Earlier this week, it was announced that Syngenta’s Dr. Mary Dell Chilton is a co-recipient of the World Food Prize, the agriculture equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Dr. Chilton spent a few minutes with Southern Farm Network discussing her career, this award, and the future biotechnology:
“It’s a wonderful and humbling thing to receive this kind of attention.
I’ve been with Syngenta since 1983. I spent ten years being an administrative head of the unit. After all that time of answering the phone, I got back to the bench and got to do science. I had a post doc student working with me and she retrained me in all of the newer techniques that had been developed since I left St. Louis.
My research area has been concentrated on the DNA molecules. I build rings of DNA, and we use them to carry the genes of interest to us and carry them first into a microbe and then mix the bacterium with plant cells. The bacterium is very smart and knows how to transfer those genes into the plant cell. We have people who are very clever at knowing how to regenerate a full plant from these plant cells.
We have to make a plant that is an improvement from the farmer’s own point of view. If he is going to pay more for the seeds he has to get more out of it.
I’m so happy to receive this award. I’m curiosity driven and when I do an experiment its exiting to see what happens.
In the future, we are going to make plants with multiple genes added to them that will improve the plant nutritionally, make it able to grow in marginal soils, make it grow in the changing environmental conditions that we are developing.”
Syngenta’s Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, recipient of the World Food Prize.