Dutch developer wins World Food Prize for disease-resistant vegetable seeds

A seed developer from the Netherlands credited with introducing prime quality disease-resistant vegetable seeds to greater than 60 international locations together with the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia was awarded the 2019 World Food Prize on Monday.

Simon Groot, a sixth era seedsman, started his search to create higher vegetable seeds to assist farmers in Southeast Asia in 1981 on the age of 47 after his household’s firm was taken over by a bigger company.

He had realized 16 years earlier on his first journey to Indonesia that vegetable seeds developed for the temperate local weather of Europe did poorly when planted within the tropics. He thought there was an enormous alternative to introduce hybrid greens to the area, which lacked vegetable seed builders working to adapt hybrids to the native local weather.

“It was neither charity nor enterprise. It was a ardour for good seeds,” mentioned Groot, now 85. “It had all the time bothered me that I seen the seed high quality in that a part of world was a lot beneath our requirements and beneath achievable requirements and as a seedsman I could not stand that the farmers there have been simply disadvantaged of respectable seeds.”

On the time, farmers in Southeast Asia usually saved seeds from season to season to plant as a result of seeds accessible for buy had been usually expired tons from Europe and North America and poorly tailored to their local weather. They had been caught with low yields, high quality that assorted drastically from season to season, and vegetation inclined to all kinds of ailments.

Groot partnered with seed dealer Benito Domingo of the Philippines and put collectively a group of seed researchers and breeders from Wageningen College within the Netherlands and the College of the Philippines. Inside just a few years, they developed a hybrid bitter gourd that was commercially profitable. They then tailored a tomato selection, adopted by eggplants, pumpkins and leafy greens.

The early successes led to the creation of the East-West Seed Firm, which now has greater than 970 improved seed styles of 60 vegetable crops.

Over the previous 4 a long time, the improvements led to the creation of a tropical vegetable seed trade geared towards small-holder farmers now spreading into Asia, Africa and Latin America.

It is estimated that the corporate’s seeds profit 20 million farmers a yr in additional than 60 international locations, mentioned Kenneth Quinn, the previous U.S. ambassador to Vietnam who has been the president of the Des Moines, Iowa-based World Food Prize Basis since 2000.

“Farmers’ every day lives had been uplifted and shoppers benefited from better entry to nutritious greens,” Quinn mentioned. “You place all these collectively and he is a very exceptional particular person with worthy accomplishments that needs to be acknowledged.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the announcement of the World Food Prize on the State Division Monday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Related Press)

Groot’s award was introduced throughout a ceremony on the U.S. Division of State hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The exceptional enhancements made in these tropical vegetable seeds helped small farmers in creating nations produce extra meals and importantly get extra earnings for themselves and their households curbing starvation and stimulating financial progress wherever these seeds went,” Pompeo mentioned.

Groot will obtain the $250,000 US World Food Prize throughout an Oct. 17 award ceremony on the Iowa Capitol.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug created the prize in 1986 to acknowledge scientists and others who’ve improved the standard and availability of meals.



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