World Food Prize to focus on challenge of feeding 9 billion by 2050

October 15, 2018

When policymakers, farmers, researchers and executives gather in Des Moines, Iowa this week they will be taking a multifaceted look at how to meet the massive global challenge of feeding an estimated nine billion people by 2050.

‘Rise to the Challenge’ is the theme of the 2018 Borlaug Dialogue, the international symposium that surrounds the presentation of the World Food Prize, an annual $250,000 award presented for breakthroughs in improving the quantity, quality and availability of food.

Among the themes this year’s Borlaug Dialogue will address are: the fall armyworm’s threat to global food security, the potential of CRISPR technology to feed our growing population, the increasing importance of ‘agripreneurs’ and startups, and the role of women in food and agricultural research.

The symposium comes on the heels of an FAO report that warns that the number of hungry people has increased for the third consecutive year and now stands at 821 million and the recent landmark report from the United Nations that paints a bleak picture of the ramifications of failing to control global warming.

The Cornell Alliance for Science will be represented at the week’s events by three alumni of our global farmer training courses. AD Alvarez of the Philippines, Patience Koku of Nigeria and Gina Gutierrez of Mexico will all take part in the Global Farmer Roundtable on Tuesday and Wednesday.

They will be joined by farmers from Australia, Argentina, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya and the United States. The roundtable will discuss some of the challenges they face and the technologies and practices they use to meet these challenges.

The Alliance’s associate director of legal affairs, Greg Jaffe, will take part in a symposium session focusing on the regulatory challenges surrounding CRISPR. The discussion is sure to focus on the contradictory regulatory approaches to gee edited crops adopted by the European Union and the United States.

The Alliance for Science is also co-hosting a ‘CRISPR and cocktails’ event on Tuesday in collaboration with CRISPRcon. The reception will be held at 4pm at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, the site of the Borlaug Dialogue events, and is open to all attendees although registration is advised.

World Food Prize attendees are also encouraged to visit the Alliance for Science booth in the exhibition area. Modesta Nnedinso Abugu will be on hand to answer questions about the Alliance and its Global Fellowship Leadership Program. An alumnus of the 2015 Global Fellows cohort, Abugu is the program assistant for the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB), Nigeria Chapter.

The highlight of the week’s event will be on Thursday night when the World Food Prize is awarded at an elaborate ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol. This year’s prize will go to two men who advanced evidence-based policies that stress the economic and public health value of good early childhood nutrition: Dr. Lawrence Haddad, a British economist and food policy researcher who serves as executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and Dr. David Nabarro, a professor at the Institute of Global Health Innovation at London’s Imperial College who has worked with the World Health Organization and United Nations on health and hunger issues.

The World Food Prize has been described as “the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture”. It was established in 1986 by Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Iowa native who is considered the “father of the Green Revolution”. Borlaug was the recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize and was one of only six people in history to have received that prestigious award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Photo courtesy of The World Food Prize Foundation: 2017 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Akinwumi Adesina addresses last year’s symposium.