As farmers around the nation race to harvest their 2013 crop, leaders from across the globe have descended into America's bread basket, searching for answers and a thoughtful discussion about feeding the world's hungriest people. It has been a spirited week of dialogue from all sectors of the global community and it culminates tonight in the World Food Prize Ceremony.
Welcome to Iowa's capital city of Des Moines and a packed chamber inside Iowa's statehouse. Hello, I'm Mike Pearson, host of Iowa Public Television's Market to Market program. This beautiful venue plays host to the grandeur of tonight's event, which honors three key biotechnology scientists. Each has contributed essential research and development for genetically modified crops utilized here in the United States and throughout the world. It's a night for celebration and remembrance for groundbreaking accomplishments and to acknowledge the essential work ahead on world hunger. It's a journey that began with the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug and continues through the efforts of countless researchers, many in attendance this evening. Tonight's mix of dialogue, honors and music begins now.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2013 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony. And now please welcome our special guests, the World Food Prize Council of Advisors. Ms. Margaret Catley-Carlson of Canada, Chair of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. From Great Britain, Sir Gordon Conway of Imperial College in London. The President of Iowa State University, Dr. Steven Leath.
Pearson: Dr. Leath studied plant pathology, similar to Dr. Norman Borlaug and has helped expand the World Food Prize Youth Institute.
The former Minister of Agriculture of Brazil, His Excellency Roberto Rodrigues. The original Co-Founder of the World Food Prize in 1986 with Dr. Norman Borlaug and past Chairman, Mr. A.S. "Al" Clausi. Now please welcome past World Food Prize Laureates, the 2012 Laureate, Daniel Hillel of Israel. From the United States, 2010 Laureate David Beckmann.
Pearson: David Beckmann's organization, Bread for the World, was involved in making the documentary film about hunger in America, A Place at the Table.
The 2009 Laureate from Ethiopia Gebisa Ejeta. From the United States, 2007 Laureate Philip Nelson. The 2006 Laureate from Brazil, Alysson Paolinelli. The 2002 Laureate Pedro Sanchez from the United States.
Pearson: More than 20 of the visiting Laureates and experts here have been giving public lectures across the state this week. The goal is to engage Iowans and bring more attention to hunger issues.
From Denmark, 2001 Laureate Per Pinstrup-Anderson. 2000 Laureate from India, Surinder Vasal. The 1996 Laureate from India Gurdev Khush. The first World Food Prize Laureate and Chairman of the Laureate Selection Committee, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan from India.
At this time, please join us in welcoming our distinguished national and international guests. The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food Agencies in Rome, the Honorable Tony Hall. His Excellency Jan Matthysen, Ambassador of Belgium to the United States.
Pearson: One of the Laureates being honored tonight, Marc Van Montagu, is from Ghent, Belgium.
His Excellency Akinwumi Adesina, Honorable Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria. Her Excellency Dr. Florence A. Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture of Liberia. His Eminence Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace of the Vatican.
Pearson: Cardinal Turkson has spoken at several venues this week. Last night he led an interfaith prayer service for world hunger in downtown Des Moines.
From the state of Iowa, respresenting the bipartisan leadership of the Iowa legislature and the state of Iowa. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. Senator Pam Jochum. Representative Jake Highfill. Representative Mary Gaskill. From the United States Senate, Senator Tom Harkin.
Pearson: Senator Harkin first became a member of the Agriculture Committee when he joined Congress in 1975 and has been active in farm bill legislation.
And now, welcome the World Food Prize Laureate Party and Distinguished Guests of Honor. Escorted by the World Food Prize Foundation's Chairman John Ruan the Third and its President Ambassador Kenneth Quinn -- the 2013 Laureates, Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley of the United States.
Presiding at tonight's ceremony, please welcome the Governor of the State of Iowa, The Honorable Terry Branstad.
And tonight's special guest of honor, the President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.
