World Food Prize (This combination of undated photos provided by The World Food Prize Foundation shows, from left: Robert T. Fra
AP, The World Food Prize FoundationFrom left: Robert T. Fraley and Mary-Dell Chilton of the United States, and Marc Van Montagu of Belgium.
In 1986, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug created The World Food Prize in an effort to recognize, "the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world." Though it's a big deal in the agricultural community, the prize is rarely talked about in mainstream media.

But this year, everyone's abuzz about the selections, especially the two from the U.S.: Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta (SYT) and Dr. Robert T. Fraley of Monsanto (MON).

They, along with Marc Van Montagu, a Belgain biotech and GMO pioneer, are being awarded the prize on Oct. 16 for their work in developing genetically modified organisms, mainly in the form of crops that are resistant to insects and diseases.

Why the Controversy?

Folks say that one shouldn't talk politics or religion at the dinner table, lest a fight break out. These days, you can add GMOs to that short list of ultra-touchy topics.

The dawn of genetically modified food began in America in the 1990s with the approval of a GM tomato. Since then, a number of cash crops have quickly been converted to GMOs -- including corn, soy, rapeseed (pressed to make so-called "canola" oil), and cotton. The byproducts of these crops can be seen in a dizzying number of options at any local grocery store.

Proponents argue that the benefits of GMOs speak for themselves: improved crop yields, resistance to insects and disease without use of as many pesticides, the ability to withstand extreme variability in climate, and added nutritional value (when they're designed to have it).

Those against GMOs argue that this sort of fundamental tinkering with Mother Nature is inherently a recipe for disaster. They cite the arrival of super weeds and super bugs resistant to GMOs, the unintended effects on insects and wildlife (especially bees), and the possibility of human health problems -- ranging from allergies to endocrine disruption -- as symptoms of a process that's causing more trouble than it's worth.

What's on The Line?

In this context, the World Food Prize takes on added importance, because it could bestow greater legitimacy to GMOs. And while it might seem to U.S. consumers like that legitimacy has already been established, given the ubiquity of GMOs in our food supply, the same cannot be said for most of the rest of the world.

Large swaths of the European Union and, increasingly, developing countries from Central and South America have banned some, if not all, forms of GMOs. Along with Monsanto and Syngneta, fellow GMO suppliers DuPont (DD) and Dow Chemical (DOW) would have a lot to gain by opening up these markets to their products.

Indeed, in its latest earnings report, Monsanto disappointed investors by reporting a 38 percent drop in sales of its GM soybean seeds, and lowered guidance for the rest of the year. DuPont and Syngenta have had seed cultivation approval requests waiting in limbo from the EU for years.

Opponents of the proliferation of GMOs, however, don't intend on allowing these seed manufacturers to benefit from this good publicity without a fight.

Protests are already planned to take place in Des Moines, Iowa -- where the prize will officially be presented; and on-line petitions have been circulating demanding the World Food Prize Foundation to reconsider.

It's highly unlikely that these actions will strip the prize out of these scientists' hands, but what's more important is how this will all play out in the public sphere, and what effect -- if any -- it all has in the minds of international legislators deciding the fate of GMOs in their respective countries.



Motley Fool contributor Brian Stoffel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.

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croone22

The Noble Peace Prize= Sweden's contribution to the world +its opinions
on right and wrong and who is deserving of glorification for accomplishments with no real proofs of what it is defining as works worthy of such acclaim. And the proof of my opinion is the Noble prize for peace that it awarded to Obama.

October 12 2013 at 1:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
oldschool

As thoughtful as it might have been, using only a 3 month test run before being approved by the FDA was not a responsible way to safety of products. Extensive tests run over several years overseas says it is not safe. In all practicality we are consuming food with pesticides in the food itself. Before when crops were sprayed by air the pesticide resided mostly outside the husks of the food leaving the edible part reasonable free of pesticides. At issue are complications that have risen since, bees disapearing and Morgellons disease. If it is affecting the immune system the symptoms could vary widely.

October 12 2013 at 4:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
whippettz

Kelloggs makes a line of GMO FREE to send and they pay...England. USA gets GMO CRAP,,,Wonder what the people eat that made this crap...and how do they sleep?

October 12 2013 at 2:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jigokurei

There is no doubt that the appeal presented in giving a \"Noble Prize\" to individuals working on GMO\'s is in reality only intended to create the acceptance of GMO\'s as being essential to human needs and acceptable in nature; both entirely and preposterously dangerous appeals. I could only surmise that the Monsanto is somehow behind all of this.

This in reality is the same appeal used to re-enforce positive opinion and appeal toward Obama\'s chances of a successful presidential win as he won the Noble Peace Prize. However, he failed to live up to the level of the award presented once elected into office; thereby, failing to live up to the expectations voters had of him by realizing the lies of his false promises, even of his flip-flopping on promises to restrict, reduce, or undue policies that violated Civil Liberties -- policies he in fact modified and strengthened further that restricted even more Civil Liberties over National Security.

The Plan to sensationalize an Award if an attempt to create mass appeal of belief by a well known organization that can create an appeal of authority, and thereby create an appeal of acceptance and appeal of (false) popularity.

One must not be taken in by the appeal of Misleading Vividness; one\'s trusted opinion of a subject can lead one to a nasty mistake of supporting a questionable cause.

October 12 2013 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob-0

No.

October 12 2013 at 1:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Debbie

NO!!!! Leave our food alone!!!

October 12 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TKB

GMO foods are dangerous. Period!! Hell no, they shouldn\'t get any prize except maybe the booby prize. LEAVE OUR FOOD ALONE!!

October 12 2013 at 12:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Ken

Monsanto has patents on their GMO seeds...GMO crops are spreading into fields of regular crops...soon regular crops will diminish, and Monsanto will control our food supply

October 11 2013 at 11:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
m14

GM's are making people sick all over the world, contaminating the natural seed and creating problems bigger then the ones they were created to solve. Monsanto lobbied and won the Congress over to protect them from civil prosecution for what theya are doing. These creeps don't deserve awards they deserve cells with bars on them.

October 11 2013 at 10:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
uacrack

All Nobel prizes lost credibility when they gave Obama the peace prize

October 11 2013 at 9:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply