Food Security, Hunger Remain Significant Global Challenges

Robert Fraley and Mary-Dell Chilton of the United States and Marc Van Montagu of Belgium were named June 19 as winners of the 2013 World Food Prize during a ceremony in Washington.
Robert Fraley and Mary-Dell Chilton of the United States and Marc Van Montagu of Belgium were named June 19 as winners of the 2013 World Food Prize during a ceremony in Washington.

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
June 19, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry announced the 2013 World Food Prize laureates, who are pioneers in plant biotechnology, saying shortages of food in the poorest regions of the world remain a staggering challenge.

At an announcement June 19 at the State Department, Kerry said that nearly 870 million people, one-eighth of the world’s population, suffer from chronic hunger.

“And it is obviously a trap that prevents people from realizing their God-given potential, but more than that, places people in extremis, places communities in extremis,” Kerry said at the midday ceremony.

“It can actually feed into terrorism. It feeds into failed states. It feeds into all of the challenges that we face in terms of building order and creating stability on this planet,” Kerry added. “And the struggle for food is, in the end, a struggle for life itself.”

The 2013 World Food Prize was awarded to Marc Van Montagu, professor emeritus at the Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Department of Molecular Genetics, at Ghent University, Belgium; Mary-Dell Chilton,distinguished science fellow at Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. in Triangle Park, North Carolina; and Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto Company in St. Louis.

“They were honored for their independent breakthrough achievements in founding, developing and applying modern plant biotechnology,” the department said. “Their research has made it possible for farmers to grow crops with improved yields, resistance to insects and disease, and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate such as excessive heat and drought.”

The three scientists worked independently, but reported their research findings at the 1983 Miami Winter Biochemistry Symposium. Their announcements marked the beginning of a plant biotechnology era that has changed modern agriculture.

Kerry said that the food security challenges the world faces are well beyond what the statistics tell world leaders and scientists.

“The challenge is that by 2050, the world’s population is going to grow to 9 billion people,” Kerry said. “That is going to demand at least a 60 percent increase over our current agricultural production.”

Kerry said that President Obama made combating hunger a moral imperative for the United States, and he put food security at the forefront of the development agenda. Kerry added that the president has rallied global leaders to reverse the three-decade decline in agricultural investment and put forth new initiatives, like Feed the Future, that altered the development equation.

Instead of only giving out food, the United States seeks to empower people in agriculture with the skills and resources to be able to improve their lives and produce food, Kerry said.

This year marks the 27thanniversary of the World Food Prize, which recognizes individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Each year, more than 4,000 institutions and organizations around the world are invited to nominate candidates for the prize.

The laureates will be awarded the prize at an October 17 ceremony during the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, which is attended by representatives from more than 65 countries.

The World Food Prize was created in 1986 by Norman Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to fight hunger. Borlaug was honored in 1970 for work that boosted agricultural production in what has become known as the “Green Revolution.”