The World Food Prize Foundation

Amb Kenneth M Quinn's Remarks from the World Food Prize Laureate Announcement

06/12/2012

Assistant Secretary Jones, thank you for that very kind introduction, and for hosting our ceremony today.  I also want to express our gratitude to the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs for arranging this event.

Secretary Clinton, on behalf of my wife Le Son, the Ruan family, the chairman of our Selection Committee, Professor M.S. Swaminathan, and all of us at the World Food Prize, I want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to you for your willingness to preside at our Laureate Announcement Ceremony for four consecutive years. 

It is also a tremendous honor for us today to have two very distinguished members of the World Food Prize family present: His Excellency Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique, who is a member of our Council of Advisors; and His Excellency John A. Kufuor, the former President of Ghana, who is one of our 2011 World Food Prize Laureates. 

Ambassador Barukh Binah, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Israel, thank you for your presence.

There are also three very special Iowans here today: Congressman Leonard Boswell; former Congressman and current Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Jim Leach; and Mrs. Barbara Grassley, the wife of Senator Chuck Grassley.

I also want to recognize the twenty U.S. Department of Agriculture Wallace-Carver Interns who are here today.  These are young students who, while still in high school, the World Food Prize sent abroad as Borlaug-Ruan Interns, and who are now serving at USDA in a special program created by Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

In creating the World Food Prize, our founder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug hoped it would come to be seen as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,” inspiring those breakthrough achievements which will be needed if our planet is to have sufficient nutritious food for all 9 billion inhabitants projected by the year 2050.  Over the past 25 years, the World Food Prize has been presented to laureates from Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America for a wide array of accomplishments – from plant science to food technology to political leadership.

Today, we will honor a laureate from a region of the world never before recognized, and in a new area of scientific achievement. 

Dr. Borlaug also understood another role that the World Food Prize could play – one which he learned when he worked with both India and Pakistan in the mid 1960s as they faced imminent mass famine.  Even though those countries were deeply divided politically, he was able to work with them to transform their approach to agriculture and avoid a great human tragedy.  From working with Dr. Borlaug for a decade and from my own diplomatic career, I have come to see that confronting hunger can bring diverse people together across even the broadest political, ethnic, religious or diplomatic differences.

It is with this lesson in mind that I share with you that our 2012 World Food Prize Laureate is an individual whose work has bridged such divisions and promoted understanding in the Middle East, by addressing a problem that so many countries and communities there share in common. 

Born in America, but raised in Israel as an Israeli citizen, our Laureate was inspired by the stark need he observed while living in the arid highlands of the Negev Desert.  He subsequently conceived of the idea that would radically transform the way that scarce amounts of water could be brought to crops in such harsh conditions in order to enhance their survivability and productivity.  Over several decades at the Hebrew University and other institutions, he worked with other specialists to develop a completely new system of micro-irrigation which would forever change farming in dryland areas.  His research led to a dramatic shift away from the traditional method of irrigation, which had utilized periodic episodes of flooding to saturate the soil, followed by longer periods of drying out the land.  Instead, our Laureate’s new innovative method applies water in small but continuous amounts directly to plant roots with dramatic results in both increased productivity and enhanced water conservation. 

Since this initial achievement in Israel, this new system of irrigation has been spread around the world, impacting thousands and thousands of farmers and producers – in more than 30 countries.  In conjunction with the World Bank and other international development organizations, our Laureate has worked in several Middle Eastern countries, as well as in Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan, and within Palestinian communities, to spread this new technology to all who could benefit from it.  As he did so, he built friendships which promoted both agricultural development and greater intercultural understanding.  Indeed, while our Foundation never reveals the names of persons who submit nominations for our Prize, it is significant that several of the letters supporting his nomination came from individuals and institutions in Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. 

Based on this unique breakthrough scientific achievement and his emulation of Dr. Borlaug’s approach to building understanding through cooperation in confronting hunger and poverty, it is with enormous pleasure that I announce that the 2012 World Food Prize Laureate is Dr. Daniel Hillel. 

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Presentation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: 
Replica of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug's Congressional Gold Medal

Madam Secretary, I want to be sure that you know what your personal leadership meant to Dr. Borlaug.

I still vividly recall being here on June 12, 2009, for the first World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony at which you presided.  Dr. Borlaug was supposed to be here that day.  But his health prevented him from making the trip.  Even though he was in the last few months of his life, Dr. Borlaug was still intensely focused on taking the Green Revolution to Africa.  He had become fearful that there would not be the energy and direction needed to accomplish this goal after he departed from the scene.  So I phoned him right after the ceremony that day to tell him about what had transpired, and that you had taken that opportunity to articulate the principles upon which the Feed the Future initiative would be developed. 

Madam Secretary, your words and the leadership you provided that day gave Dr. Borlaug great hope.  Great hope that the goal that he had dreamed of – The African Green Revolution – might yet be accomplished.  When he passed away exactly three months later on September 12, 2009, Dr. Borlaug’s last words were “Take it to the farmer.”  Since then, Madam Secretary, you have put global food security front and center on the foreign policy agenda – a remarkable transformational accomplishment for which you deserve enormous credit.  As we all saw at the recent G-8 summit, you and Secretary Vilsack, and Administrator Shah, and the Obama Administration with bipartisan support are indeed working with African leaders and the international community to fulfill Dr. Borlaug’s last wish. 

It is for that reason that I am so pleased to be able to present to you this special commemorative version of Dr. Borlaug’s Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian honor, which he received in 2007 and which bears his likeness.  I hope that it will forever be a reminder of the enormous respect and gratitude that Dr. Borlaug had for the leadership which you have provided, and continue to provide, on the issue of confronting global hunger and alleviating human suffering. 
 

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