Wheat researcher Sanjaya Rajaram named World Food Prize laureate

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 - Sanjaya Rajaram, whose research led to a “prodigious” increase in world wheat production, was named the winner of the 2014 World Food Prize today in a ceremony at the State Department in Washington.

Born in India and raised in Mexico, Rajaram worked alongside Norman Borlaug at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, eventually succeeding Borlaug as the head of the center's wheat breeding program. Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner known as the “Father of the Green Revolution,” founded the World Food Prize in 1987. The award has special meaning this year, the 100th anniversary of Borlaugh's birth.

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In announcing the award, World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn noted that Borlaug himself called Rajaram “the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world” and “a scientist of great vision.” His work is credited with increasing world wheat production by more than 200 million tons over 25 years.

“It is an honor to recognize Dr. Rajaram today for his development of an astounding 480 varieties of wheat, bred to offer higher yields, resistance to the catastrophic rust disease and that thrive in a wide array of climates,” Quinn said.

 
 World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn

 

Rajaram, who was traveling and unable to attend the ceremony, said he was honored to be named a World Food Prize laureate, which includes an award of $250,000.

“I believe that the challenges of 21st-Century agriculture and food production are surmountable compared to the past and can be overcome provided we can bring together new knowledge and delivery systems to farmers in a very sustainable manner,” Rajaram said in a news release.

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, drawing a link between food security and world peace. “This is the time for a second Green Revolution,” Kerry said. “This is why Dr. Rajaram is being honored for his work in wheat, which will deliver 2 million more tons of wheat to the food market every year.”

Kerry said the World Food Prize correlates with President Obama's Feed the Future program, an initiative to address global hunger and food insecurity. He also took the opportunity to announce the appointment of Nancy Stetson as the State Department's  special representative for global food security.

Also in attendance at today's ceremony were Julie Borlaug, Norman Borlaug's granddaughter; Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden, and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin from Norman Borlaug's home state of Iowa.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing individuals whose achievements have advanced human development through food. Rajaram will receive the prize during the Borlaug Dialogue Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, October 15-17. That's the final event of the Borlaug centennial year, which has included events in India, Mexico and the unveiling of a Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall. Borlaug died in 2009.

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