JUNE 2013


(Posted Fri. Jun 21st, 2013)

June 21: Last week, the National Corn Growers Association Corn Board had a unique opportunity to explore the importance of biotechnology while visiting the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines, Iowa. While there, the group learned about the lasting legacy of Dr. Norman Borlaug and the contributions to society made by the scientists which the prize honors.


In 1970, Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world. Although a scientist with outstanding contributions, perhaps Dr. Borlaug's greatest achievement has been his unending struggle to integrate the various streams of agricultural research into viable technologies and to convince political leaders to bring these advances to fruition.


The World Food Prize, created by Borlaug, is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. It recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply and emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people. By honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal, The Prize calls attention to what has been done to improve global food security and to what can be accomplished in the future.


This year, Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States share the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology. 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.


Van Montagu founded the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, where he now serves as chairman. He played a critical role in the development of the first technology that reliably transfers foreign genes into plants.


While she now works for Syngenta, Chilton worked at Washington University in St. Louis in 1982 when she, with the help of her team, found a process to transfer genes from other organisms into plants. The discovery showed how plant genes could be manipulated much more effectively with biotechnology was possible through traditional breeding.


In the 1980s, Fraley, the chief technology officer at Monsanto, and his colleagues began working to develop methods to introduce new genes into plants. During his more than 30 years at the St. Louis-based company, he has played an important role in the development of a number of commercially available products, beginning with the launch of Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996.


As a special tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug, and to provide an enduring foundation for all of the programs he created, the World Food Prize Foundation created the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. The world-class museum, which  opened to the public in 2012, recognizes great achievements in agriculture and fighting hunger, hosts the World Food Prize International Symposium and houses the Global Youth Institute, which aims to inspire the next generation of leaders.


During a tour of the museum, the team also had a chance to see a painting  (shown above) depicting the 1960 Hog Lift, which was organized by NCGA’s first president, Walter Goeppinger. The Hog Lift brought hogs from Iowa to its sister state in Japan, Yamanashi Prefecture, after it suffered severe typhoon damage that decimated herds. Goeppinger served NCGA as president for 17 years and as chairman for an additional three. NCGA’s sister organization, the U.S. Grains Council, traces its founding and international market development mission to the Japanese relief project.