Varanasi-born crop scientist, Sanjaya Rajaram, wins World Food Prize

More than 480 high-yielding climate adaptable wheat varieties bred by Rajaram have been released in 51 countries on six continents

By Vani Manocha
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

Sanjaya Rajaram, now a citizen of Mexico, was born in a small village in Varanasi in Uttar PradeshSanjaya Rajaram, 71-year-old veteran plant scientist of Indian origin, has been declared the winner of the US $250,000 World Food Prize this week. Born in Varanasi in India and now a citizen of Mexico, he has been chosen for his contribution to increasing global wheat production by more than 200 million tonnes in the years following the Green Revolution.
Rajaram's made breakthrough achievement in successfully cross-breeding winter and spring wheat varieties, which were distinct gene pools and had been isolated from one another for hundreds of years, to develop plants that have higher yields and a broad genetic base. More than 480 high-yielding wheat varieties bred by Rajaram have been released in 51 countries on six continents and have been widely adopted by small- and large-scale farmers alike. Many of these varieties of disease-resistant wheat are adaptable to many climates.

The scientist who was born in a small village in Varanasi has dedicated his life to making direct improvements for farmers and all people who depend on agriculture.

Close associate of Norman Borlaug

The World Food Prize Foundation President and the former US Ambassador to Cambodia, Kenneth M Quinn, said the 2014 World Food Prize laureate is an individual who worked closely with Norman Borlaug   who established the World Food Prize in 1986 to focus the world's attention on hunger and on those whose work has significantly helped efforts to end it. Rajaram succeeded Borlaug in leading wheat research at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico, which was founded in 1966 through an agreement between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican Secretariat of Agriculture.

He added, "Dr. Borlaug himself called Dr. Rajaram 'the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world' and 'a scientist of great vision'. "


According to the World Food Prize Foundation, Rajaram’s new varieties can be grown in marginal areas, such as small mountain plots in Pakistan, remote areas in China, and in the acidic soils of Brazil. Reports also suggest that the scientist is now planning to give some amount from the prize money to research organisations in India who work with the poor.


Feature: Adaptation in rice-wheat based sodic agroecosystems: A case study on climate resilient farmers’ practices

Feature: Golden wheat becomes more Golden

Research: Impact of climate change on weeds in the rice-wheat cropping system

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  • World Food Prize committee

    World Food Prize committee looking at people associated with green revolution technology. These awards must be given to farmers who did marvelous job with innovations -- development of high yielding varieties & technologies under traditional system. We can call them as "Green Technologies". UN agencies must do this.

    Green Revolution technology benefited only chemical fertilizer companies. Let me give an example which I did few years back -- paddy average yield under traditional agriculture was 1300 to 1500 kg/ha. The new hybrid seed increased 500 kg/ha under this condition. The fertilizer application with irrigation increased by 2000 kg/ha. Total 3800-4000 kg/ha. This is in the research station. On farmers field it is less than 2500 kg/ha. The real increase in yield is around 1000-1200 kg/ha. To achieve this government is paying heavy subsidy to fertilizer, government is providing irrigation at huge subsidy. Then, this technology created point source pollution that destroyed water bodies and oceans. The food we eat is polluted and thus created health hazards -- new diseases --. Then drug manufacturing companies have come up and thus created pollution; hospitals have come up and thus created pollution. We or UN never takes in to account these issues before giving award.

    This introduced mono crop culture. This affected animal husbandry in agriculture, hither too used to provided a major source of income to farmers even under weather disaster conditions. This is a major loss to farmers with green revolution. This lead to farmer suicides.

    Without these hazards, farmers have developed technologies to double the production over the research farms. But, unfortunately they were not encouraged by UN agencies or local governments as most of politicians are beneficiaries of green revolution technology inputs manufacture/sale.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • The following is the letter

    The following is the letter sent to World Food Prize:

    Sub: Does the selection of persons fit in to the objective specified by WFP???
    Ref: World Food Prize ÔÇô 2014

    Dear Sir,

    Now-a-days it became a routine to give awards and rewards to people that serve the vested interests. It appears that this is no way different with Noble Prize or World Food Prize!!!, etc.

    World Food Prize ÔÇô it says that ÔÇ£World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contribution to improving the ÔÇ£qualityÔÇØ, quantity or availability of food throughout the worldÔÇØ.

    Unfortunately the awards received by Indian Scientists, namely Dr. M. S. Swaminathan and the present recipient ÔÇ£Sanaya RanjanÔÇØ ÔÇô who opted Mexican citizen ÔÇô do not fit into that definition. Green Revolution technology does not fit under ÔÇ£qualityÔÇØ food. It is a ÔÇ£pollutedÔÇØ food.

