The World Food Prize Foundation

2013 Borlaug Dialogue

Biotechnology, Sustainability and Climate Volatility

October 16-18, 2013, Des Moines, Iowa – Des Moines Marriott Downtown Hotel

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Click the image above to view the transcript and photos from the 40 Chances Panel featuring Tony Blair, Howard G. Buffett, and Ritu Sharma

The 2013 Borlaug Dialogue launched the year-long centennial observance of World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug's birth. Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s discovery of the DNA double helix, the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue looked ahead to the next century of advances in agricultural research and application and focused on the issues that Dr. Borlaug would have viewed as critical as we strive to nourish the world’s growing population.

In keeping with Dr. Borlaug's legacy, we brought customized and localized solutions for smallholder farmers to the forefront of our dialogue. Specifically, the symposium explored:

  • The advances in science-based innovation in allowing us to not only produce more food, but to reduce loss and waste, enhance food safety and better manage our environmental resources. Looking at the role of technological innovation since the Green Revolution, the symposium will evaluate how we can use research, education, extension and enterprise to strengthen the linkages along the value chain to benefit all stakeholders, with a special focus on enabling farmers around the world to manage risks and build resilience in the face of growing climate volatility.
  • How we can best harness the many tools and technologies at our disposal, including biotechnology, alternative frameworks, and new methodologies and mechanisms, to improve human development, increase food security and enhance nutrition and health.
  • Diverse perspectives including agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture, as well as explore the crucial issues of land tenure, land management, emerging innovations in food traceability and precision agriculture. We further analyzed the metrics of sustainability and the success of collaborative initiatives to build climate resilience, while looking ahead at future challenges and opportunities.

These and other critical issues were explored through keynote presentations and lively and engaging conversations featuring the expertise and diverse perspectives of governmental leaders; policymakers; CEOs and executives from agribusiness and non-governmental organizations; and scientific, academic and development experts from around the world.

To further Dr. Borlaug’s dream of inspiring the next generation to become future leaders in confronting hunger and poverty, the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue also featured the second annual dialogueNEXT conversation during the Thursday plenary program, which brings together emerging young thought leaders and innovators who are contributing new ideas, concepts and achievements.  


The World Food Prize welcomed to the stage three key global leaders: Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, current President of Iceland; and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at the Holy See in the Vatican.

They joined over 1,000 international scientific, business and policy experts from more than 65 countries during the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue from October 16 to 18 in Des Moines, Iowa. This global gathering has been called the “premier conference in the world on global agriculture.”

  • Tony Blair, in his current role as Patron of the Africa Governance Initiative, spoke on a panel titled “40 Chances,” which represents the number of growing seasons that a farmer can expect during his or her lifetime. With the theme of “Redefining the Fight Against Hunger, Poverty and Suffering,” this discussion included Howard G. Buffett, farmer and President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and Ritu Sharma, founder and CEO of Women Thrive Worldwide. It focused on the drivers of food security including aid effectiveness, trade, private sector investment, and technological innovation, and also announced new joint programming designed to foster market-based solutions for addressing global challenges related to hunger, poverty, and conflict.
  • President Grímsson has identified the need to combat climate volatility as one of the most pressing current issues worldwide. He convened the Global Roundtable on Climate Change and has brought Iceland to the forefront of global green energy leadership.
  • Cardinal Turkson of Ghana has served as the President of the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2009. He has focused on the importance of addressing food security issues long-term by respecting the land and rural populations, and promoting agricultural development in poorer countries.

The Borlaug Dialogue took place in conjunction with the 2013 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, where we honored the pioneers of biotechnology: Dr. Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Dr. Mary Dell-Chilton and Dr. Robert Fraley of the United States.

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