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Kenneth M. Quinn: 30 Heroes for 30 Years of the World Food Prize

Kenneth M. Quinn Kenneth M. Quinn

As the World Food Prize turns 30 in 2016, Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation selects 30 hunger-fighting heroes to celebrate the milestone.

1. Norman Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate dedicated his life’s work to improving agriculture through research and development to address world hunger. His pioneering wheat varieties developed during the 1940s and 50s paved the way for the “Green Revolution”. Read more >>

2. John Ruan Sr, Chairman Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation

John Ruan built up an extensive network of businesses from Des Moines in his native Iowa, including The Ruan Companies and Ruan Transportation Management Systems. Internationally, Mr Ruan founded the Iowa Export-Import Trading Company, which reached 50 countries. Read more >>

3. M. S. Swaminathan, first World Food Prize Laureate

Following in the footsteps of Norman Borlaug, Dr. Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan was the first recipient of the World Food Prize in 1987 for his part in the introduction of high-yielding wheat and rice varieties to India’s farmers. Dr Swaminathan is ranked alongside his mentor as one of the leaders of the “Green Revolution”. Read more >>

4. Evangelina Villegas, first female laureate of the World Food Prize

Born in Mexico City in 1924, Dr Villegas broke ground both as a woman and as a chemist and researcher at the forefront of her field, becoming the first female laureate of the World Food Prize in 2000. Her work with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) was recognised as contributing to an improved diet of children in Ethiopia thanks to the creation of quality protein maize (QPM). Read more >>

5. John Denver, musician and humanitarian

An internationally acclaimed musician, John Denver was also one of the five founders of The Hunger Project, an organisation devoted to finding solutions to chronic hunger. He received the presidential “World Without Hunger Award” from President Ronald Reagan. Read more >>

6. Catherine Bertini, UN World Food Prize Laureate

Catherine Bertini was considered the driving force behind reform of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) from 1992 to 2002, and used the proceeds of her 2003 World Food Prize award to establish the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education at the Friends of the World Food Program. Read more >>

7. Corazon Aquino, former president of the Philippines 

The late former president of the Philippines advocated for those less fortunate throughout her life, and helped raise the profile of the World Food Prize when she publicly congratulated the first Laureate, Dr M. S. Swaminathan. She later accepted an invitation to join the WFP’s Council of Advisors, lending greater prestige to the organisation. Read more >>

8 & 9. Ray Bushland and Ed Knipling, World Food Prize Laureates who eliminated screwworm
Drs Bushland and Knipling received the World Food Prize in 1992 in recognition of their Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), an environmentally friendly way to control insects that prey on livestock and crops. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which involves breeding and releasing sterilised male insects to eradicate pest populations, was credited with eliminating screwworm and more recently inspired similar work to control the mosquito responsible for spreading Zika virus. Read more >>

10. Yuan Longping, greatest living plant scientist 

Dubbed the “father of hybrid rice”, Dr Longping’s work on high yielding rice varieties helped reverse China’s food deficit to food security within three years. He shared the 2004 World Food Prize with Dr Monty Jones, an African rice breeder, and for the past five years, Dr Longping has welcomed interns from the World Food Prize Youth Institute at his center. Read more >>

11. Gebisa Ejeta, developer of drought-resistant sorghum

Dr Gebisa Ejeta has crossed new frontiers in both his personal and professional life after overcoming poverty in Ethiopia to develop sorghum hybrids that withstood drought to improve the food supply of millions in sub-Sahara Africa. Dr Ejeta received the World Food Prize in 2009 and has inspired a generation of agricultural scientists in Africa. Read more >>

12. Walter Plowright, World Food Prize Laureate who eliminated rinderpest

Since the decline of the Roman Empire, the virus responsible for rinderpest has been devastating livestock until Dr Plowright developed the tissue culture rinderpest vaccine (TCRV), a key victory in the fight to eliminate the pest. Dr Plowright received the World Food Prize in 1999. Read more >>

