Correction: At publication, this article incorrectly stated Monsanto’s contribution to the World Food Prize Foundation from 1999 to 2011 was $380 million. The correct figure is $380,000.
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This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy in Focus.
The GMO wars escalated earlier this month when the 2013 World Food Prize was awarded to three chemical company executives, including Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, responsible for development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The choice of Fraley was widely protested, with eighty-one members of the prestigious World Future Council calling it “an affront to the growing international consensus on safe, ecological farming practices that have been scientifically proven to promote nutrition and sustainability.”
The choice of Monsanto’s man triggered accusations of prize buying. From 1999 to 2011, Monsanto donated $380,000 to the World Food Prize Foundation, in addition to a $5 million contribution in 2008 to help renovate the Hall of Laureates, a public museum honoring Norman Borlaug, the scientist who launched the Green Revolution.
For some, the award to Monsanto is actually a sign of desperation on the part of the GMO establishment, a move designed to contain the deepening controversy over the so-called biotechnological revolution in food and agriculture. The arguments of the critics are making headway. Owing to concern about the dangers and risks posed by genetically engineered organisms, many governments have instituted total or partial bans on their cultivation, importation, and field-testing.
A few years ago, there were sixteen countries that had total or partial bans on GMOs. Now there are at least twenty-six, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia. Significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.