Biofortification pioneers win 2016 World Food Prize for fight against malnutrition

by Hunger Notes

The World Food Prize announces its 2016 Laureates: Drs. Maria Andrade, Jan Low and Robert Mwanga helped in providing Vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to Sub-Saharan African countries and Dr. Howarth Bouis created a global multi-sector organization, HarvestPlus, which has released biofortified crops in 30 countries worldwide. Photo: WFP
The World Food Prize announces its 2016 Laureates: Drs. Maria Andrade, Jan Low and Robert Mwanga helped in providing Vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to Sub-Saharan African countries and Dr. Howarth Bouis created a global multi-sector organization, HarvestPlus, which has released biofortified crops in 30 countries worldwide. Photo: WFP

Drs. Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth Bouis were announced as the 2016 World Food Prize Laureates during a June 28 ceremony at the U.S. State Department.

Three of the 2016 laureates — Dr. Maria Andrade, Dr. Robert Mwanga and Dr. Jan Low of the International Potato Center (CIP), which has had sweetpotato in its research mandate since 1988 — are being honored for their work developing the single most successful example of biofortification — the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga, plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda, bred the Vitamin A-enriched OFSP using genetic material from CIP and other sources, while Dr. Low structured the nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 separate African countries to plant, purchase and consume this nutritionally fortified food.

Dr. Howarth Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), over a 25-year period pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to fortification as a global plant breeding strategy. As a result of his leadership, crops such as iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, along with Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and OFSP are being tested or released in over 40 countries.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the four Laureates, over 10 million persons are now positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more in the coming decades.

USAID Administrator Gayle Smith gave keynote remarks and applauded the selection.

“These four extraordinary World Food Prize Laureates have proven that science matters, and that when matched with dedication, it can change people’s lives,” said Administrator Gayle Smith.  “USAID and our Feed the Future partners are proud to join with renowned research organizations to support critical advances in global food security and nutrition.”

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The World Food Prize is the most prominent global award for individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security. This year’s $250,000 prize will be divided equally between the four recipients. The prize rewards their work in countering world hunger and malnutrition through biofortification, the process of breeding critical vitamins and micronutrients into staple crops.

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