World Food Prize Tackling Hot Topics At Upcoming Symposium

World Food Prize Tackling Hot Topics At Upcoming Symposium

Biotechnology, sustainability and climate volatility are on agenda of this year's Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines.

The 2013 World Food Prize International Symposium will be held October 16 to 18 in Des Moines and this year's agenda of speakers and topics is attracting more interest than ever, say officials with the World Food Prize Foundation. The theme is "The Next Borlaug Century: Biotechnology, Sustainability and Climate Volatility."

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES: The World Food Prize International Symposium attracts 1,200 attendees from around the globe to Iowa each October to discuss food and agriculture issues. This year's conference is bringing experts together to delve into the biotech debate, and an anti-biotech group plans to stage protest activities. The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines is headquarters for the World Food Prize Foundation.

Over 1,200 people from 70 countries are expected to attend representing government agencies, academia, the food and agriculture industries, farm groups, hunger relief organizations and others. The World Food Prize symposium is the premier conference in the world on global agriculture, bringing together experts to discuss and debate important issues related to feeding a burgeoning global population.

Headline speakers this year include Tony Blair, former British prime minister who is now a leader of the African Governance Initiative; Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, president of Iceland who will speak on climate change; and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, president of the Pontification Council for Justice and Peace from the Vatican. A number of other speakers will participate in panel discussions, as this year's event brings the world's top experts together to delve into both sides of the biotech debate, and to discuss how our planet can confront climate volatility and grow food sustainably.

Anti-biotech group plans to protest World Food Prize symposium and laureate ceremony

This year's symposium is also drawing the attention of an anti-biotechnology group, and is planning a program of its own to protest the World Food Prize events. The group is upset that the prize is being awarded in 2013 to three scientists who are being honored for their work in developing genetically modified crops, or GMOs.

The prestigious $250,000 award will be presented October 17 in a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol to scientists Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, Mary-Dell Chilton of the United States and Robert Fraley of the United States. The three laureates helped devise ways to insert genes from other species into a plant's DNA to improve yields and provide resistance to insects and diseases.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

Proponents of the technology believe GMOs are a critical tool to feed a world population expected to increase from 7 billion people today to an estimated 9 billion by 2050. Opponents of GMOs believe the technology poses threats to human health and the environment; threats the opponents believe are real or haven't been researched enough and are not yet fully understood. The critics also believe biotech enriches agribusiness companies at the expense of small farmers around the globe.

The business ties of two of this year's three World Food Prize winners trouble the critics. Chilton works for Syngenta, a seed and chemical manufacturer based in Belgium. Fraley is an executive with Monsanto in St. Louis, Mo. Van Montagu is founder and chairman of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium.

The 2013 Borlaug Dialogue will inaugurate the yearlong Borlaug Centennial

This fall's conference will inaugurate the year-long Borlaug Centennial, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Norman Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the world's most ardent advocates for ending hunger. "On this occasion we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA Double Helix, and we will explore how the global food, agriculture and development communities can best harness the many tools and technologies available to feed our growing population in an increasingly volatile climate," says Ken Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.

A full agenda and list of speakers and related information is available at the World Food Prize website. Key speakers include:

* Tony Blair, in his current role as Patron of the Africa Governance Initiative, will speak 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 panel will also include Howard G. Buffett, farmer and President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and Ritu Sharma, founder and CEO of Women Thrive Worldwide. It will focus on the drivers of food security including aid effectiveness, trade, private sector investment, and technological innovation, and will also announce new joint programming designed to foster market-based solutions for addressing global challenges related to hunger, poverty and conflict.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

* President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland 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 Peter K.A. 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.  

* Secretary's Roundtable: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will host Mexican Minister of Agriculture Enrique Martínez y Martínez on stage.

The 2013 World Food Prize Laureates Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States — will speak in multiple venues and will be honored during a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on Thursday evening, Oct. 17, for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.

Other experts from around the globe who will speak during the week:

* Governmental leaders will include: Hon. Akin Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria; Hon. Florence Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture, Liberia; and Hon. James Munthali, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Malawi.

* Business leaders will include: Rob Aukerman, President of U.S. and Canada Operations, Elanco Animal Health; Brett Begemann, President and Chief Commercial Officer, Monsanto; Mark Kahn, Partner, Omnivore Capital; Ellen Kullman, Chair and CEO, DuPont; Chris Nelson, President and CEO, Kemin Industries; Andrea Thomas, Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Walmart; and Balram Singh Yadav, Managing Director, Godrej Agrovet Ltd.

* International governmental organization leaders will include: Jomo Sunduram, Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Development Department, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization; Juergen Voegele, Sector Director, Sustainable Development Network, The World Bank; and Ren Wang, Assistant Director-General, Consumer and Food Protection Department, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

* Non-governmental organization leaders will include: Howard G. Buffett, President, Howard G. Buffett Foundation; Lisa Dreier, Director, Food Security and Development Initiatives, World Economic Forum; Chris Elias, President, Global Development Program, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Tim Hanstad, President and CEO, Landesa; Hans Herren, President, Millennium Institute; Mpule Kwelagobe, Executive Director, Network of Women Investing in Africa Leadership Program; Frances Moore Lappe, Author of Diet for a Small Planet and Co-founder, Small Planet Institute; Jacqueline Mkindi, Executive Director and CEO, Tanzania Horticultural Association; and Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President, Women Thrive Worldwide.

* Scientists and academics will include: Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa; Jahi Chappell, Director of Agriculture Policy, Institute for Trade and Agriculture Policy (IATP); Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development, Imperial College, London; Sir Brian Heap, Professor, St. Edmund's College; and Hermann Lotze-Campen, Co-Chair, Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities, Potsdam Institute for Climate Research.

More information about all events is available at the World Food Prize website.

ABOUT THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE:  The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions throughout the world. Thirty-nine laureates have been recognized from Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States. The World Food Prize also annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, and several youth education programs including the Global Youth Institute and Borlaug-Ruan International Internship to inspire the next generation to explore careers in agriculture and food security.

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