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World Food Prize goes to a Belgian for the first time: The scientist Marc Van Montagu
Date:6/19/2013

contributions to increasing the quantities and availability of food."

Previous World Food Prize laureates have included presidential candidates Bob Dole and George McGovern. In 2011, the prize went to the president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, and the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, for their efforts for poor farmers. In 2012, the Israeli scientist Daniel Hillel was honored for his micro-irrigation techniques that resulted in increased agricultural production in Israel.

The Story in Ghent

At the end of the seventies, researchers at Ghent University led by professors Jeff Schell and Marc van Montagu were working with the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. These bacteria infect plants in nature and the scientists were able to determine that the bacterium transfers a piece of its hereditary material to the DNA of the plant. That DNA turned out to be located on a plasmid, which acquired the name 'Ti-plasmid' (tumor-inducing). The transfer of this DNA causes the cells to divide in an uncontrolled way and to produce substances that the bacteria can feed on. In other words, the bacterium forces the plant to make food for it.

Professors Jeff Schell and Marc Van Montagu realized at once that they had found a messenger that would allow them to modify plants genetically. By replacing the piece of bacterial DNA that is normally transferred to the plant with a different piece, it was possible to transfer additional characteristics to the plant. In January 1983 (30 years ago now), they presented the first genetically modified plant - a tobacco plant - at a scientific congress in Florida (US). The Ghent lab was not alone, though. A research group at the University of Washington (Mary-Dell Chilton) and scientists at Monsanto (Robert T. Fraley) had both been using the Agrobacterium system, based on what Jeff Schell and Marc Van Montagu had learned, to make genetically modified plants with particular favorable ch
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Contact: Kris Van der Beken
kris.vanderbeken@vib.be
32-924-46611
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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