World Food Prize Goes To Dutchman For Work With Seeds And Small Farmers
This year’s winner of the prestigious World Food Prize is Simon N. Groot of the Netherlands for his transformative role in empowering millions of smallholder farmers to improve health and economic opportunities in more than 60 countries benefitting hundreds of millions of consumer with greater access to nutritious vegetables for healthy diets.
Lifetime of dedication
Simon Groot has spent a lifetime dedicated to improving the livelihoods of millions around the world. With his partner in the Philippines he began developing vegetable varieties with enhanced disease resistance and significantly higher yields. They started East-West Seed in the Philippines in 1982. At that time commercial vegetable breeding was all but unknown in the tropics, and many farmers were having a hard time growing a good crop with the low-quality, poorly adapted seeds they often saved from season to season. The seeds soon spread throughout the Philippines and to Thailand, Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, Farmers’ daily lives were uplifted and consumers benefited from greater access to nutritious vegetables
Mr. Groot works closely with local and international NGOs, through his East-West Seed’s innovative Knowledge Transfer program, which trains tens of thousands of farmers each year in agricultural best practices for vegetable production. Emphasizing the hard work and dedication of these local farmers.
Friend to local farmers
In an interview, Groot said he thinks it regrettable that seed production is in the hands of a few big companies such as Bayer/Monsanto and Syngenta. The big companies, he said, are limiting supplies because there is little money to be made from minor breeds. ‘Big companies look at the importance of shareholders,’ he said. ‘Traditional seed companies put the interests of farmers first. We are friends to farmers.’ The prize was founded in 1986 by Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Groot is the first Dutch national to take the prize.
“Like Dr. Norman Borlaug before him, Simon Groot has dedicated his life to improving the livelihoods of millions around the world,” said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.
Mr. Groot will receive the World Food Prize on October 17, 2019 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.