October 18, 2019

Global Food For Thought - Celebrating the World Food Prize

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Celebrating the World Food Prize

This week food and agriculture leaders from around the globe came together in Des Moines, Iowa, to celebrate the World Food Prize and participate in the annual Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium. This edition of Global Food for Thought will take a deep dive into the event and its history.

The 2019 World Food Prize Laureate is Simon N. Groot, founder of East-West Seed. A sixth-generation seedsman, Groot founded East-West Seed in 1982. Groot founded the company to provide high-quality, locally developed, commercial vegetable hybrid seeds. In addition to seeds, East-West Seed began offering a Knowledge Transfer program to train smallholder farmers in best practices for vegetable production. Currently, East-West Seed serves over 20 million smallholder farmers in over 60 countries.

https://engage.thechicagocouncil.org/l/557772/2018-10-01/5xkyvc/557772/225998/camera_icon.pngPHOTO OF THE WEEK

Image courtesy of World Food Prize

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/globe_icon.pngBIG ACTORS 

World Food Day: The World Food Prize is always awarded on or around World Food Day, October 16. World Food Day commemorates the establishment of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. Since its inception in 1981, each World Food Day has a theme. This year’s theme is Healthy Diets for a Zero Hunger World, which highlights the importance of nourishing, rather than merely feeding, the planet.     


The Double Burden of Malnutrition: The latest FAO State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report found that overweight and obesity now afflict the same number of people in the world as those who are food insecure. Roughly half of the global population is now afflicted by one of these two challenges. Senior fellow Roger Thurow examines the strain of the “double burden” of malnourishment, in which societies must cope with hunger and obesity at the same time. Local, national, and global efforts are urgently needed to turn the tide and ensure a nourished world.   


Honoring those Who Make a Difference: The World Food Prize is often called the “Nobel Prize of Food and Agriculture.” Each year, a laureate is chosen who has made “significant and measurable” contributions to the world food supply. The prize is meant to both honor those who have made a difference in the world and inspire future achievements to improve the quality and quantity of food in the world. Past laureates include Akinwumi Adesina, Gesiba Ejeta, and the Council's Distinguished Fellow Catherine Bertini.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/news_icon.pngDEEPER DIVE

The Man Behind the Prize: Norman E. Borlaug created the World Food Prize in 1986, 16 years after he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in plant breeding. Borlaug pioneered varietals of wheat which dramatically increased yields across the world, prominently in Mexico, India, and Pakistan. By one calculation about half of the global population consumes grain descended from a Borlaug-developed variety every day.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/chart_icon.pngDATA CRUNCH

Innovation in the Spotlight: Norman Borlaug launched the Green Revolution through innovation in plant breeding. This spirit of innovation underscored much of the week's events. From a demonstration of startups from the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator and the first US-Africa AgTech Forum to panels featuring boundary-pushing leaders, the creativity of those combatting hunger was prominently featured.


Thriving, not Surviving: One of the greatest challenges to global agriculture is climate change, and adaptation and resilience were central to many discussions. Rodger Voorhies, of the Gates Foundation, called for reviving the partnership between climate change and agriculture. That partnership was the focal point of breakout events examining the resilience of smallholder farmers in Kenya, Mexico, Thailand, and Malawi. 


Peace through Agriculture: Pax Agricultura was the theme of the 2019 Symposium. Panels explored intersection of conflict, food security, and international development. One such panel of former US ambassadors covered challenges and trends in peace and conflict, and Victor M. Villalobos, the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, gave a keynote talk on agriculture, migration, and peace.


USAID Announcements: USAID Administrator Mark Green began the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium with announcements about new initiatives and programs. The private sector was a main theme, with new collaborations between the agency and both MasterCard and John Deere. Additionally, a new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement based at Cornell University was announced, and a $70 million pledge for collaboration. 

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/market_icon.pngTRADE & COMMODITIES

From Aid to Trade: Feed the Future Innovation Labs highlighted the link between foreign aid and trade in a panel on the benefits of investment in research for development. A new report underscores this link. Nearly two thirds of US agricultural exports in 2018 went to developing countries, and growth in agricultural exports over the last 20 years has been driven predominantly by trade with developing countries. Many of those countries either are or have been recipients of US agricultural aid.

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/calendar_icon.pngUPCOMING EVENTS

A Healthy People and Planet: From Action to Change
Date: October 23
Location: Chicago, Illinois

Food Tank Summit
Date: November 1
Location: New York City, New York

Smart Urban Food Systems Summit
Date: November 4-5
Location: Brooklyn, New York

Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

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Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

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One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

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WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.