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Monsanto Researcher To Share World Food Prize

A Monsanto researcher is one of the winners of the 2013 World Food Prize.

Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley will share the international honor with Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta and Belgian plant scientist Marc Van Montagu.

This year's winners of the award known as "the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture" are former rivals who independently led the development of techniques to insert genes into plants.

Their selection will probably be met with protests from environmentalists who have been vocal in their opposition to genetically-engineered crops.

The World Food Prize is intended to honor individuals who have improved the "quality, quantity or availability of food in the world” — something Fraley says biotech crops are uniquely suited to do.

“Over the next 30 years, the world needs to double food production,” Fraley said. “And you really have two choices. You either farm twice as much land and turn the rest of the forests and wetlands into farms, or you use technology appropriately and increase yields.”

Biotech crops are widely planted in the U.S., but many countries worldwide have banned their use due to health or environmental concerns.

The private, non-profit organization awarding the World Food Prize has been criticized for its close ties to agribusiness companies.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience