Farmers, policy-makers, researchers, scientists, advocates, and world leaders are gathering in Des Moines, Iowa this week for the Borlaug Dialogues and the World Food Prize Ceremony. Scientist M.S. Swaminatham, Millennium Institute Director and biological control expert Hans Herren, Heifer International’s Jo Luck, Bread for the World’s David Beckman, and irrigation expert Daniel Hillel are all past recipients.
This year’s winners were a surprise for sustainable agriculture experts who questioned giving it to scientists from Monsanto, Syngenta, and the Institute for Plant Biotechnology Outreach. Their work with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetically modified crops, has frequently put them at odds with sustainable agriculture efforts and small-scale organic farmers. Dr. Robert T. Fraley, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, and Dr. Marc Van Montagu, who will share the Prize this year, are being awarded for their work with crop engineering and agricultural biotechnology that, according to the World Food Prize Foundation, “has made it possible for farmers in 30 countries to improve the yields of their crops, have increased incomes, and feed a growing global population.”
Also attending the Dialogues this year will be another set of awardees: the honorees of the 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize, which is often referred to as the alternative to the World Food Prize. Haiti’s Group of 4, the Basque Country Farmer’s Union, the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations, and Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective were honored at the October 15th ceremony for their work in “fighting for the right to food for all, and dignity for those who put food on our plates,” according to Allison Cohen, Senior Director of Programs for Why Hunger, in the ceremony’s opening remarks. “Tonight,” Cohen said, praising the efforts of each honoree, “we are celebrating grassroots activist, farmers, and organizers who are working towards a more democratic food system.”