitamin biofortification.
Plant scientists Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga bred the sweet potato to be particularly rich in vitamin A, while Dr. Low structured nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 African countries to plant, purchase and consume this food.
Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most pernicious forms of undernourishment in the developing world, and the leading cause of child blindness there. It causes stunting, weakens immunity in children under the age of 5, and increases their risk of dying from diarrhea, measles and malaria by around 22 percent.
Dr. Howarth Bouis of the United States, the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute, pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy. As a result, crops such as iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, and Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are being tested or released in over 40 countries.
“These men and women represent the very best of their field, and they chose to put all their talent, energy, and skill in service of a better world,” said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith.
“Congratulations to our Laureates. You have proven that science matters and that when matched with dedication, it can change people’s lives. Thank you so much, for everything you do to build a more food secure world.”