Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States were awarded the 2013 World Food Prize in a ceremony at the US State Department. Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, praised the impact and potential of the scientists’ work. “These three scientists are being recognized for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology,” Quinn said. “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.”
Montagu, Chilton and Fraley each conducted research on how a plant bacterium could be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells, which could produce genetic lines with desirable traits. Their work—in three separate labs on two continents—has used recombinant DNA to unlock the key to plant cell transformation. The research could eventually be used to combat growing food insecurity.