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World Food Prize honors Sanjaya Rajaram during Borlaug Centennial

October 16, 2014


Des Moines, Iowa, 16 October 2014 – Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, of India and Mexico, was awarded the World Food Prize at a ceremony at the Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa.

The World Food Prize was created in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and its precursor organization. Borlaug felt that recognition should be given to those who have made significant contributions in agriculture to improve the world’s food supply.

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, recognized how appropriate it was for Rajaram to be awarded the World Food Prize during the Borlaug Centennial Year, as Borlaug mentored Rajaram when he first arrived at CIMMYT in 1969. Borlaug himself even referred to Rajaram as “the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world” and “a scientist of great vision.”

Rajaram’s outstanding career at CIMMYT began as a post-doctoral fellow working as a wheat breeder alongside Borlaug. At 29, Rajaram was appointed head of CIMMYT’s Wheat Breeding Program, eventually becoming the director of the Global Wheat Program. In his almost four decades at CIMMYT, Rajaram trained more than 400 wheat scientists and developed an astounding 480 varieties of wheat. Rajaram developed these new wheat varieties by crossing winter and spring wheat; his research resulted in high-yielding wheat varieties that could grow in various climate and soil conditions across the globe.

“I felt highly honored to learn that the 2014 World Food Prize would be awarded to me, and through me, to hundreds and thousands of wheat researchers and farmers around the world. Future crop production is bound to decline unless we fully factor in the issues related to climate change, soil fertility and water deficits. It will require all the resources of international research centers, national governments, foundations, NGOs and farmer groups together to synergize future agricultural technologies and food production,” Rajaram said on being awarded the World Food Prize.

Rajaram still has deep connections to CIMMYT and its work. He continues to inspire the next generation by visiting wheat breeders, scientists and trainees. In July 2014, Rajaram donated $20,000 to CIMMYT’s Basic Wheat Improvement Course. This generous donation allowed for two additional trainees, from Ethiopia and Afghanistan, to participate in the course.

“Training is something very close to my heart, and I would like to see more donors supporting this important function at CIMMYT. If I can use my platform as World Food Prize winner to bring more attention to CIMMYT’s research and training, which are critical for addressing future challenges, I will work very hard to do that,” said Rajaram.

For more information on the World Food Prize visit http://www.worldfoodprize.org/.

Headquartered in Mexico, CIMMYT is the global leader in research for development in wheat and maize and wheat- and maize-based farming systems. CIMMYT works throughout the developing world with hundreds of partners to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat systems to improve global food security and livelihoods.
Improved, CIMMYT-derived wheat is sown on more than 60 million hectares in developing countries – over 70 percent of the spring wheat area planted with modern wheat varieties in those nations. These wheat varieties are responsible for bigger harvests that bring annual added benefits to farmers of at least $500 million.

Similarly, 50 percent of modern maize varieties grown in developing countries come from CIMMYT improved seeds. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR Consortium and leads the Consortium Research Programs WHEAT and MAIZE. CIMMYT receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.

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