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Biofortification Pioneers win 2016 World Food Prize

WashingtonDrs. Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth Bouis were announced today as the 2016 World Food Prize Laureates during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department.

USAID Administrator Gayle Smith gave keynote remarks and applauded the selection.

“These four extraordinary World Food Prize Laureates have proven that science matters, and that when matched with dedication, it can change people’s lives,” said Administrator Gayle Smith.  “USAID and our Feed the Future partners are proud to join with renowned research organizations to support critical advances in global food security and nutrition.”

The World Food Prize is the most prominent global award for individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security. This year’s $250,000 prize will be divided equally between the four recipients. The prize rewards their work in countering world hunger and malnutrition through biofortification, the process of breeding critical vitamins and micronutrients into staple crops.

Three of the 2016 laureates -- Dr. Maria Andrade, Dr. Robert Mwanga and Dr. Jan Low of the International Potato Center (CIP), which has had sweetpotato in its research mandate since 1988 -- are being honored for their work developing the single most successful example of biofortification -- the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga, plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda, bred the Vitamin A-enriched OFSP using genetic material from CIP and other sources, while Dr. Low structured the nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 separate African countries to plant, purchase and consume this nutritionally fortified food.

Dr. Howarth Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), over a 25-year period pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortificatoin as a global plant breeding strategy. As a result of his leadership, crops such as iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, along with Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and OFSP are being tested or released in over 40 countries.

Thanks to the combined efforts of our four Laureates, over 10 million persons are now positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more in the coming decades.

In announcing the names of the 2016 Laureates, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, noted “they are truly worthy to be named as the recipients of the award that Dr. Norman E. Borlaug created to be seen as the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”.

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the World Food Prize by the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. 

“The impact of the work of all four winners will be felt around the globe, but particularly in sub Saharan Africa,” Quinn added. “It is particularly poignant that among our 2016 recipients are two African scientists who are working on solutions to tackle malnutrition in Africa, for Africa.”

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Economic and Business Bureau Kurt Tong served as host for the World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony and Nancy Stetson, Special Representative for Global Food Security delivered remarks from Secretary Kerry.

Drs. Andrade, Mwanga, Low and Bouis will receive the World Food Prize at a ceremony that will be held in the magnificent Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, Iowa, on the evening of October 13, 2016. The event is the centerpiece of a three-day international symposium entitled the Borlaug Dialogue, which regularly draws over 1,200 people from 60 countries to discuss cutting-edge issues in global food security. 

Also included in the World Food Prize week-long series of events is the Iowa Hunger Summit on October 10 and the three-day Global Youth Institute, which includes 400 high school students and teachers from across the U.S. and several foreign countries and is designed to inspire the next generation of high school students to explore careers in agriculture and fighting hunger.

Visit worldfoodprize.org for more information.

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