Norman Borlaug was born on a small Iowa farm. But he grew into a legend larger than life, filling every moment with his tireless efforts to combat hunger around the world and somehow fitting several lifetimes of work into his years on Earth. Norm never stopped, moving from one innovation and collaboration to the next, ultimately feeding 1 billion people around the world. Norm's new varieties of wheat that could increase yields and resist disease, and his training of farmers in numerous countries, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the title, Father of the Green Revolution. His achievements prevented mass starvation and famine and his diligent work ethic is still an example to us today. Norm saw that our planet faced the enormous task of being able to feed the burdgeoning world population, which is estimated to surpass 9 billion by the year 2050. He had a vision for how we could confront this challenge. Norm dreamed that we could find ways to take the Green Revolution to Africa and other regions and help smallholder farmers succeed, that we could expose the next generation to careers in science and agriculture, and inspire them to innovate and create new solutions to feed the world. And he dreamed that someday we might harness the tools of technology to isolate the trait in rice that makes it resistant to rust disease and put that gene into wheat plants to grow more food. Norm dreamed that fighting hunger could become one of the world's top priorities. And to this end, he created the World Food Prize, to recognize and inspire great achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food. To date, the World Food Prize has honored 39 deserving Laureates from across the globe who are incredible examples of how each of us can make a difference. These real-life heroes have worked in a wide variety of areas, ranging from plant science to soil sustainability, from nutrition enhancement to complex policy work. The have led the single greatest period of food production and hunger reduction in human history. Norm's dreams also live on through the World Food Prize Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium, also known as the Borlaug Dialogue. Every year this renowned conference endeavors to bring the world's greatest minds togehter to discuss cutting edge issues in hunger and food security, to share new ideas and propose solutions to global problems to propel us forward. As we celebrate 100 years since Norman Borlaug's birth, we honor his legacy as one of the world's greatest heroes, as his statue is installed in the United States' Capitol, Mexico and India, programs are named in his honor and the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates in Des Moines shares his story, his commitment to eradicating hunger and poverty from the face of the Earth is carried forward. As we face the single greatest challenge in the history of human agriculture, we need Norman Borlaug's inspiration more than ever. Through each of us his dreams live on. Each of us can make a difference. Around the world as we begin the next Borlaug century, he will again inspire us. Together we can emmulate and replicate the achievements of the man who saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.
Quinn: I still can't watch things like that without thinking of Norm and it's still a little hard. But everyone here, everyone watching on Iowa Public Television, watching our webcast, thousands and thousands around the globe, welcome. Welcome to the 2013 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, as we celebrate the Borlaug centennial and begin the next Borlaug century. Governor Branstad, bipartisan leadership of our state legislature, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us the incomparable privilege of holding this ceremony here in our magnificent state capital. You know, Norm is no longer with us but his spirit still animates our work. And to acknowledge his legacy, we keep his chair here open. I still turn around thinking I'm going to see Norm there because it's the one he always occupied. And I know his spirit is still here. But we're fortunate, however, to have two members of Norman Borlaug's family with us, his daughter Jeanie, Jeanie Laube is here and his granddaughter Julie. And we're so delighted you're here. Please join me in welcoming the Borlaug family.
Quinn: Tonight is a night of celebration for this year's Laureates and it's important that we remember the cause which brings us together, confronting hunger and malnutrition. And to do this, each year we begin the ceremony with the reading of a poem entitled, In Any Language. That name seems to fitting, given that we have attendees from over 60 countries here speaking many different languages. So to read a passage from In Any Language, please welcome Norman Borlaug's daughter, Jeanie Borlaug Laube.
Laube: In Any Language, by Lucille Morgan Wilson. In any language hunger is an ugly word. There is no music in hunger. The rumble of empty stomachs, the monotonous whine of a child wasted with disease, the moan of the mother whose baby lies bloated and still in her arms. Hunger is a listless den of apathy. Bread of weakness. The faded brown and grey of dead leaves after autumn has ebbed.
Quinn: Thank you, Jeanie.
Quinn: Thank you. Having you read this reminds us of your father's passion which drove his life and permeated his vision for the World Food Prize. You heard Jeanie say the poem was written by Lucille Morgan Wilson. She is here with us tonight. And earlier this week we presented to her the very first ever Robert D. Ray Iowa Shares Humanitarian Award for her role in leading the Des Moines Area Hunger Hike for the last 35 years. Join me in expressing our appreciation to Lucille.
Quinn: Lucille, you must have started doing that when you were a very young girl if it was 35 years. So the World Food Prize is culminating a remarkable year, with featured Secretary of State John Kerry presiding at our Laureate Announcement Ceremony when we revealed the names of our three winners. And just earlier today we established a new World Food Prize partnership witht he Howard G. Buffett Foundation to implement the 40 Chances Fellows Program with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his African governance initiative. I'm so pleased that Howard W. Buffett and his wife Lilly could be here, thank you so much Howard and Lilly. We're really pumped to be partners with you in this. And then this week we also presented our new Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation to Dr. Charity Mutegi of Kenya and Charity is here as well. She's over here. Please join me in expressing our congratulations to her.
