With participants coming from 65 countries, the World Food Prize Foundation said it would hold its symposium virtually this year, given growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus delta variant.
The Des Moines nonprofit said it wants to protect “our speakers, participants and staff.” The event, which attracts hundreds of people to the capital city each October, also was held virtually last year because of concerns about COVID-19.
In addition, the ongoing public health emergency has placed restrictions on international travel.
The three-day symposium is named after Norman Borlaug, the late Iowa native who started the World Food Prize in 1986. The foundation each year awards $250,000 to a scientist, individual or group worldwide that increase the quantity, quality or availability of food.
This year, the foundation is honoring Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, the first woman of Asian heritage to win the World Food Prize. The Trinidad native is being recognized for research she conducted establishing the nutritional importance of tiny, commonly found fish that villagers in many parts of the world can raise inexpensively in ponds and impoundments such as rice paddies.
Officials are still weighing whether the award ceremony, traditionally held at the Iowa state Capitol, will be virtual or whether the foundation can hold a small, in-person ceremony for Thilsted.
This year’s symposium speakers include Anita Zaidi, president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s gender equality division; Naoko Yamamoto, chair of UN Nutrition, a country-level coordinating entity; Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’ Lakes, an agribusiness cooperative based in Minneapolis; and J. Erik Frywald, CEO of Syngenta AG, a global seed and crop protection company based in Switzerland.
Borlaug founded the prize to recognize exceptional achievement in agriculture. A native of Cresco in northeast Iowa, he received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for research leading to the creation of drought-resistant, high-yielding wheat varieties.
He is credited as the “father of the Green Revolution” that saved a billion people from hunger.
Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-284-8457.