Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, winner of the 2009 World Food Prize
The 2009 World Food Prize will be awarded to Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a native of Ethiopia and a Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, for his breakthrough work that illustrates “what can be achieved when cutting-edge technology and international cooperation in agriculture are used to uplift and empower the world’s most vulnerable people.” The announcement was made Thursday at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department.
With the local importance of sorghum in the human diet (made into breads, porridges, and beverages), and the vast potential of dryland agriculture in Sudan, Dr. Ejeta’s drought-tolerant hybrids brought dramatic gains in crop productivity and also catalyzed the initiation of a commercial sorghum seed industry in Sudan.
A scientist who grew up in a thatch hut in Ethiopia and later learned how to conquer a weed that plagues African agriculture is this year’s winner of the World Food Prize.
Gebisa Ejeta, a long-time agronomist at Purdue University, developed a variety of sorghum resistant to Striga, or witchweed, a parasitic plant that often destroys the vital food crop. Earlier, Ejeta came up with a high-yielding, drought-resistant version of sorghum.
Combining the resistance to drought and the weed allowed Ejeta’s sorghum to yield up to four times as much grain as the traditional varieties.
The prize will be given to Dr. Ejeta at a ceremony Oct. 15 at the Iowa Capitol.
The Council for Biotechnology Information and World Food Prize Foundation (WFP) are partnering to pilot a video program to capture stories from friends, families, students, academics, farmers and colleagues about plant biotechnology and its potential as one solution to help alleviate shortages of food, fuel, and water while maintaining environmentally sustainable agricultural production practices. Using video and social media sites, participants will record their stories about their vision of how we as individuals and a nation can help alleviate shortages of food, water, and fuel.
Two World Food Prize Foundation Interns — Liang (Justine) Cheng of West Des Moines, Iowa in Brazil and Tiffanie Stone of Arden Hills, Minnesota in China — will be piloting the CBI video program.
The interns will also be writing articles for the CBI Blog on their experience with agricultural biotechnology research overseas.
“An all-expense-paid, eight-week hands-on experience [that] provides exceptional high school students the opportunity to work with world renowned scientists and policymakers at leading research centers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.”