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Three biotech scientists awarded 2013 World Food Prize

Three biotechnology researchers were named the winners of the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.

The awards were presented June 19 at the US State Dept, where Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the keynote address. John Ruan III, Chairman of the World Food Prize, also participated in the ceremony.

World Food Prize 2013The 2013 Laureates are (l-r) Robert Fraley and Mary-Dell Chilton of the United States, and Marc Van Montagu of Belgium.

Dr Van Montagu is founder and chairman of the Institute for Plant Biotechnology Outreach (IPBO) at Ghent University in Belgium. Dr Chilton is founder and distinguished fellow of Syngenta Biotechnology. Dr Fraley is evp and CTO of Monsanto.

“These three scientists are being recognised for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology,” said Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize.

“Their research is making it possible for farmers to grow crops with improved yields, resistance to insects and disease, and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate.”

Building upon the scientific discovery of the double helix structure of DNA in the 1950s, Van Montagu, Chilton and Fraley each conducted groundbreaking molecular research on how a plant bacterium could be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells, which could produce new genetic lines with highly favourable traits.

The biotechnology discoveries of the three individuals — each working in separate facilities on two continents — unlocked 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.

From their work in the laboratory to applying biotechnology innovations in farmers’ fields, the combined achievements of the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates have contributed significantly to increasing the quantity and availability of food.

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