Syngenta Scientist Mary-Dell Chilton Receives 2013 World Food Prize


DES MOINES, Iowa, USA, October 17, 2013 –During a ceremony today, Syngenta Biotechnology founder and Distinguished Science Fellow Mary-Dell Chilton, Ph.D., received the 2013 World Food Prize along with two other distinguished scientists. The $250,000 World Food Prize is known as the “Nobel Prize for food and agriculture.” It is the foremost international award recognizing an individual who has enhanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Dr. Chilton was named a laureate in June at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department, where Secretary of State John Kerry was the keynote speaker.

 “Being named a World Food Prize laureate is not only a personal honor for me, it is a recognition that biotechnology is making an extremely valuable contribution to agriculture,” said Dr. Chilton in her acceptance remarks. “Also, this is further proof that women are being recognized for their contributions to science and innovation. I hope that school-age girls around the world will be encouraged by this to pursue science and know that their achievements can be important contributors to society.”

Dr. Chilton’s work has led to the development of a number of genetically-enhanced crops, which, by 2012, were grown on more than 420 million acres around the globe by more than 17 million farmers, over 90 percent of whom were small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, head of Biotechnology for Syngenta, said, “We are proud of Dr. Chilton’s achievements and remain inspired by her continued dedication to science and to science education both inside our laboratories and beyond. Her work in biotechnology has provided a founding element of the Syngenta integrated, solutions-based offers of seeds, crop protection and seed care that is helping farmers grow more from less to meet the needs of a growing world population.” 

Dr. Chilton conducted groundbreaking molecular research on how a plant bacterium can be adapted as a tool to insert genes from other organisms into plant cells, which can regenerate plants enabling plant breeders to produce crop varieties with new innovative traits. In 1982, Chilton and her team harnessed the gene-transfer mechanism of the bacterium, Agrobacterium, to produce the first transgenic plant.

Putting her work into perspective, Dr. Chilton said, “For centuries, those in agriculture have worked to do by choice what nature could only do by chance.  With biotechnology, we are working with nature on a higher level to more precisely determine the outcome of crops. And through ongoing research we can continually improve the quality and productivity of crops. What’s more, we can do this in a way that will allow future generations to provide for their needs, as well.”

Dr. Chilton has been honored with numerous accolades for her work over the years:

•  CSSA Presidential Award, Crop Science Society of America, 2011

•  Washington University, St. Louis, establishes the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professorship in Arts and Sciences, 2009

•  Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Sciences, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, 2002 (Previous winners include Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Pierre and Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking)

•  John Scott Award, City of Philadelphia, 2000

•  Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 1994

•  American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1993

•  Hendricks Medal, American Chemical Society, 1987

•  North Carolina Board of Science and Technology, 1986

•  David Gottlieb Medal, University of Illinois, 1986

•  Rank Prize in Nutrition (United Kingdom), 1986

•  National Academy of Sciences, 1985


For more information about Dr. Chilton, her work and the World Food Prize visit

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