The $250,000 World Food Prize was recently awarded to a Mexican and Indian scientist for their work developing a genetically modified strain of maize. Mexico’s Evangelina Villegas and India’s Surinder Vasal developed what is known as Quality Protein Maize.
Traditional variants of corn lack key amino acids that are required for human beings to convert it to protein. Villegas and Vasal genetically altered corn to express those amino acids. By delivering high levels of protein in maize, QPM could have a strong effect on world levels of malnourish.
That is if it ever gets a chance — environmentalists from the developed world oppose just this sort of innovation on any number of pseudo-scientific and philosophical grounds. Villegas and Vasal, in fact, lost funding for their genetically modified corn but the two persevered.
As James Glassman wrote in an editorial about the awarding of the prize, “They’ve [anti-GMO activists] succeeded in attracting a lot of public attention, encouraging more government regulation and delaying the introduction of new products, much to the disdain of most of the scientists engaged in agricultural research. Both Villegas and Vasal volunteered to Tech Central Station interviewers at the Des Moines conference that the concerns of the protestors were overblown.”
Hopefully future agricultural innovations such as QPM won’t be held hostage to extremist environmental views.
Beating Hunger — the Biggest Prize. James K. Glassman, Tech Central Station, October 16, 2000.
Mexican, Indian to be Named Millenium World Food Prize Laureates. World Food Prize Press Release, September 7, 2000.