It’s my pleasure to join Dr. Barbara Stinson and everyone at the World Food Prize Foundation – along with people around the world – in celebrating the 2021 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted.
Dr. Thilsted has done groundbreaking research into small fish species that are rich in vital nutrients and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and calcium.
Millions of people dealing with malnourishment have deficits of these nutrients – and because they are vital for growth and brain development, young children in particular can suffer irreversible damage, particularly when they’re deprived during the first “one thousand days,” from pregnancy through age two, when so much brain development occurs.
Dr. Thilsted figured out how those nutrient-rich small fish can be raised locally and inexpensively.
Now millions of low-income families across many countries – including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Burma, Zambia, and Malawi – are eating small fish regularly, dried and fresh, in everything from chutneys to porridges, giving kids and breast-feeding mothers key nutrients that will protect children for a lifetime.
That’s all thanks to her.
Innovations like these transform people’s lives.
Because food insecurity is a daily reality for hundreds of millions of people – and it makes every aspect of life harder.
It makes it harder for kids to learn and adults to work.
It forces people to spend long hours, even entire days, just trying to get the food they need to survive – forget about building a better future for themselves and their families.
And now more than ever – with climate change threatening the world’s food systems, and the COVID-19 pandemic causing economic pain virtually everywhere – it’s vital that we invest in reducing hunger; promoting so-called “climate-smart” agricultural practices; and empowering women, who make up more than 40 percent of the world’s agricultural labor force but face significant discrimination when it comes to land and livestock ownership, access to credit, fair pay, and participation in decision-making.
We can’t unleash the full potential of the world’s food systems if so many of the people doing the work are denied their basic human rights.
As the world’s largest donor to global food assistance – and as a major developer of agricultural biotechnology – the United States is firmly in this fight.
We’re committed to promoting science-based policies to address climate change, sustainable food systems, and global food security and nutrition.
And that includes supporting the work of scientists like Dr. Thilsted, whose brilliance has saved many lives.
Congratulations to her, her team – and to everyone working to fight hunger and increase food security worldwide – my deepest thanks.