Quinn: I hope you saw the welcmoe she was given on the news and she was in the banner headline of the paper today so that was so wonderful. But we're also saddened during the year by the loss of Laureate Nevin Scrimshaw, one of the great pioneers of nutrient fortification. So President Grimsson, Senator Harkin, Cardinal Turkson, we're so honored to have you here and have you do presentations today at our Borlaug Dialogue and with our students. And to our distinguished ministers and diplomats, we're so honored to have you here with us as well and participating in the Borlaug dialogue as we begin the next Borlaug century. And to our three Laureates I want to say a word, Norm Borlaug was very pleased by your nomination and I know he is thrilled with your selection because he believed biotechnology will be so critical in meeting the challenges of the future. But as we recognize you, we need to bear in mind that there would be no World Food Prize Ceremony tonight, there would be no other World Food Prize Laureates, no Borlaug Diaglogue, there would be no World Food Prize, except for one man, the man who rescued the World Food Prize when it was about to go out of existence, the man to whom Norman Borlaug had unending gratitude and his name was John Ruan.
The story begins in 1914 when John Ruan was born in the little town of Beacon, Iowa. John went to Iowa State College for a year but then the money ran out. So in the summer of 1932, John traded the family's Chevrolet on a 1934 dump truck and headed back to southern Iowa where he would live in a tent by night and haul gravel by day. On July 4th, he loaded the truck with its first load and began his new life. John Ruan went on to build an empire in trucking, in banking, in foreign trade, in real estate and in financial sevices. He championed and helped design the first truck built to travel a million miles without repair, one of countless innovations he brought to transportation. He built what was then the tallest building in Des Moines. And he did a million little kindnesses that few people will ever know about. Meantime, John's focus changed. While building complex corporations and striking complicated deals, he concentrated more and more on a simple belief, a belief that the world must be fed. That belief led him to another small town Iowan, a man named Norman Borlaug. Quickly, John Ruan agreed that he would sponsor the World Food Prize and ultimately he endowed the World Food Prize Foundation to ensure that the prize would continue forever. Now, the World Food Prize is the center of a year-long involvement by the World Food Prize Foundation and nearly a week-long celebration in Des Moines. For John Ruan, the small town boy who thought big, Iowans not only honor him, the whole world honors him.
Quinn: John Ruan Senior is no longer with us. His son, John Ruan the Third, Chairman of the World Food Prize Foundation is here this evening. John, would you stand up so we could recognize you and thank you. And Janice Ruan is here. And the Ruan family over here. Thank you all for everything you do, for all of your generous support to the World Food Prize. Now, Norman Borlaug and John Ruan had a shared vision, that the prize could inspire the next generation to confront the greatest challenge in human history, whether we can sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet in 2050. As we begin the next Borlaug century we're pleased to have many members of that next generation here with us from around the world. So they're up here and I want you to wave when I call your organization's name. In the balcony tonight we have the USDA Borlaug Fellows. We have Monsanto's Beachell Borlaug Scholars. We have the USAID Borlaug Leap Fellows. And don't anyobdy leap please there. And we also have farmers around the globe brought about Truth about Trade. We're so pleased to have all of these members of the next generation here.
Quinn: But, you know, Norm and John, they were cutting edge, right? They felt they needed to start even younger. So to inspire that next generation of high school students, in 1994 they established the Global Youth Institute. It started out small with only fourteen students but it has grown over the years.
One of the defining moments of the Global Youth Institute for me was getting to talk to rural African farmers because I had never been out of the country before and it totally took me out of my borders even though I was still in the U.S.
This summer I conducted a research project on detecting and analyzing the nutritional content in soybeans to improve soy products to benefit human health.
I not only found mentors, I found my role models, I found the real heroes of society and I was able to interact with them on a day-to-day basis.
All across the United States, hundreds of high school students just like these, are starting on their own paths to join the fight against hunger through the World Food Prize Youth Education Programs. The wide array of programs aims to educate and inspire the next generation of great scientific and humanitarian leaders. That was the shared vision of Nobel Peace Prize Winner and World Food Prize Founder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and Des Moines Entrepreneur and Philanthropist John Ruan, when they created the Global Youth Institute in 1994. Since then, the World Food Prize Education Programs have grown to be recognized as among the most innovative in the world. The Youth Institute, which introduces students to global food security issues, has expanded nationally and premier internship programs, both in the U.S. and abroad, provide promising young men and women firsthand experiences in the field and the chance to build upon their interest and interact with the world's foremost leaders and scientists. Each year through the World Food Prize Institute, high school students and their teachers explore and learn about the ever increasing worldwide demand for food and the complexity of issues that affect food security from water scarcity to gender equality. Students research and write papers about these pressing global challenges and gather at regional and state youth institutes to present their findings and discuss solutions with their peers, local, state and international experts. The top students from across the United States then travel to Des Moines each October with their high school teachers to participate as delegates in the Global Youth Institute. Held in conjunction with the presentation of the $250,000 World Food Prize and the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, students and teachers participate in World Food Prize events and are immersed in an exchange of ideas with the world's top agriculture experts, research scientists, industry leaders and heads of state leading the fight against hunger. Students who participate can then apply to become Borlaug-Ruan International Interns. Each summer over 20 students are sent on life changing two month research assignments in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. They work alongside leading research scientists in the field and laboratory to solve the most significant issues facing agriculture and then environment, economic development and human health. Once in college, these exceptional young men and women may also become Wallace-Carver Interns, a unique opportunity to collaborate with prominent American scientists and policy makers through paid internships at USDA research centers and offices across the United States. Through this innovative program, talented students in agriculture, life sciences and other fields critical to the fight against hunger learn firsthand to analyze agricultural and economic policy, assist in the management of food, nutrition and rural devleopment programs and take part in groundbreaking field and laboratory based research.
