Biotech Updates

Ethiopian Scientist Wins World Food Prize

June 18, 2009

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a plant breeder from Ethiopia, is this year's recipient of the World Food Prize. The announcement was made last week by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in Washington. Dr. Ejeta, a professor at Purdue University in Indiana, is being recognized for his work in developing high-yielding sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the parasitic weed Striga. He will receive the USD 250,000 award on October 15 at the Iowa State capitol.

Working in Sudan in the early 1980s, Dr. Ejeta developed Dura-1, the first ever commercial hybrid sorghum in Africa. The hybrid was resistant to drought and out-yielded traditional varieties by up to 150 percent. By 1999, more than one million acres of the high-yielding sorghum variety have been harvested by Sudanese farmers. He next turned his attention to combating the plague of Striga, a deadly parasitic weed which devastates yields of crops including maize, rice, pearl millet, sugarcane, and sorghum. The Ethiopian scientist, together with  Larry Butler  from Purdue University, identified genes for Striga resistance and transferred them into locally adapted sorghum varieties and improved sorghum cultivars.

"Dr. Ejeta knew that for his improved seeds to make a difference in people's lives, farmers would have to use them – which meant they would need access to a seed market and the credit to buy supplies," said Hilary Clinton. Dr. Norman Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, noted: "Dr. Ejeta's accomplishments in improving sorghum illustrate what can be achieved when cutting-edge technology and international cooperation in agriculture are used to uplift and empower the world's most vulnerable people."

Visit for the complete story. A summary of Dr. Ejeta's accomplishments is available at