Field Notes from Koch Agronomic Services

Plant Biotech Pioneer Retires from Syngenta

Cindy Zimmerman

Syngenta recently celebrated the remarkable career of Mary-Dell Chilton during a recognition event on her retirement at age 79 after a 35-year career with the company.

Chilton is widely recognized as a founder of modern plant biotechnology, after she and her research teams demonstrated that Agrobacterium is an effective vehicle for DNA transfer and produced the first transgenic plant. Her ground-breaking work in academia and the private sector ultimately led to the development and commercialization of biotech crops, which help farmers effectively manage damaging insects, disease complexes, weed pressure and abiotic stress — resulting in greater yields, profitability and efficiency.

Chilton’s significant contributions to agriculture have resulted in numerous accolades, including the prestigious World Food Prize in 2013 recognizing individuals who have “increased the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.” She was honored at the same time as Dr. Robert Fraley of Monsanto, who also recently retired as the company was being acquired by Bayer.

We first interviewed Chilton in 2006 during a Syngenta media day and she said at the time she was already way past retirement but still excited about going to work every day. Listen to that here: 2006 Interview with Mary-Dell Chilton, Syngenta

Watch the video Syngenta produced to honor Chilton’s achievements below:


Biotech, GMO, Syngenta, Video