This experience has changed my life in numerous ways. It has made me consider majors I never thought I would consider five years ago. It has made me consider issues that weren't at the top of my list. And it just, it added a whole different aspect to my life and it really changed the course of where I wanted to be and where I want to be in ten years because now I know that I want to be a fighter in this fight, I want to be in the ring, you know, taking down food insecurity and really helping those around the world.
Quinn: Now, we have 150 of those students watching this live broadcast at our Hall of Laureates. They come from 27 U.S. states and territories, 5 foreign countries including a group from China of students and teachers that we brought from Hubei Province as part of our Iowa-Hubei sister state relationship. Now, last year at the ceremony, those of you who were here may remember, I invited the audience to see these students. It was going to be a big moment. The students would be there, they'd be waving, we'd be waving and as I call, alright, let's see them, here is what appeared on the screen. Yes. So I didn't want a repeat of this so I'm going to try again this year. I took President Grimsson down there, I took Senator Harkin down, I took Cardinal Turkson down, had them speak to them. My hope is we do this, they're going to be in the chairs. To tell you the truth I'm a little hesitant to watch. But go ahead, let's see them. Oh, alright.
Quinn: I don't know what I would have done if they were empty again. But the signature element of this program is our Borlaug-Ruan International Internship. This past summer we sent 22 high school students, 17, 18 year olds, on life changing field research assignments at leading agricultural research centers, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and each October we present two very special awards to two of these Borlaug-Ruan interns whose work was judged best reflect their scientific excellence and their cross-cultural understanding. One award is named for that Iowa Agricultural Ambassador John Chrystal, who spent decades during the Cold War promoting greater understanding between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And next to him is Elaine Szymoniak, state Senator, was a passioante supporter of the World Food Prize and she was a democrat who played an instrumental role in introducing John Ruan, republican, to Norman Borlaug, reflecting that bipartisan spirit.
Quinn: So now I want you to meet and hear about this year's recipients.
The recipient of the 2013 Elaine Szymoniak Intern Award is Elizabeth Mueller from Waukee, Iowa. She completed her summer internship at Earth University in Guacimo, Costa Rica, where she explored the effectiveness of biodigestors to convert organic waste into a renewable source of energy and nutrient rich fertilizers. Elizabeth is currently a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in microbiology and global health.
The recipient of the 2013 John Chrystal Intern Award is Rachel Ganson from Geneseo, Illinois. She completed her internship at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in _________, India. There she studied female participation in village self-help groups as a way of enhancing the nutritional status of households. Rachel is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame majoring in gender studies and pre-medicine.
Here to present these awards are John Ruan Senior's grandson John Ruan the Fourth and Norman Borlaug's Granddaughter Julie Borlaug.
Julie Borlaug: Our grandfathers would want both of you to know that you are the next generation hunger fighters and this entire room is here to support and mentor you on your careers. So thank you.
Quinn: Now, many of you know me as I was an American diplomat for 32 years and some of my most vivid memories were visiting countries assigned in Asia or Africa was the chance to go out to the provinces and out in the villages and hear songs performed by local village musicians. And I know that Nora Van Montagu, she and I were talking the other day that this is the kind of music that appeals to her as well. So tonight we want you, particularly our international visitors, to have that same experience. After all, you're out here visiting the provinces when you come to Iowa. And as a special tribute to Norm and John we have an artist inspired by the Nordic immigrant tradition of American Middle West, our featured artist had never heard of Norman Borlaug until he read his obituary. He wondered why more people hadn't heard of Norm given all that he did. So he composed a song to spread the message about this unsung hero. So please welcome Jonathan Rundman with Jake Armerding and Matt Patrick to perform the Borlaug Polka.
(music - Borlaug Polka)
Quinn: Jeanie, I don't think I ever saw your dad dance and I'm kind of thinking he's out there in the Borlaug barn and his toes tapping. So, Jonathan, that was wonderful. But I'm sorry to put you on the spot. We had a song for Norm and we need a song for John Ruan. That's only right. Janice Ruan wondered if maybe given that John had a big trucking company maybe you could play King of the Road.
