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The 2001 World Food Prize, considered the “Nobel Prize for Food,” has been awarded to Danish-born economist Per Pinstrup- Andersen for his research efforts which have enabled several governments to reform their food subsidy programs, increasing food availability to the poorest in each country.
The World Food Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 in recognition of work that has advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, and availability of the world’s food supply. Pinstrup-Andersen received his Laureate Diploma, commemorative Saul Bass sculpture, and a $250,000 cash award during the World Food Prize 15th Anniversary International Symposium held in Des Moines, Iowa, October 18–19, 2001. The Prize was presented by Norman Borlaug, 1970 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the World Food Prize, and John Ruan, Iowa businessman and philanthropist who has sponsored the prize since 1990.
Pinstrup-Andersen personally initiated the research effort which enabled several governments to reform their food subsidy programs, dramatically increasing food availability to the poorest in each country. This research laid the foundation for the establishment of “Food For Education” programs, in which families receive food subsidies when children stay in school. Driven by a desire to alleviate the suffering of malnourished and starving children, Pinstrup-Andersen initiated a global effort to uplift those most at risk by formulating the 2020 Vision Initiative, which the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched in 1993. Over the past decade, the initiative has alerted world leaders to potential crises in food security issues, helped reverse the trend of decreasing global developmental assistance, and led to actions which have brought about an important reduction in world hunger and poverty levels.
For nearly a decade, Pinstrup-Andersen has led IFPRI, which is funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Under his leadership, IFPRI has become the world’s leading think-tank on hunger issues, taking on numerous groundbreaking research projects, including breeding staple crops for higher nutrition; improving the effectiveness of food for education efforts; and computer modeling through IFPRI’s IMPACT computer system projections to determine the effects of government policies on child malnutrition and food security. For more information, see www.ifpri.cgiar.org/index1.asp.
Among Pinstrup-Andersen’s most noteworthy achievements have been:
• Initiating IFPRI’s research and policy dialogue with the government of Pakistan, which was instrumental in changing that country’s food and agricultural policy—particularly with regard to the rationing of wheat, greatly increasing the access to food by the poorest.
• Carrying out research in Egypt which permitted that government to significantly reform its food subsidy system, again more effectively targeting the poorest and most disadvantaged in society.
• Assisting the governments of Malawi and Uganda, which faced the specter of widespread famine, in improving their capacities to implement relief distribution, thus avoiding mass starvation.
Pinstrup-Andersen began his professional career as an Agricultural Economist with Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical in Cali, Colombia. After several other positions, he served as Director of the Food Consumption and Nutrition Policy Research Program at IFPRI in 1980–87 In 1987, he became Director of the Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Program. Since July 1992, he has been the Director General of IFPRI in Washington, D.C.
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Symposium Addresses Risks to the World Food Supply
More than 800 people attended the World Food Prize International Symposium. The topic was “Risks to the World Food Supply in the 21st Century,” and featured speakers on such sub-themes as “Globalized Trade and Potential Pandemics,” “How Real a Concern is Bio-Terrorism?” and “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Food Production in Africa.”
Those who attended heard a series of experts and policy officials give presentations which revealed that agriculture, a highly critical sector of the United States economy, could be vulnerable to terrorists trying to introduce animal and plant diseases.
Peter Chalk, Bioterrorism Analyst at the Rand Corp., noted that the U.S. livestock industry is particularly vulnerable to agroterrorism because it is primarily made up of large operations that are highly concentrated, making the spread of diseases easier and an epidemic harder to control. He said that terrorists could covertly introduce anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease, or any one of 22 other foreign animal diseases into the U.S., which would be difficult to eradicate and enormously costly.
David Shannon of the U.K. Dept. of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs said that the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain led to the slaughter of 5.5 million head of livestock, with the cost of $3 billion.
Michael Doyle, Director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, stressed the importance of workforce security in the food industry. He noted that the food processing industry has become so centralized, with one facility often distributing nationwide, that one act of bioterrorism could sicken millions of people.
Bernard Schwetz, Principal Deputy Administrator of the Food and Drug Administration, gave a presentation on “Food Terrorism,” which outlined the steps being taken by his agency to protect the U.S. food supply from any such efforts to taint it. While emphasizing that the probability of food terrorism is low, Schwetz explained that FDA has developed plans closely linking his agency to state and local governments which would be the first to respond in case of a terrorist food attack. Moreover, he emphasized that FDA has been meeting with growers, processors, and shippers to put in place other mechanisms to keep the food supply safe.
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, this year’s World Food Prize Laureate, brought both issues—world hunger and global terrorism—together in his Laureate Address, in which he argued that terrorism and the despair of the poor in developing countries are inextricably linked. He stressed that future stability will be linked to efforts by the developed world to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.
Norman E. Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, spoke on biotechnology and its crucial role in feeding and enhancing the nutrition of the more than one billion persons still living in tenuous food security, particularly in Africa but also in Afghanistan and other parts of South Asia.
The World Food Prize
The World Food Prize has been sponsored since 1990 by Iowa businessman John Ruan, who endowed a multi-million-dollar gift to the World Food Prize Foundation to fund the prize in perpetuity. Given annually in October since 1987, the prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people and is based solely on individual achievement with no consideration of nationality, ethnic origin, political persuasion, religious beliefs, sex, or age.
In 1994, the World Food Prize Foundation created the Youth Institute to increase awareness among Iowa youth of critical issues relating to food security throughout the world. The Institute provides an educational opportunity for Iowa youth to interact with World Food Prize Laureates and other world leaders on these issues. It also attracts and motivates students to consider careers in food, agriculture, and natural resource disciplines by sponsoring the World Food Prize Youth Institute Summer Internship Program.
The World Food Prize Foundation is guided by a Council of Advisors composed of such prominent individuals as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; Robert S. McNamara, former head of the World Bank; IFT Past President A.S. Clausi; and others.
Deadline for receipt of nominations for the 2002 World Food Prize is February 28, 2002. Nomination forms may be obtained from Judith Pim, World Food Prize Secretariat, 1700 Ruan Center, 666 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50309 ([email protected]) or at www.worldfoodprize.org.
by James H. Giese,