Organizations, academia salute World Food Prize for biotechnology focus

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2013 - As opponents take pot shots at the highly-respected World Food Prize for recognizing scientists who have helped feed millions around the globe through advancements in biotechnology, a large group of farm, food and academic organizations is fighting back.

One hundred organizations signed a letter today, commending Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation on his organization's theme for this year's prize, “The Next Borlaug Century: Biotechnology, Sustainability and Climate Variability” and for recognizing three pioneers of modern agricultural biotechnology: Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley.

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“They will share the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology,” notes the WFP. “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.”

For more on the Laureates, click here:

While all three of the Laureates have been involved with biotechnology research, naysayers are focused on an individual who is the easiest target for a well-organized opposition: distinguished scientist Rob Fraley, who works for Monsanto. Those attending the event can expect heightened security, for fear of anti-GE protest aimed at generating media attention.

One opposition group, Food and Water Watch, noted last week that “the World Food Prize…touts a lofty mission to reward those who have contributed to combating hunger by increasing the quality, quantity and availability of food around the world,” but noted the selection committee remains anonymous. 

“This point was perhaps never more salient than when the 2013 award was given to Monsanto's Vice-President Robert Fraley for his work in agricultural biotechnology - including the development of genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready crops used widely in U.S. corn, soy and cotton production,” noted Food and Water Watch.

Biotechnology opponents also have their advocates in Congress, which makes the letter even more important in demonstrating such wide-spread support from farm organizations and the academic community.

Just last week, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., stripped a spending bill of a provision meant to ensure that farmers who planted biotech crops could keep those legally approved crops in the ground even when federal judges rule against the approval.

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