Sanjaya Rajaram succeeded Norman Borlaug as the head of the wheat breeding program that launched what is now known as the “Green Revolution.” Dr. Rajaram went on to develop 480 varieties of wheat resistant to rust disease and highly adaptable to a wide array of climates.
So it was only fitting that the man who worked so closely with the late Dr. Borlaug in Mexico and later in India has been selected as the winner of the 2014 World Food Prize, the prize Dr. Borlaug created to encourage more breakthroughs in feeding the world’s billions.
Rajaram’s selection was announced in a ceremony at the U.S. State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium where Secretary of State John Kerry gave the keynote address today (June 18). Kerry noted it’s time for scientists to achieve another breakthrough similar to that achieved by Borlaug and Rajaram in the 1970s.
“When you do the math, when our planet needs to support two billion more people in the next three decades, it’s not hard to figure out: This is the time for a second green revolution,” Kerry said.
“That’s why Dr. Rajaram is being honored with the World Food Prize. We are grateful for the hundreds of new species of wheat Dr. Rajaram developed, which deliver 200 million more tons of grain to global markets each year and feed millions across the world.”
In announcing the name of the 2014 Laureate, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, noted how highly appropriate it is to honor Dr. Rajaram – born in India and a citizen of Mexico – during the Borlaug Centennial Year.
“Dr. Rajaram worked closely with Dr. Borlaug, succeeding him as head of the wheat breeding program at CIMMYT in Mexico and then carried forward and expanded upon his work, breaking new ground with his own invaluable achievements,” said Quinn.
“His breakthrough breeding technologies have had a far-reaching and significant impact in providing more food around the globe and alleviating world hunger. Dr. Borlaug called Dr. Rajaram ‘the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world’ and ‘a scientist of great vision.’”
Born in a small village in India, Dr. Rajaram worked to be the top in his class as he moved through school, and dedicated his life to making direct improvements for farmers and all people who depend on agriculture.
200 million more tons
Now a citizen of Mexico, Dr. Rajaram conducted the majority of his research in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). His work there led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production – by more than 200 million tons during the 25-year-period known as the “golden years of wheat” – building upon the successes of the Green Revolution.
Dr. Rajaram succeeded Borlaug in leading CIMMYT’s wheat breeding program, and developed an astounding 480 wheat varieties that have been released in 51 countries on six continents and have been widely adopted by small- and large-scale farmers alike. His crossing of winter and spring wheat varieties, which were distinct gene pools that had been isolated from one another for hundreds of years, led to his development of plants that have higher yields and dependability under a wide range of environments around the world.
Quinn also noted the importance of carrying forward the great work of leaders such as Dr. Borlaug and Dr. Rajaram. “100 years ago when Norm was born, the world population was 1.8 billion; today it is more than 7 billion and by 2050 it’s expected to exceed 9 billion. The greatest challenge in human history is whether we will be able to sustainably feed everyone on our planet.”
To that end, some of the greatest minds in science and agriculture will gather in Des Moines Oct. 15-17 at the Borlaug Dialogue symposium to explore that question, Quinn said.
“We are especially honored that His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, will deliver the keynote address at the conference. We invite all those with an interest in food security to join us in the effort to identify critical innovative solutions.”
Created by Borlaug
The World Food Prize was created in 1987 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug, and is the foremost international award recognizing individuals whose achievements have advanced human development by increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The prize was endowed by John Ruan, Sr.
It annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, which draws over 1,000 people from 65 countries to discuss cutting-edge issues in food security, and several youth education programs to inspire the next generation to explore careers in agriculture and fighting hunger.
To read more about Dr. Rajaram and the World Food Prize and the Borlaug Dialogue, visit www.worldfoodprize.org/2014laureate.