WASHINGTON, June 28, 2016 -- Four scientists affiliated with the World Bank-led agricultural research network will be honored with the 2016 World Food Prize for developing and implementing biofortified food crops to improve nutrition in chronically hungry populations.

Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Robert Mwanga of Uganda and Jan Low and Howarth Bouis of the United States were recognized today at the State Department as pioneers in the process that breeds important vitamins and nutrients into staple crops such as sweet potatoes, sorghum, wheat and rice. They will receive the honors at a ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa, in October and split the $250,000 prize.

Andrade, Low and Mwanga are affiliated with the International Potato Center, part of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). They were instrumental in development and introduction of a disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, orange-fleshed sweet potato that can thrive in sub-Saharan Africa.

Andrade and Mwanga, plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda, bred the Vitamin A enriched sweet potato and Low, a former Michigan State scientist, structured nutrition studies and programs that persuaded almost 2 million households in 10 African countries to plant or buy and eat the nutritionally fortified food.

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Bouis, the founder and director of HarvestPlus, associated with CGIAR’s Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), led the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy. He is credited with improvement of crops such as iron- and zinc-fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, and Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and sweet potatoes in more than 40 countries. 

Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, said the work of the honorees “truly achieved what the Greek medical pioneer Hippocrates imagined more than two millennia ago,” when he is believed to have said, “Let food be thy medicine.”

Their breakthrough achievement has improved health for “millions and millions of people,” Quinn said. “More than 10 million people have been positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several million more in coming decades,” he said.