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World Food Prize Honors 'Catalyst for Policy Change'


A Danish agricultural economist with a passion for fighting poverty and alleviating global hunger has been selected as this year's winner of the $250,000 World Food Prize. The privately-funded award, the biggest to recognize achievements in agriculture, was announced Monday.

The Iowa foundation that sponsors the award has named Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 62, as this year's World Food Prize laureate. The tall, silver-goateed Dane has served since 1992 as the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington. It is one of 16 internationally-funded agricultural research centers, located mainly in developing countries.

Most previous World Food Prize winners have been recognized for scientific breakthroughs in food production technology. But Mr. Pinstrup-Andersen believes his selection signals an important new public awareness.

"I think this year, the World Food Prize Foundation recognizes that to solve the problems that poor people are faced with, we need not only technology but also good policy," he said.

Under Mr. Pinstrup-Andersen's leadership, the International Food Policy Research Institute has published the "2020 Vision Initiative," a steady stream of reports on sustainable farming, agricultural research and food policy. The widely-circulated reports urge government leaders and policy makers to prepare for the 21st century by addressing the basic needs of the world's poor. The prize committee called the initiative "a brilliant catalyst for policy change."

Mr. Pinstrup Andersen has been a leading proponent of expanded school feeding programs in poor countries. The soft-spoken Dane has also drawn criticism from many environmental activists because he favors continued research on genetically engineered crops, which he thinks could be essential to meeting growing world food demands. Per Pinstrup Andersen will receive his World Food Prize at a special ceremony and world hunger symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 18.

Rob Sivak is the host of VOA's Our World, a weekly program focusing on science, technology, agriculture and the environment.