    Let me present few points from my book ÔÇô ÔÇ£GreenÔÇØ Green Revolution: Agriculture in the perspective of Climate Change (2011 ÔÇô

    Prior to 1960, farmers used indigenous technologies evolved over hundreds and thousands of years experience and passed it on to generation after generation. These technologies were weather & soil driven farming systems that include crops & cropping patterns ÔÇô intercropping & mixed cropping, agricultural practices --, crop rotation, land & water management practices, traditional seed, farmyard manure, and drought animal based implements, etc. This technology was highly successful and sustainable as they included animal husbandry in to agriculture system. This is a ÔÇ£no suicideÔÇØ technology. These are said to be ÔÇ£Golden DaysÔÇØ in the history of farming. No pollution, no worry about seed adulteration, fertilizer adulteration as they used good grain as seed and compost of farmyard manure as well green manure as fertilizer. It gave healthy food & nutritious diet to people as well the fodder to animal. Timely crop management was the mantra for the success in this system of agriculture.

    Prior to 1960s though the production was enough to meet the food needs of the people, there was insufficient infrastructure facilities to store and to transport the food grains within the region, states and within the country from excess production zones to deficit production zones. Under PL-480, Mexican wheat entered India and along with it came Pathenium weed and now occupied all most all open areas with no solution to eradicate it ÔÇô former DG of ICAR, who is now working with Western MNC, proposed terminator technology, which was banned by UN, to eradicate this weed. It is like scratching the head with fire.

    After around 1960, the Indian agriculture has grown leaps and bounds though in quantity but failed to achieve the quality of traditional food for humans and as well to animal through fodder. The technology refers to high yielding seeds clubbed with chemical inputs [fertilizers & pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, etc] & irrigation. The use of chemical inputs reduced the quality in food and created bad impact on environment, which lead to modern environmental movement world over. ÔÇô to protect the vested groups interests this was replaced by global warming & carbon credits with billions of US $ investments by UN -- That is, this technology was found to be more dangerous on long-term, over the short term gains; that destroyed the environment drastically like degradation of & salinization of soil, health hazards to human, animal & plant life along with water, air, soil & food pollution. They in turn increased the drug manufacturing industries ÔÇô through which pollution --, through which hospitals ÔÇô through which pollution --, through which more health hazards, turning in to a vicious circle. When this technology was introduced nobody knew that this technology is going to create such environmental catastrophe. All these factors were not accounted under food production costs. Even with all these ill effects, the yield growth curve has flattened after 1984-85 as there was no improvement in seed technology for increasing the yield or brings the farm yields to the research station yield levels.

    The mono crop culture green revolution technology with new high yielding varieties grown under chemical inputs reduced the animal husbandry hither to play a prominent role at household food security as the fodder is not a good diet. While calculating the food production gains we rarely account this loss. In Andhra Pradesh ÔÇô rice bowl of India --, traditional paddy under irrigation yielded 1300 kg/ha and with the high yielding seed this increased by 500 kg/ha. By adding chemical inputs the yield level rose by 2000 kg/ha. That is total yield under farmers fields is 3800 kg/ha. The research station yield is 5000 to 6000 kg/ha. The present average farmers field yield is 2600-2800 kg/ha. Till to date scientists havenÔÇÖt tried to fix this gap. The main beneficiaries here are the chemical inputs manufacturers with huge government subsidies; illegal exporters. To monopolize seed industry under patent laws, MNCs introduced GM in to this system. This lead increased cost of production. This created boom in the sale of adulterated seed-fertilizers and thus it lead farmersÔÇÖ suicides. Now vested groups even planned to monopolize paddy & maize seed business under the disguise of hybridization.

    The success of green revolution was possible with irrigation, as the diffusion of technology was possible only through irrigation. The irrigation potential was created with huge government subsidy.

    Funds crunch, lack of adequate assistance from government officials and private sector firms, and lack of awareness among people are the main deterrents in identifying rural innovations as a national movement. Besides being cost-effective and eco-friendly, these potential discoveries need to be commercialized and even exported. The fact is farmers innovations are out yielding green revolution yield potential as well Golden rice characters. Now, globally these innovative technologies are required to protect the environment and improve the economy of farm house holds and at the same time get nutritious & healthy diet.

    FAO reported that 30% of the food produced is going as waste ÔÇô my estimate for India, it is 40-50% -- and thus the inputs & natural resources are wasted to that extent. Governments are spending billions of US$ on subsidies & for creating irrigation potential, etc. People around the world spending billions of US$ on health care ÔÇô see ÔÇ£Sick Planet: Corporate food and medicineÔÇØ by Stan Cox (2008). Around the world billions of US$ are spent for establishing drug manufacturing industries, hospitals, doctors, equipments, etc.

    We spent thousands of billions of US$ to destroy environment but we rarely invest few billion US$ to protect the environment. The awards and rewards should go to such innovations that protect the environment on long-term.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
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    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Hearty congratulations

    Hearty congratulations Sanjaya Rajaram,on winning the most prestigious award.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • We need to feed the world. We

    We need to feed the world. We need hybrid / high yielding varieties. It is good to talk about quality when you have sufficient food, and when you did not have it, created probelm and imported parthenium weed. Now we have to think how can we add to quality to these hybrid variety by out cultivation techniques. Congratulations to Dr. Sanjay Rajaram

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • well said sir i agree with

    well said sir i agree with you .Im from tamil nadu, in my area also there is a loss of indegineous varieties of rice and some farmers stored them still and proving they also gave good yield compared to disease resistant and HYV

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply