And the Prize Goes to . . . Monsanto and Syngenta?
11 Oct, 2013
This year’s World Food Prize—a prize dedicated to furthering a “nutritious and sustainable food supply”—will be awarded to top executives at Monsanto and Syngenta for creating GE crops. GE crops are about feeding the profits of biotech giants, not the world’s hungry.
Monsanto and Syngenta do not deserve the World Food Prize
As part of the upcoming annual World Food Day celebrations, the prestigious World Food Prize is being awarded in Iowa on October 16th. The World Food Prize is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of agriculture,” where individuals around the globe ostensibly doing the important work of increasing food safety and security are recognized. In its own words, the Prize “emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.” But in an obscene twist, Monsanto’s vice president is receiving this year’s World Food Prize—for creating and spreading genetically engineered (GE) crops! To make matters worse, a top executive at the chemical-biotech company Syngenta is also receiving this year’s prize.
Though the World Food Prize is held in high esteem, it was created from the vision of Norman Borlaug, the father of the “Green Revolution” of chemically intensive, mechanized agriculture. So to see the World Food Prize Foundation raking in millions from big agriculture and chemical companies is no great surprise. But by giving undue accolades to corporate donors who do nothing to further the goal of a “sustainable food supply,” but rather endanger it, the Foundation is undermining the credibility of the prize, and supporting a type of industrial agriculture that goes against its founding principles.
Contrary to the biotech industry myth the World Food Prize is perpetuating, GE crops do not create more food, more access to food, or more nutritious food, and instead actually endanger food security. As far back as 1998, African scientists representing many of the nations affected by poverty and hunger warned that GE crops would actually undermine the nations’ capacities to feed themselves by destroying established diversity, local knowledge and sustainable agricultural systems, despite a manipulative Monsanto ad campaign featuring photos of African children and the subtitle “Let the harvest begin.” 
GE crops undermine food security in several ways. Half the world’s farmers rely on saved seed to produce food that a billion people rely on for daily nutrition, but farmers growing these patented GE crops are not allowed to save their seeds, forcing them to purchase these costly seeds every planting season. According to a joint project between the United Nations and the World Bank, the high cost of GE seeds and chemicals along with uncertain crop yields make GE crops a poor choice for farmers in the developing world. 
As eighty-one members of the World Future Council told the World Food Prize Foundation in their letter of protest, “This award not only communicates a false connection between GMOs and solutions to hunger and agricultural degradation, but it also diverts attention from truly ‘nutritious and sustainable’ agroecological approaches already proving effective” like organic agriculture. 
I am deeply disturbed that the World Food Prize Foundation is allowing this year’s Prize to be given to executives from chemical-biotechnology companies Monsanto and Syngenta. Giving undue accolades to corporate donors who do nothing to further the Prize’s goal of a “nutritious and sustainable food supply” undermines the credibility of the Prize, and supports a type of industrial agriculture that goes against its founding principles. Genetically engineered (GE) crops are all about feeding the profits of biotech giants, not the world’s hungry.
With this award, the World Food Prize is perpetuating the false notion that genetically engineered crops are a solution to world hunger and malnutrition. This kind of biotech propaganda has obscured the huge potential of low-cost agroecological and organic techniques to increase food production and alleviate hunger in developing countries. Awarding the World Food Prize to these biotech giants only serves to divert attention from these truly ‘nutritious and sustainable’ approaches.
1. Let Nature’s Harvest Continue, African Counter Statement to Monsanto, at the 5th Extraordinary Session of the FAQ Commission on Genetic Resources (June 12, 1998)
2. Agriculture at a Crossroads. Executive Summary of Synthesis Report, IAASTD (April 2009)
3. Choice of Monsanto Betrays World Food Prize Purpose, Say Global Leaders, NPR (June 26, 2013)