Project Description

Roads and rice: how innovation and infrastructure can feed the world

The Talk

By the year 2046, the world will be home to over 9 billion people. The single greatest challenge in all human history is this: can our species nutritiously and sustainably feed this remarkable number, especially while also facing issues like climate volatility, terrorism, and disease? Dr. Kenneth Quinn proposes that the solution to this challenge has already been discovered. Citing the work of Norman Borlaug and drawing on experiences from his diplomatic career spent resisting insurgencies in Vietnam and Cambodia, he believes that a combination of rural roads and agricultural technology literally paves the way for enhanced nutrition, decreased poverty, and peace in the 21st century.

About Kenneth

Dr. Kenneth M. Quinn, an Iowa native, joined the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service in 1968. He served in Southeast Asia throughout much of his diplomatic career and was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia from 1995 to 1999.


He also served on the National Security Council staff at the White House, as Narcotics Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Vienna, as the Vietnamese interpreter for President Gerald Ford, and as Chairman of the U.S. Inter-agency Task Force on POW/MIAs. He emerged from these experiences as one of the U.S. government’s foremost experts on Indochina. He is the recipient of the Secretary of State’s Award for Heroism and Valor and the American Foreign Service Association’s Rivkin and Herter awards. Due to his participation in combat operations in Vietnam, he is also the only civilian to ever receive the U.S. Army Air Medal.

After a 32 year career in the Foreign Service, Dr. Quinn assumed the leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation in 2000. He has endeavored to build this annual $250,000 award into the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.” He received the prestigious Iowa Award for his achievements in this capacity and has chaired the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Statue Committee.

Ambassador Quinn, a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, has a M.A. in Political Science from Marquette University and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Maryland. He and his wife Le Son have three adult children.