At an event hosted by the U.S. State Department, the World Food Prize announced Wednesday that international wheat breeder Sanjaya Rajaram is the World Food Prize laureate for 2014.
Rajaram, 71, is a native of India who worked with Norman Borlaug on wheat production in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, known as CIMMYT. Rajaram succeeded Borlaug as the head of CIMMYT and leader of the wheat-breeding team at the facility.
“Rajaram implemented a major expansion of Borlaug’s ingenious shuttle-breeding approach in countries beyond Mexico, emphasizing: wide adaptation of new plants to differing climate and soil conditions; superior grain quality; and increasing the resistance to diseases and pests that had devastated farmers’ crops,” The World Food Prize stated in announcing Rajaram’s award.
Rajaram has worked to help develop 480 wheat varieties that have now been released in 51 countries. His research is credited for helping boost wheat production by more than 200 million tons.
The World Food Prize was created to help carry on the work of Borlaug, an Iowa-born wheat breeder who is considered the father of the Green Revolution. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He died in 2009.
In 2007, Borlaug said of Rajaram in a personal note, “You have developed into the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world… have made and continue to make many important contributions to further improve world wheat production… have learned to work effectively in many different countries with political leaders of different ideologies… and are a scientist of great vision.”
Secretary of State John Kerry used the occasion to talk about the importance of working on world hunger to reduce global political instability. Kerry said the planet’s ability to provide food is under growing stress. He cited reports on climate change that will lead to fights over fresh water and diminish the ability to produce more food in more impoverished countries.
“It is a vicious cycle of desperation and violence,” he said. “That is why the struggle for food is truly the struggle for life itself. Because when access to food is limited, so is what we can achieve by investing in public health, which is what we try to do; so is what we can achieve by investing in public schools or infrastructure or conflict prevention.”
Kerry said that is why the work to promote food security is so vital to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. “When our planet needs to support 2 billion more people in the next three decades, it’s not hard figure out that this is the time for a second Green Revolution,” Kerry said.
Rajaram will be honored at the annual Norman Borlaug World Food Prize Dialogue Oct. 15-17 in Des Moines.