Thank you for joining us today on this very special occasion. We at the University of Iowa are very pleased, honored, and humbled to host this lecture by our distinguished guests, the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates.
There is no more appropriate place for the home of the World Food Prize than the state of Iowa. The most obvious reason, of course, is our status as one of the most important food-producing regions in the world. Our incredibly rich topsoil has defined our culture and characterized our people since long before Iowa was even a state. From our fields and farms, today we produce more corn and soybeans than any other state in the nation. In all, Iowa’s agricultural products add up to over $20 billion each year.
The heritage of the World Food Prize, though, is not just about producing food. It is about producing a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people, especially those who are experiencing food insecurity, hunger, even starvation. As Dr. Norman Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, himself said, food and social justice are closely intertwined. He said, “Without food, man can live at most but a few weeks; without it, all other components of social justice are meaningless.”
Social justice is very much part of Iowa’s cultural heritage as well. Our state has been at the forefront of civil rights and social justice issues since before it was a state. In 1838, the Supreme Court of the Iowa Territory ruled that a slave from a slave state could not be forced to return to that state after reaching Iowa soil. In 1851, Iowa became the second state to allow interracial marriage. And in 1857, the University of Iowa became the first state university in the nation to admit men and women on an equal basis. Since then, the state of Iowa of has gone on to mark many more social justice milestones. In the twentieth century, the work of Dr. Borlaug married these two wonderful Iowa traditions—feeding the world and standing up for human dignity and fairness.
The World Food Prize, of course, carries on Dr. Borlaug’s vision through the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. Today, we also express our gratitude to the John Ruan family for their sponsorship and leadership that have allowed the World Food Prize to continue and thrive today. We also are thankful for the visionary leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation’s president, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, and all those who make the Prize and its programs possible.
This year, we are honored to recognize—and to welcome to Iowa—three internationally distinguished scientists and leaders as the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates. The 2013 laureates each have made breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology, improving crop yields and resistance to insects, disease, and climate variations. Drs. Van Montagu, Chilton, and Fraley have demonstrated how scientific discoveries lead to everyday solutions for Iowa and the world.
Food can literally change the world. As Dr. Borlaug said, playing off of a famous saying, “If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.”
Thank you for joining us today, congratulations to this year’s World Food Prize Laureates, and, again, we welcome you to a place where cultivating the fields has led to a better world for many generations.