CGIAR Mourns M.S. Swaminathan, eminent agricultural scientist who fed the world

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Known as the father of India’s ‘green revolution’, Dr. Swaminathan’s pioneering work in agriculture and genetics has forever altered the landscape of food production, ensuring food security for millions, and transforming lives across the globe.

In 1987, he was awarded the inaugural World Food Prize, recognizing his impact on agricultural science and food production. Of the award, Javier Perez de Cuellar, then Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote: “Dr. Swaminathan is a living legend. His contributions to agricultural science have made an indelible mark on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world. By any standards, he will go into the annals of history as a world scientist of rare distinction.”

Dr. Swaminathan used the World Food Prize money to establish the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, furthering his commitment to sustainable agriculture and research.

Prof. Andrew Campbell, CGIAR interim Executive Managing Director: “Professor M. S. Swaminathan was a true pioneer and visionary. His contributions to food security, sustainable farming, and rural development, including as Director-General of IRRI, have left an indelible mark on the world. We mourn his passing, celebrating a life dedicated to feeding the hungry, empowering farmers, and leading and inspiring generations of agricultural researchers.”

During his time at IRRI, Dr. Swaminathan played a crucial role in the establishment of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), empowering national researchers and advancing rice science. He also had key roles in the development of high-yielding varieties of wheat and was a close collaborator of Norman Borlaug and his work which is widely seen as saving India and Pakistan from famine-like conditions in the 1960s.

“Dr. Swaminathan leaves behind a towering legacy of excellence in science, conscientiousness in administration, decisiveness, and accountability in leadership and most especially a gracious humanity in relationships,” said Dr. Ajay Kohli, IRRI’s interim DG.

We remember and honor Dr. Swaminathan’s exceptional achievements and contributions to global agriculture. His vision, passion, and tireless efforts to empower farmers and improve food security have left an enduring mark on the world. His legacy is a testament to his dedication to sustainable and inclusive agricultural practices, a beacon that guides us as we navigate the challenges of the 21st century.

See also the IRRI story here

Dr. Swaminathan outside the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai India in the late 1990s. (Photo by Gene Hettel)

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