Professor Louise O. Fresco received the Justus von Liebig Prize for World Nutrition 2022


November 29, 2022.  

On November 28, 2022, Professor Louise O. Fresco received the Justus von Liebig-Award for World Nutrition 2022, which is granted by the Foundation fiat panis in Ulm. The Justus von Liebig-Award is granted to personalities who made important contributions to improving world nutrition.

The award ceremony took place at ZEF, as an in-person event and part of the Distinguished Lecturers Series of the Transdisciplinary Research Area "TRA Sustainable Futures" (TRA6) of the University Bonn. 

Press release University of Bonn

Read the press release by University of Bonn in German and in English.

Video

A video recording of Professor Fresco's acceptance speech will be published on our youtube channel shortly. 

Acceptance speech by Professor Fresco

In her acceptance speech “Where Are We in Understanding World Hunger”, Professor Fresco outlined state-of-the-art science and knowledge on Food, Agriculture, Poverty and Hunger and how these issues are inter-connected. She pointed out that despite decades-long efforts and research, hunger has not been eradicated. Hunger and combating it have become more complicated. Nearly half of the world's population is malnourished and does not get adequate food. These people may not only be underweight, but also obese or overweight. 

According to Fresco, today's main global challenges consist of: Urbanization (rural population and therewith food production are shrinking); Climate Change (agriculture has to be part of solution, e.g. carbon storage), Energy (e.g. food fibres for energy production); Production and consumption of proteins (e.g. animal-based protein vs. plant-based protein); Circular economy (e.g. food waste). 

Next, Fresco talked about misunderstandings. One of them is the presumption of many OECD-countries, that agriculture and food production issues have been solved. Fresco disagrees and her list  of misunderstandings includes: "Small is beautiful" (small-scale farming mostly means poor farmers); "Regional and saesonal food consumption" (there is no alternative to globalization, but it needs to be regulated - in addition, she pleads for strenghtening regional trade (blocks)); "We know enough and do not need more research" (there is a need for more research on social issues and consumption behavior as well as on smart-agriculture, plant genetics and technology).

Fresco concluded with the message that we can only eradicate hunger after having achieved peace and poverty alleviation. She appealed to the young scientists attending the event to remain critical, think and work in an interdisciplinary and integrated way, and make food and nutrition a priority again. "Science is about organizing doubts. Not about having quick solutions and answers all the time", she said.

She revealed that she will invest the Prize money of 25,000 € in an initiative that will bring together anglophone and francophone African partners in science, government and the private sector to work on issues of agriculture, food and nutrition in Africa.

Program of award ceremony 

Find printable program here.

About the prize

For the seventh time, the fiat panis foundation will award the Justus von Liebig Prize for World Food for outstanding achievements in the fight against hunger and rural poverty. Professor Dr. Louise O. Fresco will be awarded the prize on November 28, during a public lecture at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn. The independent Board of Trustees of the Foundation fiat panis voted unanimously to award the prize to Professor Dr. Louise O. Fresco for her outstanding achievements in creating sustainable agricultural development and her contribution to improving world nutrition. She has dedicated her life's work to date to the service of a world free of hunger. The Prize consists of a financial award of 25,000 euros.

About Louise Fresco

Professor Fresco was the President of Wageningen University (Wageningen University & Research) until July 1, 2022. In this position, she headed one of the world's leading research and development centers for agriculture, nutrition and the environment for eight years. At Wageningen University, research areas such as climate change, healthy nutrition, food security, biodiversity and circular economy are linked in a high-profile way. Close collaboration between different disciplines in the fields of natural and technical sciences as well as social sciences ensures that scientific breakthroughs are translated into practice and quickly transferred into education. Professor Fresco has been the driving force behind this dialog program in Wageningen between science and society. Her extensive international experience and network contributed substantially to strengthening Wageningen's collaboration with partners worldwide and advancing important research.

In her work at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, she was able to provide significant impulse to research, extension and training. She was, among other things, responsible for shaping policy on sustainable agriculture and development, as well as for the first environmental agreements on biodiversity and climate.

In her role as a valued expert, she has been appointed to key advisory bodies and contributed significantly to the definition of sustainable agriculture systems goals: Scientific Group for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021; 3rd Steering Committee of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (CFS-HLPE); Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR); WARDA (West Africa Rice Development Association); AVRDC (Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center); and many more.

Agriculture and nutrition expert Louise O. Fresco was born in Meppel, the Netherlands, in 1952. Before joining Wageningen, she was a university professor at the University of Amsterdam from 2006 to 2014, focusing on the foundations of sustainable development in an international perspective. From 1990 to 1997, she held a professorship in crop production systems specializing in the tropics at Wageningen University, as well as several visiting professorships abroad. For more than nine years, she worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. From 1997 to 1999, she was Director of Research in the Agriculture Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. From January 2000 to May 2006, she was Deputy Director General of this organization, responsible for technological issues in the field of agricultural production and, subsequently, in the field of food supply.

Louise O. Fresco began her career in the 1970s with fieldwork visits to Papua New Guinea and former Zaire/Congo. Since then, for professional reasons, she has traveled to more than sixty countries outside Europe and North America. She received her PhD with honors in plant breeding and production systems in the tropics from Wageningen University in 1986. She is a member of six scientific academies and has published more than 160 scientific publications and policy papers. She has worked far beyond her scientific field as a columnist, literary critic, and author of novels and essays, and is a celebrated speaker. She has served on the boards of Rabobank and Unilever, as well as several national and international institutions.

In 2015, she published the book "Hamburgers in Paradise - The stories behind the food we eat" with Princeton University Press. In this book, Fresco condenses the extraordinary cultural intersection of art, poetry, and religion with science and technology, confronting us with how our food is produced and consumed. In doing so, she creates a thoughtful yet optimistic view of the future of sustainable agriculture.

Ms. Fresco has received numerous awards for her commitment and contributions to food and agriculture, including several honorary doctorates.

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