World Food Prize Award Honors Three

Two Brazilians and U.S. agronomist receive prestigious award; U.S. Ag Secretary Mike Johanns speaks at symposium.

The 20th anniversary of the World Food Prize Award Ceremony was held October 19 in the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Three men – A. Colin McClung of the United States, Edson Lobato of Brazil and Alysson Paolinelli of Brazil – were presented the $250,000 World Food Prize by World Food Prize chairman John Ruan III. The three will share the money.

Working independently over the course of five decades, soil scientists McClung and Lobato and former Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Alysson Paolinelli helped transform Brazil's Cerrado region from a virtual wasteland into highly-productive cropland. This change has provided food for millions of people around the globe.

People from 65 nations were present

Representatives of more than 65 countries attended as the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture," as it is sometimes referred to, was presented.

Iowa Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson and Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, presided at the ceremony. In addition to the three 2006 laureates, nine former World Food Prize Laureates attended. As a special commemoration of their life-saving achievements, the event will feature the world premiere of "The Laureate Call." This original choral piece by Des Moines composer Ben Allaway was commissioned by The World Food Prize with the generous support of Arthur Neis.

The event also featured internationally renowned twin violinists Walter and Wagner Caldas of Brazil. The 20th anniversary World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony was broadcast live across the state on Iowa Public Television. Visit www.worldfoodprize.org for more information.

Lower trade barriers to whip poverty

Earlier in the day, at the World Food Prize Symposium, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns was one of several key speakers. "Lowering world trade barriers can help whip world hunger and poverty," said Johanns.

Johanns said that currently stalled global trade talks should be restarted. Lowering trade barriers will bring billions of dollars of economic activity into poor and developing countries and lift millions of people out of poverty, he said.

"I believe we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to lift people out of poverty," says Johanns, who grew up on a dairy farm near Osage in northern Iowa. "Trade is an engine of economic growth." Half of the benefits from lowering trade barriers in the world would be realized by poor countries, he said, and the economic gains will boost the incomes of millions of poor people.

Wants WTO negotiations to restart

The World Trade Organization's recent effort to cut trade-distorting practices in international commerce, called the Doha Round, stalled last summer when negotiators reached an impasse over several issues, including farm subsidies which are used by the United States.

Johanns said, "I'm very disappointed and I hope the talks can be resumed at some point. The Bush Administration and most people in the U.S. still believe the Doha Round is the best opportunity to improve the world economy and the economies of developing countries."

The United States is the largest food aid donor in the world, he added, and will continue to be during the Bush Administration. "Federal budgets are tight and we have to watch how we spend money," says Johanns. "But the president has somehow found the money for domestic and foreign food aid programs."

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