(music - King of the Road)
Quinn: That was great. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, President Grimsson and I were visiting the other day and we were discussing the similarities of Iowa and Iceland and I noted that they both started with the letter I. Then we discussed, I was talking with him about the Nobel ceremony, because I went to the 100th anniversary of the Nobel ceremony with Norm Borlaug in 2001 in Oslo and there I saw the ceremony and only it was when the King issued his proclomation that the new Nobel Laureate could be made official and receive the award. And so, you know, Iceland used to have a King and kind of got rid of it and it's a good thing Prime Minister Blair is not here when I say U.S., Iowa used to have a king and we don't have the king anymore. But Iceland is fortunate, Mr. President, to have you as the leader of your country. And we're fortunate to have a Governor, especially one who has played such a critical role with John Ruan Senior and rescueing the World Food Prize. So now to issue the official Laureate proclomation please welcome the Governor of Iowa, the Honorable Terry Branstad.
Branstad: Ambassador Ken Quinn, thank you for that wonderful introduction and thank you for the great leadership you have provided as the Executive Director of the World Food Prize. On behalf of all Iowans and the state of Iowa I want to extend a warm welcome to everyone who is here from around the globe for this very special celebration. It is a special point of pride for all of us who live here in Iowa that the organization which is often called the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture is located right here in our capitol city in the state of Iowa. We, of course, think of it being most appropriate that we celebrate it and host it here because the founder was from Cresco, Iowa, the birth place of Norman Borlaug and I ahppen to be from a little further west than that but we are very proud of the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who founded the World Food Prize, was a native Iowans. Our state is also very honored this year to have President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson of Iceland, who has traveled here to Iowa, as a special guest of honor at this event. I personally enjoyed his remarks this morning at the Borlaug Dialogue keynote address. Iceland's leadership in renewable energy, wihch we care a lot about in Iowa, especially in geothermal is very impressive. And his presence is definitely appreciated this evening. Thank you, Mr. President.
Branstad: We're also very honored with Cardinal Turkson's presence. We are enormously pleased that he came to represent the Vatican and to be here for this special occassion. It was also an honor for me to be with Cardinal Turkson and Bishop Pates for mass this morning. One thing that unites us Iowans across all political and religious lines is our pride in the role that our state plays in fighting hunger throughout the wrold and being welcoming to friends from all over the world who come to this beautiful land we call Iowa. We also share our admiration for Dr. Borlaug as one of our state's greatest heroes, which was reflected in the bipartisan vote in this General Assembly, to place Dr. Norman Borlaug's statue as one of two representing Iowa in the U.S. Capitol. And taht is goinog to happen on the 25th of March, 2014, the 100th birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug.
Branstad: Lastly, we Iowans are proud to continue to support the work and the dedication of the World Food Prize and all the exciting things that it is engendering throughout the world. It is therefore most fitting that tonight it is here in Iowa that we honor these three brilliant scientists whose accomplishments have opened up immense possibilities for enhanced productivity as the world's population continues to grow. It is therefore my privilege to proclaim Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley as the 2013 World Prize Laureates, World Food Prize Laureates.
Branstad: This is the proclomation.
From the earliest days of human agriculture, when the first farmer planted the first seed in the Fertile Crescent almost 11,000 years ago, the development of crops and spread of food technology have resulted from the isights and innovations of individuals around the globe. From Diyu, the Emperor who first chanelled raging rivers in China to allow agricultural production, to Chanukia in India, who documented early agricultural enhancements, to Hatshepsut, the female Egyptian Pharoah, who began horticultural trade. Agriculture flourished and spread, traveling over Roman roads, the Silk Road and on Persian, Arabian and African trade routes. In the 19th century in Europe, science lept forward to become the multiplier of the harvest. Pasteur in France prevented germs and bacteria from spoiling food. Von Liebig and Haber and Bosch in Germany developd fertilizers. And Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, first identified the laws of heredity. In the United States in the 20th century, Henry A. Wallace and Norman Borlaug led enormous advances in plant science and breeding. Geneticist Barbara McClintock discovered how genes move on chromosomes during breeding and how certain genes are in fact responsible for physical characteristics. And then in 1953 the discovery of the DNA double helix by Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin, set the stage for agriculture to shift from the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution. It is here that the three 2013 World Food Prize Laureates began to write the next chapter in the evolution and the revolution of science and agriculture.
