Marc Van Montagu print  
Marc Van Montagu, Em. Professor at Ghent University, Belgium, is a pioneer in molecular biology. He and his colleague, Jeff Schell, discovered the mechanism of DNA transfer from Agrobacterium tumefaciens to plants, and constructed the first chimerical plant genes.
Van Montagu used his new technology to study gene regulation and to discover the molecular basis of several plant physiological reactions. He also produced major contributions in the identification of genes involved in plant growth, development and flowering. He ranks among the 100 top living contributors to biotechnology and is one of the most cited scientists in the field of plant & animal science.
His laboratory raised two spin-offs, Plant Genetic Systems (PGS), and CropDesign. At PGS, he drove front-line innovations for biotech agriculture, 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 has been collecting numerous awards. In 1990, due to his scientific accomplishments, he received the title of Baron. He is a member of several academies of science in different countries, and holds numerous Doctor Honoris Causa degrees. In January 2006, Van Montagu was elected president of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB).
What Biotechnology Can Do For Water-saving Agriculture.
Drought is a major constraint for crop yield and production in extensive regions of Africa, South-America and Asia. It is predicted that the total area of dry land will still expand due to climate change. On the other hand, the pressure for freshwater resources for human needs, from which agriculture accounts for more than three quarter, is growing. If crop production is to be sustained and even increased, water should be used in a more efficient and sustainable manner. Biotechnology opens possibilities to biological water-saving measures through improvements in water-use efficiency and drought tolerance. The remarkable advances in transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolic analyses lead exponentially to the identification of multiple genes involved in drought stress response and signaling. This knowledge, combined with the recent development of linkage maps, opens the way to relatively straightforward drought resistance breeding, applicable to any crop. Developing nations can take advantage of molecular marker assisted breeding if international and national organizations make efforts to implement special breeding programs. Poor subsistence farmers from drought-prone areas, who should benefit most, should get access to the technology as effectively as affluent farmers. The development of drought tolerant crops is multidisciplinary. Success can only be achieved through collaboration between biotechnologists and breeders. Funding agencies should be aware that it is fundamental to foster full communication between the different stakeholders. Cooperation of public and private sectors, with the willingness of the latter to share its proprietary technology for humanitarian need, is crucial.