For the first time in the 20-year history of the World Food Prize, three people will share the prestigious $250,000 award. The winners for 2006 were announced June 15 at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.
The three recipients - two Brazilians and an American - were honored for their roles in developing the Cerrado or the "new lands" area of Brazil over the past 50 years. Each of the recipients played a vital role in transforming the Cerrado into highly productive farmland.
The Cerrado is a region of vast, once infertile tropical high plains stretching across Brazil. It is now one of the world's largest, most productive areas for growing soybeans and other agricultural crops.
The three men sharing the 2006 World Food Prize are: Brazil's former Minister of Agriculture H.E. Alysson Paolinelli; former Technical Director of EMBRAPACerradoResearchCenter, Edson Lobato; and the Washington Representative of the International Research Institute, Dr. A. Colin McClung.
Paolinelli, who was trained as an agronomist, and Lobato, a soil scientist, are both Brazilians. McClung, a soil scientist, is from the United States.
Brazil has tremendous potential
Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador who served in several countries as he worked for many years for the U.S. Department of State, is now president of the World Food Prize Foundation. He points out that the three 2006 recipients played a vital role in transforming the Cerrado into highly productive cropland.
"These three men worked independently of one another, in different decades and in different fields," says Quinn. "But their collective efforts over the past 50 years have unlocked Brazil's tremendous potential for food production. Actually, these three men represent the efforts of many people who worked for many decades to make the Cerrado into a productive, economically important food producing region."
Their advancements in soil science and policy leadership made agricultural development possible in the Cerrado, a region named from Portuguese words meaning "closed, inaccessible land."
Brazil tripled food production
Quinn adds, "This increased agricultural production has helped improve economic and social conditions in Brazil, while their research and related efforts continue to promote agricultural development and poverty alleviation in other tropical and sub-tropical countries throughout the world."
Quinn notes that from 1970 to 2000 Brazil's agricultural production more than tripled while its area of cultivated land grew less than 1.5 times.