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Klaus Hahlbrock

MPI for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, DE


Klaus Hahlbrock obtained a PhD (Dr. rer. nat.) in Chemistry at the University of Freiburg in 1965, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis with Prof. E. E. Conn from 1967 to 1968. Between 1968 and 1982, he received his ‘Habilitation’, became Professor of Biochemistry, and was twice Chairman of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Freiburg. Between 1983 and 2002, he became Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society, and Director and Head of the Department of Biochemistry, at the Max Planck Institute of Plant Breeding Research, in Cologne. He was also Vice President of the Max Planck Society from 1996 to 2002. For his scientific research, he was recipient of the ‘Tate and Lyle Award’ of the Phytochemical Society of Europe in 1979, and received the Otto-Bayer Prize in 1985. He is a member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (now German National Academy) and of the Academia Europaea, and Corresponding (honorary) Member of the American Society of Plant Physiologists and Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Among other recognitions, he was awarded the Kopernikus Medal of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Distinguished Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award of the Polish Science Foundation. His academic teaching (from 1968 to 2002) concentrated on General and special fields of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Phytopathology. He is Editorial Board Member of various scientific journals, and chairman and member of various scientific advisory boards. Moreover, he is co-organizer of various scientific congresses and symposia.

Title & synopsis

New developments in conventional & gene technology assisted crop plant breeding


Despite 10,000 years of successful breeding of high-yielding food plants, as well as major breakthroughs in agricultural technology and the steady global expansion of agriculture, about 1 billion people are starving, and millions are dying each year of malnutrition or starvation. This situation is aggravated - particularly in developing countries - by an unabated population growth, a widening gap between rich and poor, massive ecological damage, including large, irreversible losses of biodiversity, dwindling water resources, soil degradation, local and global climate changes, as well as various other threats to the present form of human life-supporting biosphere. All of these developments are directly or indirectly related to food production. Possible countermeasures will be discussed, with particular emphasis on new demands on crop plant breeding, including the present state and future prospects of plant gene technology.



Marc Van Montagu

Ghent University, BE


Marc Van Montagu is president of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) and is a pioneer in plant molecular biology. With his colleague, Jeff Schell, he discovered the mechanism of DNA transfer from Agrobacterium tumefaciens to plants, and constructed the first chimerical plant genes. He used this new technology to study gene regulation and to discover the molecular basis of several plant physiological processes. He has made major contributions to the identification of genes involved in plant growth, development and flowering. He ranks among the 10 most cited scientists in the fields of Plant & Animal Science (ISI classification). His laboratory raised two spin-offs, Plant Genetic Systems (PGS), and CropDesign. At PGS, he drove front-line innovations for biotech agriculture, such as plants resistant to insects or tolerant to more environmentally friendly herbicides. In 2000 he created the Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries (IPBO) at Ghent University. Its mission is training, technology transfer and plant biotechnology research oriented towards the needs of less-developed countries. He is also President of the Public Research Responsibility Initiative (PRRI). He has received numerous awards, among others the Japan Prize. In 1990, due to his scientific accomplishments, he received the title of Baron, he is member of several academies of science, agriculture and engineering and holds numerous Doctor Honoris Causa degrees. He holds a Ph.D in Organic Chemistry/Biochemistry and earned a B.A. in Chemistry from Ghent University in Belgium.

Title: GM-Crops, why does society challenge the scientists?
Synopsis to follow


Matin Qaim

University of Göttingen, DE


Matin Qaim holds an MSc in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Kiel and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Bonn. From 2001 to 2003, he was a Post-Doc Visiting Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley before he became a Senior Researcher at the Center for Development Research in Bonn. Between 2004 and 2007, he was a Professor of Agricultural and Development Economics at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. In 2007, he became Professor of International Food Economics and Rural Development at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen. He has extensive research experience related to the economics of agricultural technologies in developing countries. In particular, he has implemented and coordinated numerous studies on the adoption and impacts of biotechnology in the small farm sector in countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Moreover, he has carried out research on market implications and nutritional effects of new crop technologies and other policy interventions. He has published widely in international scientific journals and books. His research has also been awarded with several academic prizes. He is an advisor to several national and international organizations, including as member of the German Agricultural Ministry's scientific advisory board and the board of trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

Title & synopsis
Socioeconomic Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries


The potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops on income, poverty, and food security in developing countries continue to be the subject of controversy in the public debate. Here, a review of the evidence available so far is given. Separation is made between first-generation GM technologies, with improved agronomic crop traits, and second-generation technologies, with improved quality traits. As an example of first-generation technologies, the impacts of insect-resistant Bt cotton are analyzed. Bt cotton has been adopted already by millions of small-scale farmers around the world, including in India, China, Argentina, South Africa and other developing countries. On average, adopting farmers in all these countries benefit from insecticide savings, higher effective yields through reduced crop losses, and net revenue gains, in spite of higher seed prices. This also translates into higher household incomes, including for poor and vulnerable farmers. Evidence from India suggests that Bt cotton is employment generating and poverty reducing. As an example of second-generation technologies, the potential nutrition and health impacts of beta-carotene-rich Golden Rice are analyzed from an ex ante perspective. The focus of this analysis is on India, where vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a serious public health problem, causing a sizeable disease burden, especially in terms of increased child mortality. Simulations show that, with appropriate public backing, Golden Rice could reduce the disease burden of VAD by up to 60%, preventing up to 40,000 child deaths in India every year. These examples clearly demonstrate that GM crops can contribute to poverty reduction and food security in developing countries. To realize these important economic and humanitarian benefits on a larger scale will require more financial and institutional support for research targeted to the needs of the poor, as well as more efficient regulatory and technology delivery systems.