BREAKING: Monsanto, Syngenta Executives Honored As 2013 World Food Prize Laureates

With this Tweet this afternoon, the World Food Prize announced Monsanto’s Dr. Robert T. Fraley and Syngenta’s Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton as 2013 World Food Prize Laureates:

 

Bios from the World Food Prize release:

Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton

Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton

Born: 1939 in Indianapolis, IN.

Education: Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Illinois, 1967.

Professional: Founder and Distinguished Science Fellow, Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc.

When Mary-Dell Chilton was about to enter the 7th grade, her family moved from Elgin, Illinois, to the nearby town of Hinsdale so that she could attend a better school system that offered college-preparatory courses. She took her first Biology class during this period and surprised her teachers by scoring extremely high on a national science exam. While in high school, Chilton decided to concentrate her educational goals on math and science. She also became an amateur telescope maker who was deeply interested in optics.

In college, Chilton studied the chemical basis of biological specificity, which, to her delight, addressed numerous questions that had no answers – and therefore offered the possibility of discovery. The direction of her life’s work in molecular genetics and plant biotechnology became clear while she pursued her Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Illinois.

The Double Helix structure of DNA fascinated her, and, after doing her doctoral thesis on bacterial transformation, showing that both strands of the Helix can “fix” a cell, she accepted a postdoctoral position in microbiology at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. It was there that she learned DNA hybridization technology, a collection of tools that served her well in her next undertaking, a study of how Agrobacterium causes plant cells to grow into a gall.

In the race to build upon the work of Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell, Chilton and two colleagues at UW – Milton Gordon (now deceased) and Eugene Nester – made the breakthrough discovery that the crown gall tumors of plants are caused by the transfer of only a small piece of DNA from the Ti plasmid (T-DNA) in Agrobacterium tumefaciens into the host plant, where it becomes part of the plant’s genome.

Chilton continued her molecular biology research at Washington University in St. Louis, accepting a faculty position there in 1979. Three years later, her team harnessed the gene-transfer mechanism of Agrobacterium to produce the first transgenic tobacco plant, and she reported these startling findings at the 1983 Miami Winter Biochemistry Symposium. Chilton’s work demonstrated that T-DNA can be used to transfer genes from other organisms into higher plants. Thus, her work provided evidence that plant genomes could be manipulated in a much more precise fashion than was possible using traditional plant breeding.

Chilton was hired by Ciba-Geigy Corp. (later Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc., or SBI) at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina in 1983 and began the next phase of her career, spanning both biotechnology research and administrative roles including Vice President of Agricultural Biotechnology, Distinguished Science Fellow, and Principal Scientist.

Chilton established one of the world’s first industrial agricultural biotechnology programs, leading applied research in areas such as disease and insect resistance, as well as continuing to improve transformation systems in crop plants. She has spent the last three decades overseeing the implementation of the new technology she developed and further improving it to be used in the introduction of new and novel genes into plants.

Dr. Robert T. Fraley

Born: 1953 in Wellington, IL.

Education: Ph.D., Microbiology/Biochemistry, University of Illinois, 1978.

Professional: Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Monsanto.

Robert Fraley’s passion for helping farmers grow better and higher yielding crops was shaped by his experience growing up on a small Midwestern farm that produced grains and livestock. As a child exploring the world around him in rural Illinois, his interest in the scientific complexities of living organisms developed very early and blossomed during his undergraduate education and graduate training in microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Illinois and in his post-doctoral research in biophysics at the University of California-San Francisco.

Hired by Monsanto in 1981 as a research specialist, Fraley led a plant molecular biology group that worked on developing better crops through genetic engineering—to give farmers real solutions to critical problems such as the pest and weed infestations that frequently destroyed crops. His early research built upon the discoveries of Mary-Dell Chilton and Marc Van Montagu as he focused on inventing effective methods for gene transfer systems.

A breakthrough occurred when Fraley and his team isolated a bacterial marker gene and engineered it to express in plant cells. By inserting that gene into Agrobacterium, they were able to transfer an immunity trait into petunia and tobacco cells. Fraley and his team produced the first transgenic plants using the Agrobacterium transformation process, and presented these findings at the Miami Biochemistry Winter Symposium.

Coming from a farm, Fraley could see the potential that this emerging science offered to farmers across many countries, many crops, and farms of all sizes. To better understand farmers’ needs regarding the application of biotechnology to agriculture, he often went out into fields to observe local agronomic practices and talk with farmers to ensure that they would be offered solutions that worked better than any alternatives.

With his team of researchers, Fraley developed more elaborate plant transformations of an array of crops, which leading to the widespread accessibility of farmers across the globe to genetically modified seeds with resistance to insect and weed pests, and with tolerance to changes in climate such as excessive heat and drought. Plant breeders now have the ability to understand the genetic composition of every seed, and farmers have more tools than ever before to ensure that they can grow higher yielding crops.

In 1996, Fraley led the successful introduction of genetically engineered soybeans that were resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup. When planting these “Roundup Ready” crops, a farmer was able to spray an entire field with glyphosate – and only the weeds would be eliminated, leaving the crop plants alive and thriving.

In leadership positions at Monsanto – currently as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer – Fraley has played a key role in the company’s choice of research directions that led to viable finished products, and the technical and business strategy that ensured wide availability and benefit to farmers of all sizes around the world. He has especially championed making biotechnology accessible to small-holder farmers.

About The World Food Prize:

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing – without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs – the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply – food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

The World Food Prize 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.

 

Topics:

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “BREAKING: Monsanto, Syngenta Executives Honored As 2013 World Food Prize Laureates

Seed/Biotech Stories

Seed/BiotechSyngenta Delivers Two New Winter Wheat Varieties To Eastern Corn Belt
August 6, 2014
Adding to its portfolio of AgriPro brand wheat varieties, Syngenta introduces SY 007 and SY 474 soft red winter wheat varieties. Read More
Seed/BiotechWater Optimized Seed Flowing Freely
April 1, 2014
As the demand for ag to diminish its water use while maintaining high yields and crop quality increases, three companies are leading the movement to grow more with less water. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer Applies For Seed Treatment That Protects Against Sudden Death Syndrome
February 26, 2014
If approved, ILeVO seed treatment would be the first product to provide breakthrough protection for soybean seedlings from the soil borne pathogen Fusarium virguliforme, the fungus that causes SDS. Read More
Seed/BiotechSeed Still Central
November 1, 2013
Advancing genetics continue to make seed the crop variable that calls the shots for the season. Read More

Trending Articles

ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Names New Manager Of Federal Government Relati…
August 18, 2014
Laura Wood Peterson has joined Syngenta as manager of federal government relations, based in Washington, DC. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science …
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More