By awarding this year's prize to three biotechnology pioneers, the nonprofit foundation infuriated environmental groups and others opposed to large-scale farming. Two of the recipients hold prominent positions at biotech companies —
But their line of work is in keeping with the philosophies of
"We're entering the period that
Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate awarded for his efforts to fight hunger and boost agricultural production, knew the three recipients, and expressed a wish before his death in 2009 that they be honored, Quinn said.
"Rather than encouraging sustainable farming and self-sufficiency in impoverished communities as a way to alleviate poverty and malnutrition, the World Food Prize has been 'won' by a profiteering, biotech, seed-and-chemical monopolist that's the freakish opposite of sustainability," former Texas Agriculture Commissioner
The Occupy group also has planned protests designed to discredit the prize and disrupt the foundation's activities, which attracts about 1,000 scientists, policy experts, political leaders and business executives each year. Last year, protesters were arrested.
This year, former British Prime Minister
"GMOs and factory farms are destroying
But Quinn said that to provide enough food at a time when drought, floods, and other natural disasters are more frequent, the world's farmers should have a range of practices, seeds and other tools at their disposal.
"Are we really prepared to not have the tools of biotechnology and genetic enhancement available to produce those seeds and other technologies that will allow farmers particularly the small holder, poor farmers deal with these volatile situations?" he said. "To me, they link together."
In addition to biotechnology issues, the foundation has invited experts to take on global warming.
Rattan Lal, a professor of soil science at
"Agriculture has to be on any agenda for climate change mitigation in addition to improving water quality and of course food security," said Lal, who'll speak Friday.
He advocates moving farm subsidies away from encouraging production through the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer to a system that pays farmers to improve water quality and promote conservation measures.
"This is not rocket science, frankly," said Voegele, who also was scheduled to speak Friday. "There's a lot out there people know about and many people use but it's not being used to the scale needed."
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