Most Americans have their eyes on the famous prizes: Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, etc. But, every year, there are numerous other awards and prizes given out (think Nobel Peace Prize). There is something called the World Food Prize, which is presented by the World Food Prize Foundation a private, nonprofit organization with its headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, that is given out annually and is deemed “the Nobel Prize of Food and Agriculture.”
The foundation was set up in 1986 at the suggestion of Norman Borlaug, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the “green revolution” that increased grain harvests worldwide. Each year a handful of people receive such an honor. This is an honor that largely goes unnoticed — until this year.
Why you may ask? Because this year Monsanto won!
Of the three winners this year, one was the chief technology officer at the ever-controversial Monsanto Corporation, aka Robert Fraley, a pioneer of genetically modified crops. According to NPR, “if there’s a single person who most personifies Monsanto’s controversial role in American agriculture, it’s probably Robb Fraley.”
Funding for the prize, which is worth $250,000, was provided by John Ruan, a prominent Des Moines businessman. In its early years, General Foods sponsored the award. Also, award winners in the past have included everyone from former presidential candidate Bob Dole to senator George McGovern. So maybe you are able to get a clearer picture of who is being awarded and who is signing the checks. This is decidedly not the Nobel Prize and, considering the celebration of genetically modified foods and Monsanto, this is definitely not an award that would be handed out in Europe, a place where GMOs are prohibited.
So is this a travesty, or a case of deep pockets rewarding corporate interests? Does the World Food Prize mean anything, and if so, will the prize impact the agriculture industry?