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

InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More

Latest News

StewardshipTFI Recognizes Michigan, Maryland Farms For 4R Stewards…
October 31, 2014
As farming practices increasingly attract interest from the general public, two farmers are ensuring they meet public approval. Read More
Eric SfiligojBig Brother Is Already Watching
October 31, 2014
Opponents to UAVs seem to think they could be used to spy on other people. But spying is already taking place, through the Internet. Read More
StewardshipAsmark Institute’s New Training Center Focused On…
October 31, 2014
The newly dedicated Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture will be used as a national training and education center for professionals in the ag input industry. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Tour Dives Deep Into Everglades
October 31, 2014
The most recent Conservation In Action Tour (CTIC) hit South Florida recently to tour the Everglades Agricultural Area. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
CropLife 100ValueAct Buys Stake In Fertilizer Dealer Agrium
October 30, 2014
ValueAct has bought 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, making them the second largest investor in the fertilizer dealer. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
StewardshipUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to Read More
Crop InputsValent Launches New Low VOC ProGibb LV Plus Plant Growt…
October 29, 2014
ProGibb LV Plus PGR is a high-potency, liquid gibberellic acid formulation designed to comply with California’s new air quality standards for high volatile organic compound agricultural products. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience Acquires Certain DuPont Crop Protecti…
October 29, 2014
Bayer CropScience and DuPont Crop Protection have signed an agreement for Bayer to purchase certain DuPont Crop Protection Land Management assets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read More
ManagementWest Central Names New President
October 29, 2014
West Central’s board of directors have announced their unanimous decision to name Milan Kucerak President and CEO-elect following Jeff Stroburg’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More
InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More