Swaminathan: I am particularly happy that on the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule, three biotechnologists starting with Professor Marc Van Montagu and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley, their work has been recognized and they will be receiving the World Food Prize. It is very appropriate because I think the science of genetic engineering, the new biology and new genetics have certainly opened up completely new opportunities.
Marc Van Montagu was born in Ghent, Belgium and grew up in a working class family. From an early age, physics and chemistry fascinated him. He was the first in his family to complete high school and go on to university studies. He attended Ghent University, where he studied biochemistry. He earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and continued his own research with friend and colleague Jeff Schell. Dr. Van Montagu and Jeff Schell began working with the plant disease known as Crown Gall and the soil bacteria, agrobacterium tumefaciens. In nature these bacteria infect plants. In 1974, the two scientists unlocked the mystery of how the bacteria infect plants. They proved that the bacterium actually transfers a piece of its own hereditary material to the DNA of the plant, which was a groundbreaking discovery. That DNA was located on a molecule called a plasmid and was named the Ti-Plasmid, which stands for Tumor-Inducing Plasmid. The scientists realized at once that they had found a messenger that would allow them to modify plants genetically.
Van Montagu: We tried to understand why bacteria was inserting DNA cells so we did the fundamental research, found that this bacteria does gene engineering prove that and then instead of inducing malformations on the plants we could deliver new genes that give new properties to plants.
Mary-Dell Chilton, who grew up in North Carolina and Illinois, didn't take her first science class until high school in Hinsdale, Illinois. But it soon became evident that science was her calling. DNA fascinated her and when she and her husband moved to the University of Washington in Seattle, she became involved in work to identify the cause of the Crown Gall disease in plants. Following the Ghent University team's dsicovery of the Ti-Plasmid, the puzzle remained to find the exact piece of DNA that transferred traits. Dr. Chilton, along with Milton Gordon and Eugene Nester, constructed a brute force experiement involving everyone in their lab to, over a 48 hour period, test smaller pieces of the Ti-Plasmid. They discovered that one small piece of the Ti-Plasmid, now called T-DNA, for transfer DNA, was in fact responsible for transferring the genetic information from the bacteria to the plant. They had discovered the how aspect of gene transfer. Dr. Chilton continued her molecular biology research at Washington Univresity 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.
Chilton: In a real sense the process they use for genetically engineering a crop plant is a natural one. We learned it from nature, we learned it from agrobacterium, a little bacterium that did this before we ever discovered it. All we did was learn how agrobacterium manages to put a gene into a plant and we copied that process, we exploited a natural process to put genes into plant cells, genes of our choice to benefit the farmer and the end user of that plant.
Robert T. Fraley grew up on a small Midwestern farm in central Illinois, where his parents raised both crops and livestock. As a young child, Rob was fascinated about how things worked, from machinery to plants and animals, and knew early on that he wante to spend his life exploring science. Dr. Ernie Jaworski recruited him to join Monsanto as part of a small team, including Rob Horsch and Steve Rogers, focused on developing a gene transfer system for plants. The breakthrough occurred in 1982 when the team discovered how to delete the disease causing genes in agrobacterium tumefaciens, but, leave the transfer mechanism in tact so that new genes with desirable traits could be introduced and expressed in plant cells. The plant cells could be regenerated into whole plants. In the early days, petunia and tobacco plants. And it was shown that subsequent generations would inherit the new genes in their offspring. Rob continued his work leading the Monsanto R&D team, focused on a variety of crops with the vision of widespread farmer accessibility to improved biotech seeds.
Fraley: The bottom line is all these farmerse are using this because it works. It helps them reduce their risk, to control their bugs and weeds and improve their yields. I feel really privileged and I think for me it is just the beginning of a wave of innovation that is going to be so important for agriculture.
30 years ago in 1983 plant biotechnology rocketed to the forefront of the scientific world when Van Montagu, Chilton and Fraley each presented the results of their independent pioneering research on the successful transfer of bacterial genes into plants and the creation of genetically modified plants at the Miami Biochemistry Winter Symposium. Since then they have all continue to lead groundbreaking research. And today biotech crops are grown in nearly 30 countries around the world on over 400 million acres making biotechnology oneo f the most rapidly adopted new tools in the history of agriculture. Marc Van Montagu went on to found two biotechnology companies, Plant Genetic Systems, best known for its early work on insect resistant and herbicide tolerant crops and Crop Design, a company focused on the genetic engineering of agronomic traits for the global commercial corn and rice seed markets. In 2000, he also founded the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach, with the mission to assist developing countries in gaining access to the latest plant biotechnology developments and to stmiulate their research institutions to become indepenent and competitive.
