An annual agriculture and food policy conference opens this week in Des Moines. The World Food Prize events include the Borlaug  Dialogue, named for a Cresco, Iowa native who’s credited with saving over a billion people from starvation.

Doctor Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, died on September 12 at the age of 95. Kenneth Quinn is president of the World Food Prize Foundation. “Obviously we have a heavy heart as we go in to this, but at the same time, all of us believe we’re carrying forward Doctor Borlaug’s legacy and that he would want the World Food Prize to go on just as it was planned,” Quinn said.

The symposium’s theme this year is “Food, Agriculture and National Security in a Globalized World.” Quinn says the theme is a fitting tribute to Borlaug. “For all of his life, he was always about making food an issue that united counties, united factions within countries…it was something people could agree on across long divisions,” Quinn said. Microsoft founder Bill Gates will deliver the Borlaug Dialogue’s keynote address Thursday morning.

Quinn says Gates has always admired Doctor Borlaug and Borlaug was excited about possibly attending this year’s event because of Gates’ presentation. The 2009 World Food Prize will be awarded at a statehouse ceremony Thursday night. This year’s winner of the $250,000 prize is Purdue University professor Doctor Gebisa Ejeta . The native of Ethiopia developed sorghum hybrids that have enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.