The World Food Prize — a non-profit organization based in Des Moines, Iowa — touts a lofty mission to reward those who have contributed to “combating hunger by increasing the quality, quantity and availability of food around the world.” Behind this rhetoric, however, are millions of dollars in financial support from agribusiness and prize recipients whose contributions to agriculture have done little or nothing to reduce hunger.
This point was perhaps never more salient than when the 2013 award was given to Monsanto’s Vice-President Robert Fraley for his work in agricultural biotechnology — including the development of genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready crops used widely in U.S. corn, soy and cotton production. Trumpeting the “widespread accessibility of [GE seeds to] farmers across the globe,” the World Food Prize fails to acknowledge that most developing countries do not grow GE food crops, and many, including most African nations, remain fiercely resistant to GE crops.
The World Food Prize was created by Norman Borlaug — Iowa native, father of the Green Revolution and long-time supporter of the mechanization of agriculture — so it is no surprise that his $250,000 prize is given to promoters of industrial agriculture that focus on increasing yields, including through the use of GE crops. It’s also no surprise that corporate agribusiness donates millions of dollars to the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” and may even be involved in choosing prize recipients, since members of the World Food Prize’s selection committee remain anonymous.