Mary-Dell Chilton was offered the opportunity to start the biotech arm of Ciba-Geigy Corporation, now known as Syngenta. She 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. Fraley and his team in 1996 launched the first biotech developed soybean resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as RoundUp. When planting thsee RoundUp Ready crops a farmer was able to eliminate the weeds while the soybeans thrived. This was followed by the commercialization of insect protected cotton and corn. In leadership positions at Monsanto, currently as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Fraley has played a major role in charting the course for the company's research direction, including the decision to enter the seed business that has led to access to biotechnology products for farmers around the world.
The 21st century presents the single greatest challenge in human history. Can we sustainably feed the more than 9 billion people who will be on our planet by the year 2050? The answer is complex and uncertain as we also face increasing climate volatility and the constraints of depleted natural resources. As farmers, particularly poor, smallholder farmers, face drought, flooding, pests, plant diseases and saltwater intrusion from rising seas, the scientific insights and innovations of these three individuals offer enormous hope that this greatest challenge can be overcome. For their breakthrough achievements in discovering and pioneering biotechnology, Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley truly deserve to be named the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates, Marc Van Monetgu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley.
At this time, His Excellency Olafur Ragnar Grimsson will join John Ruan the Third, Chairman of the World Food Prize and Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the World Food Prize Selection Committe and presenting the World Food Prize sculpture to the 2013 Laureates.
(music & applause)
Quinn: So at this time I'd like to invite President Grimsson and Mr. Ruan and Dr. Swaminathan to return to their seats. Governor, please. And I now want to invite our Laureates to offer their words of acceptance.
Chilton: I would like to thank Ambassador Quinn, Mr. Ruan, Dr. Swaminathan and the World Food Prize Laureate Selection Committee for this great honor. I am humbled and extremely grateful for it. I also thank my family for being here with me tonight on this great occasion. My brother, Pete Machet and his wife Nancy, my sons, Andrew the elder and Mark of Carrboro, North Carolina, my daughter-in-law and my grandsons, Samuel and Alex. Many scientific colleagues have fostered my career. I owe them all my thanks but especially my Ph.D. thesis advisor and mentor, Dr. Benjamin Hall, who taught me how to be a scientist, Dr. Bob Thetch, who brought me to Washington University in St. Louis where so much of this occurred, and Dr. Hans Geisbuler who hired me to create and lead a biotechnology unit in North Carolina for the Swiss multi-national Ciba-Geigy, at a time I might add when many women in Switzerland did not yet have the boot. I also thank the committee for its role in increasing the recognition of the contribution of women to science and innovation. I hope that school age girls around the world will be encouraged to pursue science and know that their achievements can make important contributions to society. I accept this honor, both personally and on behalf of the many students, post docs and collaborators with whom I have shared this adventure. Our work, which began as curiosity driven, fundamental research, now finds worldwide application in agriculture with great promise of benefiting all mankind. Now, nothing oculd be more gratifying than that. The choice of plant biotechnology researchers for the World Food Prize of 2013 recognizes the valuable contribution of this science to agriculture. When I began this work I scarcely could have imagined the profound effect it would have on agriculture today. Neither could I have imagined the controversy that has accompanied our discoveries and advances. It is my hope that we can put to rest this misguided opposition and convince the public of the safety, benefit and ecological value of this new and useful technology. It is a wonderful tool for plant breeders to help them grow food for a hungry future. We will need it. Thank you.
Fraley: What a truly extraordinary night. It's a real honor to share this award with Mary-Dell and with Marc. I'd also like to thank the Selection Committee, Ambassador Quinn and Mr. Ruan for recognizing biotechnology. That took courage. And we really appreciate the forum that it provides to have this truly important discussion about the role of innovation in technology and in agriculture. And I'd like to accept the award on behalf of all of my friends and colleagues at Monsanto and really all of the plant scientists across the industry and academia who have worked so hard to get us to this poit and importantly are going to work so hard to get us to where we need to be in the future. Now, if you think it takes a lot of patience to figure out how to put a gene into a plant, it doesn't compare to anything to the patience to be married to a scientist who has been trying to do that all his career. I'd like to ackknoweldge my wife Laura for all of her support in my career. And my family is here and my children, Stephen, Devin and Catherine. Thank you. Your being here makes this so special. It just seems like yesterday that I was in the laboratory with Rob Horsch and Steve Rogers and Ernie Jaworski and we ewre trying to figure out how to put genes into petunia plants and now we've got biotech crops grown in 30 countries around the world. And there's so much more potential to come and we're going to need it because we need to double the food supply to feed 9 billion people by 2050. I think we can do it but it is a tremendous challenge and it is the greatest challenge facing us and all mankind in the future. I'd tell you that my company and my industry has struggled with public acceptance, but we understand that and we're changing that, but we can't do it alone. I ask you for all of your support and I ask folks across all the companies, across the universities, across the NGO's to help because it is going to take everybody along with us in the industry. And I tihnk we can absolutely do it. I can promise you that my company will do what it takes, we'll collaborate, we'll share and we will do what it takes because this is so important to create the opportunity for innovation to make the difference. I think if Dr. Borlaug were here this evening he'd be pretty proud of the scientific progress we've made. And then the first thing he would ask is, how are we doing on that rust gene in wheat? And the he'd ask me, now how did that drought gene really do this year in the field trials? And before he'd say anything else he would look around and he would probably have a conversation with every student who is in this beautiful place because he loves that so well. And then it would take about that long and Norm would say, we've got a lot of work to do, let's get on with it.
