2013 World Food Prize laureates announced

DES MOINES – The World Food Prize has announced its laureates for 2013, according to organization officials.

The World Food Prize was created in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug and recognizes contributions by individuals and organizations in all fields involved in the world food supply.

This year’s World Food Prize laureate announcement took place at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State John Kerry delivering the keynote address. It was the 10th announcement ceremony presented at the State Department.

World Food Prize laureates will be honored and awarded their prize during a televised ceremony to be held Oct. 17 in the House Chamber of the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. The ceremony coincides with the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium, also known as the “Borlaug Dialogue,” which each year addresses issues of worldwide importance. Topics of past symposia include biofuels for global development, addressing malnutrition and obesity, water insecurity and its impact on the Middle East, and the New Green Revolution.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and “father of the Green Revolution” Dr. Norman Borlaug, who created the World Food Prize, with granddaughter Julie.  Julie Borlaug, who works for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, part of the Texas A&M University System, continues in the footsteps of her grandfather, who passed away in 2009 at age 95. (Photo courtesy of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture)

“It’s an honor to be able to recognize this year’s World Food Prize laureates, each of whom has been dedicated to increasing food security through the responsible application of science,” said Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Norman Borlaug and associate director for external relations of the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, College Station. The institute is part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research of the Texas A&M University System.

“My grandfather said plant genetics and breeding do what Mother Nature has done, either by chance or design,” she said. “He saw it as the positive use of the forces of nature to benefit the human race.”

Borlaug said her grandfather viewed the World Food Prize not only as a way to recognize accomplishments, but also to identify people who could serve as role models to inspire others to join in the battle for worldwide food security.

“With the world needing to double its current agricultural production by 2050, farmers globally will need access to high-yielding crop production methods and biotechnological breakthroughs that can increase the yields, dependability and nutritional quality,” Borlaug said. “These laureates have been at the forefront of biotechnology development and agricultural innovation that has helped and will continue to meet global food needs and fight world hunger.”

This year’s laureates are:

– Dr. Marc Van Montagu: Montagu, a pioneer in plant molecular biology, is best known as co-discoverer of the Ti-plasmid and inventor of Agrobacterium tumefaciens transformation technology. This technology has been used to study gene regulation and the molecular basis for various physiological processes in plants, including plant growth, development and flowering.

As a founding member and member of the board of directors for Plant Genetic System, Montagu has been at the forefront of biotech agriculture innovation, including development of plants that are more resistant to insects and tolerant to more environmentally friendly herbicides.

Montagu has produced over 750 publications, has won numerous prizes and is a member of several academies, including the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Italy and Third World Academy of Sciences, as well as the Academies of Agriculture of France and Russia, and the Academy of Engineering of Sweden. In 1990, due to his scientific accomplishments, he was awarded the title of Baron from the King of Belgians. He is currently president of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative,  president of the European Federation of Biotechnology, and emeritus professor and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Ghent University, department of molecular genetics, Belgium.

– Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton: Chilton is a Distinguished Science Fellow at Syngenta Bioline.  While on faculty at Washington University in St. Louis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Chilton led a collaborative research study that produced the first transgenic plants. Considered one of the founders of modern plant biotechnology, she and her collaborators produced the first genetically modified plants using Agrobacterium carrying “disarmed” Ti plasmid, demonstrating disease-causing genes could be suppressed within the bacterium without adversely affecting the plant DNA.

This groundbreaking research, the basis for the many significant contributions to plant biotechnology in agriculture today, earned her the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Sciences for 2002. Past Franklin Institute Award laureates have included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Pierre and Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Since 1983, Chilton’s tenure with Syngenta has spanned both research and administrative roles, including vice president of agricultural biotechnology. Her current research is directed toward improving the technology for introducing new genes into plants.

Chilton is also author of more than 100 scientific publications and has also been honored by the creation of the Mary-Dell Chilton Center – a new administrative and conference center at the SBI facility.

– Dr. Robert T. Fraley: Fraley is the executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto and oversees the corporation’s integrated crop and seed agribusiness technology and research efforts throughout the world.

Fraley has authored more than 100 publications and patent applications relating to technical advances in agricultural biotechnology. His achievements include the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in 1999, National Award for Agricultural Excellence in Science by National Agri-Marketing Association and Kenneth A. Spencer Award for Outstanding Achievement in Agricultural and Food Chemistry. He also has received Monsanto’s Edgar M. Queeny Award and Thomas and Hochwalt Award. In 1995, Fraley was selected as Progressive Farming magazine’s Man of the Year.

Fraley’s career with Monsanto has extended from plant science research to crop chemical, plant biology and biotechnology research, development and commercialization. He is a past member of the Agriculture Biotechnology Research Advisory Committee and the National Institutes of Health Molecular Cytology Study Section. He is also a technical advisor to various government and public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Agency for International Development and National Academy of Science.

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