DES MOINES, IOWA, U.S. — On Oct. 17, Dr. Marc Van Montagu, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Robert T. Fraley were awarded the World Food Prize ( for their roles founding, developing and applying agricultural biotechnology. 

The World Food Prize was conceived by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1986, The World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. 

Thanks to the discoveries of these Montagu, Chilton, and Fraley farmers around the world are able to grow crops with higher yields and a more sustainable environmental profile than was ever possible before, said U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) in applauding the selection of the GMO pioneers. 

According to the prize citation, 17 million farmers worldwide grew GMO crops in 2012, more than 90% of them small-scale farmers in developing countries.  It says the technology increased yields, reduced harmful pesticide use and will be a key tool to feed 9 billion by 2050.

NAWG and USW reinforced their support for the continued development of biotech wheat by joining others in the industry to congratulate the 2013 World Food Prize recipients, whose work has been instrumental to this vital technology. 

While biotech wheat is not currently available to farmers, NAWG, USW and the wheat farmers who lead them support innovation, research and the responsible introduction of new wheat varieties, including biotech wheat.  Both organizations are working with industry partners throughout the wheat value chain to prepare the path for these new varieties of wheat – both biotech and non-biotech – that will improve farmers’ ability to increase yields, use fewer agricultural inputs and continually improve the quality of their crop.   

Wheat is a staple of the world’s diet, but worldwide demand for wheat is outpacing our ability to produce it. In fact, the number of acres planted with wheat has fallen relative to other crops with biotech options available in part because the more advanced crops offer farmers a better return on their investment.  Biotech wheat varieties, which the industry expects to be introduced within the decade, will help ensure that wheat continues to be a valuable source of nutrition for people around the world and a staple of American agriculture for generations to come.