The World Food Prize, Brought to You by Monsanto
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Update: earlier today, the 2013 World Food Prize was awarded to three scientists: Marc Van Monatgu from Belgium, Mary-Dell Chilton of the US and Robert T. Fraley, also of the US. Fraley is an executive vice president chief technology officer at Monsanto. A statement on the announcement from the World Food Prize Foundation can be found here.
Today Secretary of State John Kerry will announce the recipient of the quarter-million-dollarWorld Food Prize. Sometimes called "the Nobel Prize of food," the award has been handed out yearly since 1987 to "outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world," according to the website of its namesake foundation. Past winners have included agricultural scientists and presidents of developing nations who have made strides toward growing more food in their countries.
This is the 10th year that the State Department has hosted the World Food Prize's announcement ceremony; according to a Department press release, the event is intended to showcase "the administration's dedication to improving lives; counteracting suffering; and focusing on the role that science, technology and policy play in reducing hunger and under-nutrition." But while the US government's involvement might suggest that the prize is a neutral barometer of agricultural excellence, funders of the foundation which backs it have a vested interest in promoting industrialized farming around the world. In fact, many of the World Food Prize's major donors are among the biggest names in agribusiness today.
Out of 125 donors who contributed more than $500 between fiscal years 2009 and 2011 (the years for which the foundation's tax records are most readily available), 26 were either agribusiness or charities directly affiliated with agribusiness. Together, donations from these companies amounted to more than 28 percent of funds raised for that period, a Mother Jonesanalysis has found. The combined support of ADM, Cargill, Monsanto, and General Mills alone for this period came to more than a half million dollars.