Editor’s Note: Eyes on the (World Food) Prize


I’m not the type of person who gets overly excited to meet celebrities, at least in terms of entertainment and sports types. (Sir Paul McCartney was a notable exception.) I’m more interested in those who tend to have a little more gravitas—politicians, journalists, and the like.

While not as well-known as Sir Paul, few people in history have benefited humankind more than Dr. Norman Borlaug, whom I had the honor to meet in 2003.

According to 2006 legislation awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal, Dr. Borlaug’s pioneering work that sparked the “Green Revolution” saved “more than a billion people.” Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts. (He is also one of a small number of Americans honored in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.)

Noting that there was no prize at the time to “honor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world’s food supply,” Borlaug’s vision led to the creation of the World Food Prize in 1986.

That tradition has carried on through the years, as the World Food Prize yesterday announced that Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, is their recipient for 2017.

Meeting Dr. Borlaug helped cement my belief in food and agriculture technology as a key in helping solve some of the world’s most intractable problems: hunger, malnutrition—and even war, given that food shortages are often a cause of civil unrest.

In this month’s Food Insight newsletter, two of our stories focus on biotechnology: one about the threat posed by citrus greening, and another that “gets back to the basics” about genetics.

As we consider the technological advances that help feed and nourish us, maybe it’s time to elevate some true heroes—scientists—into our pantheon of celebrities.

(Photo credit: CIMMYT)