For the first time in the 20-year history of the World Food Prize, three people will share the prestigious $250,000 award. The winners for 2006 were announced June 15 at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.
The three recipients - two Brazilians and an American - were honored for their roles in developing the Cerrado or the "new lands" area of Brazil over the past 50 years. Each of the recipients played a vital role in transforming the Cerrado into highly productive farmland.
The Cerrado is a region of vast, once infertile tropical high plains stretching across Brazil. It is now one of the world's largest, most productive areas for growing soybeans and other agricultural crops.
Their work helped "open up" Brazil
The three men sharing the 2006 World Food Prize are: Brazil's former Minister of Agriculture H.E. Alysson Paolinelli; former Technical Director of EMBRAPA Cerrado Research Center, Edson Lobato; and the Washington Representative of the International Research Institute, Dr. A. Colin McClung.
Paolinelli, who was trained as an agronomist, and Lobato, a soil scientist, are both Brazilians. McClung, a soil scientist, is from the United States.
The $250,000 World Food Prize was established in 1986 by Dr. Norman Borlaug, the renowned plant scientist and Iowa native, credited with the saving of more than one billion lives in the world as the Father of the Green Revolution.
Similar to the Nobel Prize
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the World Food Prize was created to be the foremost international award for achievements that significantly increase the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts in plant breeding and developing disease resistant varieties and higher yielding strains of rice and wheat for planting in Asia, India, Mexico and other Third World countries. Since there is no Nobel Prize for food, Borlaug started the World Food Prize. The World Food Prize Foundation is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa.
Borlaug, who was present at the June 15 announcement in Washington, calls the development of the Cerrado "one of the greatest achievements of agricultural science in the 20th century, which has transformed a wasteland into one of the most productive farming areas in the world."
Brazil has tremendous potential
Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador who served in several countries as he worked for many years for the U.S. Department of State, is now president of the World Food Prize Foundation. He points out that the three 2006 recipients played a vital role in transforming the Cerrado into highly productive cropland.
"These three men worked independently of one another, in different decades and in different fields," says Quinn. "But their collective efforts over the past 50 years have unlocked Brazil's tremendous potential for food production. Actually, these three men represent the efforts of many people who worked for many decades to make the Cerrado into a productive, economically important food producing region."
Their advancements in soil science and policy leadership made agricultural development possible in the Cerrado, a region named from Portuguese words meaning "closed, inaccessible land."
Brazil tripled food production
Quinn adds, "This increased agricultural production has helped improve economic and social conditions in Brazil, while their research and related efforts continue to promote agricultural development and poverty alleviation in other tropical and sub-tropical countries throughout the world."
Quinn notes that from 1970 to 2000 Brazil's agricultural production more than tripled while its area of cultivated land grew less than 1.5 times.
The World Food Prize will be presented at a formal ceremony on Oct. 19, 2006 at the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines. The ceremony will be held as part of the World Food Prize International Symposium. The theme this year is "The Green Revolution Redux: Can We Replicate the Single Greatest Period of Food Production in All Human History?"
Each year over a thousand people come to Iowa from many countries to attend - as science and policy experts in food and agricultural production gather to discuss the issues. Further information about the WFP Symposium and Laureate Award Ceremony is available at www.worldfoodprize.org.