The World Food Prize Foundation Announces Its Winners

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The World Food Prize, which some have likened to the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture, announced its 2013 winners today, including two Americans. The winners are Marc Van Montagu, the founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent Univeristy in Belgium, Mary-Dell Chilton, founder and Researcher at Syngenta Biotechnology, and Robert Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto. John Kerry was also on hand to deliver a speech at the ceremony.

All three scientists work in the realm of plant biotechnology. Van Montagu and Chilton discovered ways to successfully transfer new genes to plants in the '80s, while Fraley uncovered how to give plants immunity to specific bacteria in the '90s.

This was an interesting choice given all of the controversy surrounding genetically modified crops. The subject has been cropping up everywhere lately as discussions heighten about whether or not genetically modified foods should be labeled.

The World Food Prize Foundation's president, Kenneth Quinn stated, "If we were to be deterred by a controversy, that would diminish our prize." Instead, the Foundation pointed to the scientists' significant discoveries, which allow crops to be grown with "improved yields; resistance to insect and disease; and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate."

According to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, there are, in fact, many potential benefits to genetically modified crops. An example occurred in 2002, when half of the cotton in China was genetically modified to be poisonous to the cotton bollworm, which can kill cotton crops. Since the cotton itself became poisonous, there was no need to spray pesticides, thus reducing the use of toxins, increasing yields and improving farmers' health.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine offers an alternate perspective. The group claims that "several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility."

Are you concerned about the impact of genetically modified foods on your health? check out the slideshow below to learn what you should watch out for.

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