This year's World Food Prize was handed to leading GMO scientists, including a developer at biotech giant Monsanto.
The move was an unbridled endorsement of GMOs amidst growing controversy as rising numbers question the technology's safety for people and the environment.
The body responsible for handing out the prestigious award—the private World Food Prize Foundation—receives hefty donations from the biotech industry. Mother Jones reports:
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 Jones analysis has found. The combined support of ADM, Cargill, Monsanto, and General Mills alone for this period came to more than a half million dollars.
The prize was created in 1986 by Norman Borlaug, 1970s pioneer of the 'Green Revolution'—the highly controversial Western push for the rapid development of big agribusiness and implementation of new biotechnologies across the third world. While the 'Green Revolution' is heralded by big business as a force against world hunger, many insist it merely succeeded in exporting and enforcing food production models that turn a profit for big agribusiness while devastating small farmers and the environment and erroding food security across the globe.
The foundation claims the award is meant to honor "the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world."
Officials were not shy about leaning heavily on the side of GMOs. Foundation president Kenneth Quinn declared, "If we were to be deterred by a controversy, that would diminish our prize," said the foundation's president, Kenneth Quinn, a retired U.S. diplomat."
This year's winners were announced at a Wednesday ceremony hosted by the State Department, and Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the address. Scientists from Ghent University and Syngenta Biotechnology were rewarded, in addition to the Monsanto scientists.
The prize garnered immediate condemnation. The AP reports on outrage at the announcement:
"GMO crops have led to the loss of food security worldwide and for small farmers, they have led to the development of factory farms and have destroyed biodiversity in food we do produce and consume," said David Goodner, a community organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an environmental and human rights activist group that opposes corporate farming. "The World Food Prize by selecting these people to honor shows that it cares more about corporate profits than it cares about truly feeding the world with healthy food."
The announcement comes as global opposition to Monsanto grows. Late May saw internationally coordinated protests against a company that many condemn as the 'most evil company in the world' for practices that undermine food safety and small farmers while deepening global poverty and hunger.