India-born plant scientist Sanjaya Rajaram has been named the winner of the USD 250,000 World Food Prize for his breakthrough achievement in increasing global wheat production by more than 200 million tonnes following the Green Revolution.
Rajaram’s contributions in successfully cross-breeding winter and spring wheat varieties, which were distinct gene pools and had been isolated from one another for hundreds of years, led to him developing plants that have higher yields and a broad genetic base.
More than 480 high-yielding wheat varieties bred by Rajaram have been released in 51 countries on six continents and have been widely adopted by small- and large-scale farmers alike. “Rajaram’s work serves as an inspiration to us all to do more, whether in the private or public sector,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry at an event where he delivered the keynote address.
“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. Rajaram followed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman E Borlaug at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, CIMMYT, leading its Wheat Program from 1976 to 2001.
World Food Prize Foundation President and the former US Ambassador to Cambodia Kenneth M Quinn said the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate is an individual who worked closely with Dr Borlaug in Mexico and who then carried forward and extended his work, breaking new ground with his own achievements. “We are grateful for the hundreds of new species of wheat Dr Rajaram developed, which deliver 200 million more tonnes of grain to global markets each year and feed millions across the world,” Kerry added.
He also talked about Feed the Future, a presidential global hunger and food security initiative, through which the US is establishing a foundation for lasting progress against global hunger. “Feed the Future supports a research agenda to harness scientific innovation and technology in agriculture,” he said. The World Food Prize was established in 1986 by Borlaug in order to focus the world’s attention on hunger and on those whose work has significantly helped efforts to end it.