13. Pedro Sanchez, soil fertility expert

Dr Pedro Sanchez was awarded the World Food Prize in recognition of his contribution to preserving the delicate ecosystem thanks to his work on soil fertility. A Cuban national, Dr Sanchez was inspired by the country’s tropical red soil and has repeatedly challenged the perception that such land is useless for agricultural production. Read more >>

14. Daniel Hillel, micro-irrigation pioneer

Dr Daniel Hillel’s new techniques for bringing water to crops transformed food production in Israel, earning him the 2012 World Food Prize. His work, knowing as “micro-irrigation”, maximised water use and helped increase crop yields while minimising environmental degradation. Read more >>

15. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, world’s largest NGO

Since founding the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee in 1972, Sir Fazle Abed has turned the NGO into the biggest and most effective anti-poverty organisation in the world. Now known as BRAC, it has helped 150 million people improve their lives in his native Bangladesh and 10 other countries. Read more >>

16. Hans Herren, laureate responsible for controlling mealybug

Dr Herren confronted an unprecedented pest crisis when he arrived in Africa aged 31 but within 10 years, he almost single-handedly developed a technique to control mealybug, an insect that was threatening cassava production and bringing the possibility of widespread hunger. Read more >>

17. Jo Luck, former CEO of Heifer International

Under Jo Luck’s leadership, Heifer International became one of the most distinguished hunger-fighting not-for-profit organisations in the world. The 2010 World Food Prize laureate added to the “Passing on the Gift” tradition with a “Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development” model of community development. Read more >>

18, 19 & 20 Van Montagu, Chilton and Fraley, pioneers of modern agricultural biotechnology

Joint recipients of the 2013 World Food Prize, Drs Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and
Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley from the US were recognised for their individual achievements in agricultural biotechnology. Their innovations paved the way for improved crop yields with better disease and pest resistance, and tolerance for extreme climate variations. Read more >>

21. Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, Borlaug successor

Dr Rajaram, Indian born and citizen of Mexico, succeeded Dr Borlaug in leading the CIMMYT’s wheat breeding program, developing a remarkable 480 wheat varieties. He received the 2014 World Food Prize for his contribution to increasing world wheat production by more than 200 million tons. Read more >>

22. Ronnie Coffman, leading agronomist 

A member of the World Food Prize’s Council of Advisors, Dr Coffman has a distinguished record in plant breeding and agronomy. Upholding the legacy of Dr Borlaug, Dr Coffman serves as Vice Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, and received the American Society of Agronomy’s (ASA) International Service in Agronomy Award in 2005. Read more >>

23, 24 & 25. Monty Jones, Maria Andrade and Robert Mwanga, proponents of African science

Drs Maria Andrade and Robert Mwanga, developers of the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), together with distinguished rice breeder Dr Monty Jones, are among the most preeminent African agriculture scientists. Dr Andrade and Dr Mwanga were among the recipients of the 2016 World Food Prize. Read more >> 

26. Bill Gates, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates, founder of the largest private foundation in the world, announced his ambitions to bring the Green Revolution to Africa at the Borlaug Dialogue symposium just a month after Dr Borlaug passed away in 2009. Since his first speech on global agriculture, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated substantially to Borlaug scholars programmes. Read more >>

27 & 28 George McGovern and Robert Dole, former Senators committed to school feeding

Former US Senators George McGovern and Robert Dole received the 2008 World Food Prize for their joint leadership in tackling hunger among schoolchildren. Their collaboration helped reform the Food Stamp Program in the 1970s while their continued campaigning eventually saw the establishment of a permanent international school feeding program. Read more >>

29 & 30. Ryoichi and Yohei Sasakawa, leading hunger fighters

Ryoichi Sasakawa, the late chairman of The Nippon Foundation, was one of the first international leaders to take on the 1980s hunger crisis in Africa, working with Dr Borlaug to establish the Sasakawa Africa Association in 1986. His son and successor, Yohei, received the Dr Norman E Borlaug Medallion in recognition of his work bringing the Green Revolution to Africa. Read more >>

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