Montagu: I am very, very grateful to the World Food Prize Foundation that they have recognized plant genetic engineering as a tool that will bring and that has already proven that it can bring progress for feeding those who need it most. But I am frustrated, of course, that it takes so long, that it is such a long way before this technology can help those who need it most. And I hope that with the effort that the Foundation has done, the former Laureates and will all the colleagues that are here that we can mobilize to explain why it is needed. Mary-Dell and Rob have already explained how the whole story is important and I just want to stress that the fact that from fundamental research looking how in nature a bacteria makes a transgenic plant, that -- that it is the priority to do outstanding fundamental research and be ready and that we should have the structures that designs can them be applied. And for that the people in fundamental research should have close, close links with breeders and that is what here at the World Food Prize is present, the breeders and hope that the molecular biologies with the breeders can interact better for making the product. And on this occasion I want to bring a first place tribute to Jeff Schell, the late Jeff Schell, a colleague who was so instrumental in motivating us to go on with thsi project and without him we never would have succeeded like we did. I also want to express my deep gratitude to Nora for all the interest and support she gives to science but also to art, beauty and solidarity for humanity. Then I surely want to bring tribute to the early collaborators, several are here -- they did the pioneering work and the spirit that at the moment we consider them as family and we cherish them as family. Also my deep gratitude to my successor who has shown that this science will take a long way and that we are ready to go. And the Institute, the directors of the Institute who are here -- to bring continuous support notwithstanding all the critics we have in Europe. But I also want to thank especially Suri Segal, who in the 80s in Ghent helped Genetic Systems so well and later on was generous in helping us to start this Institute of Biotechnology for developing countries that we call now Biotechnology Outreach and it is this outreach that we hope that we will bring further and this is only a first step. Thank you.
Line up again and we'll take another picture. Let's get one more picture and one more round of applause for our Laureates.
Quinn: So I want to invite our Laureates to return to their seats. No, no, leave the -- don't worry, we have them guarded. Nobody will make off with your prize. So Rob Horsch is here who was at the 1983 Miami Conference, kind of a historic turning point, and I'd like to think that this prize and this night looking back years from now, maybe that will be seen as another historic turning point in the great struggle to ensure adequate food for all. So, we close our ceremony with a special performance of music with special meaning to our Laureates. And I want you to know I tried, I really tried to find some music that could link Belgium with Illinois and I looked and looked and, you know, I hate to admit failure but tonight we have something we think will be wonderful. It's an original choral piece that I commissioned, Ben Allaway and his wife Julianne in 2006. It was to trace Norman Borlaug's work in the Green Revolution as he called for others to stand with him. It incorporates languages from the countries and continents where Norm worked. First Norm called, but only a few came and stood wtih him, but eventually thousands and thousands did. So tonight as we begin the next Borlaug century and confront that greatest challenge in human history, Norm and all of our Laureates and our new Laureates, are calling to you and to me. They're calling to all who are watching tonight. They are calling for all of us to stand with them. Many will hear the Laureates' call, but how many will stand with them in the fight against hunger? Please welcome The Des Moines Choral Society as they perform the Laureate Call. And will you stand with them?
Quinn: The Des Moines Choral Society. Everyone has heard the Laureate Call tonight. Here's Ben Allaway and Julianne Allaway, the composers.
Quinn: So this is a wonderful ending to only the ceremony. More to come but thank you all for being here tonight and thanks to the Des Moines Choral Society for a mannificent finish to all of this.
Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the 2013 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony. Thank you and good night.
Pearson: It was a night of celebration, music and dialogue regarding the future of global food and hunger issues. Legendary agriculturalist Norman Borlaug's work was referenced often this evening and his legacy continues into what Ambassador Ken Quinn calls, the next Borlaug century. It's a story we intend to tell on the programs of Iowa Public Television including our weekly agribusiness show Market to Market, airing on PBS stations across the country. For our entire IPTV crew here at the Statehouse in Des Moines I'm Mike Pearson. Thanks for joining us tonight.