A scientist from Purdue University was presented the $250,000 World Food Prize in ceremonies at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday evening October 18.
Dr. Philip Nelson received the prestigious award for his pioneering work in post-harvest technology that has revolutionized the food industry, particularly in the area of large-scale storage and transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables using bulk aseptic food processing.
Nelson's breakthroughs in food science have touched U.S. consumers by making fresh orange juice in cartons available on grocery store shelves. That's just one example. His work has also benefited people in the developing world and in disaster areas, where the technologies Nelson pioneered have been used to preserve perishable foods that can be delivered to people without refrigeration.
Developed post-harvest technology
Iowa Governor Chet Culver presided over the World Food Prize ceremony, which was attended by 700 people representing more than 60 countries.
The award was presented by Iowa native Norman Borlaug, who founded the World Food Prize in 1986. Borlaug, now 93 years old, is known as the "Father of the Green Revolution." He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts in crop breeding and fighting world hunger.
Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, headquartered in Des Moines, said Nelson's food science research has significantly reduced post-harvest waste and spoilage and greatly increased the availability and accessibility of nutritious food worldwide, particularly in emergency situations.
"Dr. Nelson's work, which began with tomatoes and later included a variety of seasonal crops, has made it possible to produce ultra-large scale quantities of high quality food," said Quinn. "This food can then be stored for long periods of time and transported to all corners of the world without losing nutritional value or taste."
His work helps in fighting world hunger
"Affordable and safe transportation and storage of food is critical in fighting world hunger, and the processes and technologies developed by Dr. Nelson help food reach those in need," notes Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, one of several organizations that nominated Nelson for the World Food Prize.
Nelson's path to the World Food Prize began as a chance encounter with a former horticulture professor shortly before Nelson was supposed to begin his veterinary studies at Purdue University in Indiana. The professor offered Nelson an assistantship in the horticulture department, working on food science issues.
Born in 1934, Nelson grew up on a 500 acre farm near Morristown, Indiana, where his family had a tomato canning business, sparking his interest in food science research.