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The True Deservers of a Food Prize

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

If Secretary of State John Kerry’s G.M.O.-boosting speech announcing the World Food Prize at the State Department last week is any indication of his ability to parse complicated issues, he might be better off windsurfing. Because Kerry appears to have bought into the big ag-driven myth that only by relying on genetic engineering will we be able to feed the nine billion citizens of our planet by 2050. And he enthusiastically endorsed granting this mockery of a prize to three biotech engineers, including Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto and a pioneer of genetic engineering in agriculture.

Never mind that Monsanto is a sponsor of the prize (and that the list of other backers reads like a who’s who of big ag and big food), or that we never get to know the names of either the nominees or the nominators. [1] Never mind that we’re not feeding the seven billion now, or that we’re sickening a billion of those with a never-before-seen form of malnourishment. Never mind that we already grow enough food to feed not only everyone on the planet but everyone who’s going to be born in the next 30 or 40 years. And never mind that, despite the hype, there’s scant evidence that the involvement of genetic engineering in agriculture has done much to boost yields, reduce the use of chemicals or improve the food supply.

The carping ends here. (I wrote about genetic engineering recently, and anyway, you’ll find plenty of griping about this prize elsewhere.) Rather, I thought I might ask a few friends and colleagues for their opinions on who might qualify for a food prize that wasn’t sponsored by its recipients.

There already is such a thing, of course: the Food Sovereignty Prize. But I’m countering the tremendous public relations boost Monsanto received from the World Food Prize, and instead showcasing just a few of the many people around the world who are working to establish sustainable and fair food systems. [2]


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