This year, the prestigious award went the mastermind behind Monsanto’s
big move into genetically modified crops. In foodie terms, that is like a
commercial blockbuster winning best picture rather than an independent,
“quality, quantity or availability” of food in the world. The founder of
the award, Norman E. Borlaug, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 as the
father of the Green Revolution, which vastly increased grain output.
$250,000 cash prize would be shared by Robert T. Fraley (pictured), Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, and two other scientists, Marc Van Montagu of Belgium and Mary-Dell Chilton of the
United States. The foundation said the work of the three scientists, who
helped devise a way to insert foreign genes into plants, led to the
development of higher-yielding crops that can resist insects, disease
and extremes of climate.
supporters of bioengineered food.
But the choice is also likely to add
heat to an already intense debate about the role biotechnology can play
in combating world hunger.
million farmers around the world. More than 90 percent of them are small
farmers in developing countries, according to the International Service
for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, an organization that
promotes use of biotechnology.
say the health and environmental effects have not been adequately
studied. The crops’ role in increasing yields and helping farming adapt
to climate change is still subject to some debate. One study organized
by the World Bank and United Nations concluded in 2008 that genetically
modified crops would play only a small role in fighting world hunger.
The World Food Prize has been criticized in the past for favoring
industrial agriculture. The foundation that administers the prize has
received contributions from companies, including a $5 million pledge from Monsanto in 2008.