Wednesday 16 October 2019

Dutchman wins prestigious prize for work with seeds and small farmers

Photo: Marcel Bakker via World Food Prize Foundation

This year’s World Food Prize, the most important global prize in the field of farming and food, has been awarded to Dutchman Simon Groot for his work in helping millions of smallholder farmers to use good seeds.

This work, the organising committee says, ‘enabled them to to earn greater incomes through enhanced vegetable production, benefitting hundreds of millions of consumers with greater access to nutritious vegetables for healthy diets’.

‘Simon Groot has dedicated his life to improving the livelihoods of millions around the world,’ Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, said at the award announcement on Monday.

Groot, now 84, and his partner in the Philippines, started East-West Seed in 1982. Today, the team has developed vegetable varieties with enhanced disease resistance and significantly higher yields which are now used across Asia and beyond. The company serves 19 million smallholder farmers in more than 60 tropical countries.

In an interview with the Volkskrant, 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.

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