The World Food Prize Foundation

Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn's Remarks from the World Food Prize Laureate Announcement

06/19/2013

Undersecretary Hormats, thank you for your very kind introduction and for hosting our ceremony today. 

Secretary Kerry, on behalf of our Chairman John Ruan III and his wife Janis, my wife Le Son, our Council of Advisors, I want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to you for presiding at this event. You are continuing a ten-year tradition that began in 2004 when Secretary Colin Powell first hosted our Laureate Announcement Ceremony. 

We are deeply grateful to have the privilege to announce the winner of our $250,000 prize each year in such a prestigious setting. 
 
Senator Harkin, we are so very pleased you could be with us, given all of the support you have provided over the past years.  You have our special thanks for your interest and encouragement you have given us, particularly in regard to our Hall of Laureates! And Mrs. Barbara Grassley, we are delighted to welcome you. Please convey to Senator Chuck Grassley our warmest appreciation for his support and friendship. 
 
The Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former Iowa Congressman and former State Department officer Jim Leach is also with us. 
 
One other Iowan, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, usually participates in this ceremony. He told me that he regretted that he had a conflict today, but asked me to be sure to tell you about the Wallace Carver Internship, a special opportunity for high school and young college students that USDA and the World Food Prize have partnered to create. We have 19 of these students here today. 
 
Ambassadors, members of diplomatic corps, and distinguished guests. 
 
Across the street from the State Department is the National Science Foundation, and in its lovely rotunda there is an inscription that states that: science is the “multiplier of the harvest.”  
 
The founder of the World Food Prize was the late Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the “Father of the Green Revolution.” He was a multiplier of the harvest using science. I am so pleased that his granddaughter Julie Borlaug could be here today. 
 
With the support of the Ruan family over the past 27 years, the World Food Prize has grown to be recognized as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.” Our laureates and have come from a wide array of countries and have achievements in a broad range of specialties. They are all multipliers of the harvest. I want to recognize laureates Dr. Hans Herren of Switzerland, and Rev. David Beckmann, who are here today, as well as Peter McPherson, a member of our Council of Advisors.
 
As we announce this years’ recipient, it is important to note that 2013 represents the confluence of two significant scientific anniversaries: it will mark the beginning of our yearlong Borlaug Centennial Observance which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Borlaug; and it is the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA Double Helix. 
 
In referring to the Double Helix, the Chairman of the World Food Prize Laureate Selection Committee, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan of India, stated that: “During the last 60 years, the science of molecular genetics, also referred to as New Genetics, has opened up uncommon opportunities for shaping the future of agriculture, industry, medicine and environment protection.” 
 
Or, as Dr. Borlaug himself put it, we are going “from the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution.” 
 
Given this connection, our Selection Committee determined that it would be most appropriate this year to recognize some of the pioneers of the New Genetics. We have, therefore, chosen three distinguished scientists to share the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.  
 
Working in separate facilities on two continents, each conducted groundbreaking molecular research, and after countless hours in their laboratories, each discovered the key to plant cell transformation using recombinant DNA.
 
Their work led to the development of a host of genetically enhanced crops that are now grown on 170 million hectares by over 17 million farmers worldwide. Over 90 percent are small resource-poor farmers in developing countries, who are able to grow crops with: improved yields; resistance to insects and disease; and tolerance against extreme variations in climate.
 
Our new laureates have truly used science to multiply the harvest.
 
It is therefore my great honor to announce that the recipients of the 2013 World Food Prize are: Dr. Marc Van Montagu, the Founder and Chairman of the Institute for Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium; and from the United States, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, Founder and Distinguished Fellow of Syngenta Biotechnology, and Dr. Robert T. Fraley, the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto. 
 
Each year we make public the name or names of our new laureate here and then the Prize is awarded in October in Des Moines in a ceremony at the magnificent Iowa State Capitol. We do this in conjunction with our Borlaug Dialogue international symposium, which draws over 1,000 participants from more than 65 countries around the globe. 
 
In keeping with the background of our laureates and Dr. Borlaug’s anniversary, the title for our 2013 symposium is “The Next Borlaug Century: biotechnology, sustainability, and climate volatility.”  
 
Today another Iowan, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, issued a report on the potential drastic impact of changes in the climate to flood cities and affect huge areas of cropland, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank officials expressed hope that advances in crop science and genetics will produce drought-resistant varieties of corn and other plants.
 
Our goal is to debate and discuss whether and how biotechnology can be engaged in the struggle not only to increase yields and ameliorate the perverse impact of dramatic climate variations, but also play a critical role in ensuring that agricultural and environmental sustainability are maintained.
 
Once again, we will have a distinguished and diverse array of speakers including H.E. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the President of Iceland, and H.E. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who is the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican. I have a very special announcement to make: We are greatly honored that Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1997 – 2007 and now Patron of the Africa Governance Initiative, will be part of a special panel titled 40 Chances, moderated by Howard G. Buffett and focused on redefining the fight against hunger, poverty and suffering. We are so very pleased to have Howard’s son Howard W. and his wife Lili with us today.
 
We cordially invite you to join us in Des Moines October 16 – 18, as we present the World Food Prize and convene what has been called “the premier conference in the world on global food security” as we begin The Next Borlaug Century.
 
One of the greatest privileges any Foreign Service Officer can have is to introduce the Secretary of State. In this case it is even more meaningful for me since my career intersected with then Senator Kerry at several points in the 1990s. I saw his political courage and leadership in endeavoring to account for all of the POW/MIAs who had not returned from the Indochina War. I witnessed his commitment to confront terror and promote human rights as we worked to ensure that the genocidal Khmer Rouge could never return to power in Cambodia. And I saw his passion for alleviating human suffering as we shaped aid programs to uplift the Cambodian people who had suffered so much.
 
And so it is with immense pride, respect and admiration that I introduce to you the Secretary of State, the Honorable John Kerry. 
 

 

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