African and Chinese scientists win World Food Prize

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This year’s World Food Prize is to be awarded jointly to an African scientist and a Chinese scientist, both of whom have made significant contributions to increasing rice yields in the developing world.

Yuan Longping
Yuan Longping, director-general of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre in Changsha, Hunan, China, and Monty Jones of Sierra Leone, executive secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, which is based in Accra, Ghana, were announced as co-winners of the US$250,000 prize this week.

In announcing the winners, World Food Prize president Kenneth Quinn praised both scientists for their “breakthrough scientific achievements which have significantly increased food security for millions of people from Asia to Africa”.

Monty Jones
Yuan was rewarded for his development in the early 1970s of a genetic tool for breeding hybrid rice, known as a ‘three-line system’. This led to the world’s first widely grown and high-yielding hybrid varieties of rice, with yields 20 per cent above conventional varieties. His approach is now being adapted to many other countries in Asia and elsewhere around the world.

Jones developed in the 1990s a kind of rice uniquely adapted to the growing conditions of West Africa. Known as ‘New Rice for Africa’ (NERICA), it combines African and Asian strains of rice. This is already producing enhanced harvests for thousands of poor farmers, and could potentially benefit 20 million farmers in West Africa alone.

The Prize will be formally presented to Yuan and Jones at a ceremony in October in Iowa, United States.

Photo credit: World Food Prize