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2016 World Food Prize Winners Announced

This morning in Washington, D.C., the 2016 World Food Prize laureates were announced. For the first time, the esteemed award, dubbed the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, will be given to four recipients: Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Robert Mwanga of Uganda, Jan Low from the U.S., and Howarth Bouis, also from the U.S.

These scientists are being honored for the development and implementation of biofortification, specifically their work in breeding critical vitamins and micronutrients into staple crops. “Their efforts have reduced hidden hunger and improved the health of millions of people,” said Amb. Kenneth Quinn, who announced the winners.

Three of the laureates – Andrade, Mwanga, and Low – work at the International Potato Center where they developed the single most successful example of micronutrient and vitamin biofortification: the vitamin A enriched orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP).

Vitamin A deficiency contributes to high rates of blindness, diarrhea, immune system disorders, and premature death in children and pregnant women in Africa. The OFSP variety can prevent vitamin A deficiency, and it was also developed to be disease resistant, drought tolerant, and high yielding, making it easier to grow in the variable soils and climatic conditions found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Andrade and Mwanga worked together to breed vitamin A into the OFSP, while Low focused on structured nutrition studies and programs. Her work convinced almost 2 million households in 10 African countries to plant, purchase, and consume this nutritionally fortified food.

Bouis founded HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute, where he pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy. His efforts led to iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat, and pear-millet as well as vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize, and OFSP being tested and released in more than 40 countries.

“Through their combined efforts, 10 million people have been positively impacted by biofortified crops with the potential for several hundred million more in the coming decades,” said Quinn.

The four laureates will be honored at the 30th Anniversary of the World Food Prize this October in Des Moines, Iowa.

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