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Biotech Scientists Receive 2013 World Food Prize

World Food Prize award winners include representatives from Monsanto and Syngenta; winners contributed to development of GM crops

Published on: Jun 19, 2013

The World Food Prize Wednesday named three biotechnology scientists – Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States –  as the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates.

Van Montagu is Founder and Chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium,  Mary-Dell Chilton is Founder and Distinguished Fellow of Syngenta Biotechnology and Robert T. Fraley is the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto.

The biotech discoveries of each of the scientists helped unlock the key to plant cell transformation using recombinant DNA. Their work led to the development of a host of genetically enhanced crops, which, by 2012, were grown on more than 170 million hectares around the globe by 17.3 million farmers, over 90% of whom were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

2013 World Food Prize Laureates: Van Montagu, Chilton and Fraley
2013 World Food Prize Laureates: Van Montagu, Chilton and Fraley

In a statement, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the World Food Prize Laureate Selection Committee, said the award is especially fitting this year as 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule.

"During the last 60 years, the science of molecular genetics, also referred to as New Genetics, has opened up uncommon opportunities for shaping the future of agriculture, industry, medicine and environment protection," he wrote. "It is therefore appropriate that the World Food Prize is being awarded this year to some of the pioneers of the New Genetics who have opened up opportunities for achieving a balance between human numbers and the human capacity to produce adequate food."

The awards were announced during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department where Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the keynote address.

"Hunger is a trap that prevents people from realizing their God-given potential," Secretary Kerry said. "Food drives life. And the struggle for food is a struggle for life. This makes hunger an economic issue, a national security issue – and without a doubt a moral issue. Through innovation, we can help alleviate hunger and malnutrition today – but more than that, we can help fulfill our responsibility to tomorrow."

The winners will be formally awarded the World Food Prize at the 27th Annual Laureate Award Ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on October 17, in conjunction with the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.

Source: World Food Prize