In Austria, the cultivation of genetically modified plants is prohibited, but worldwide the areas under cultivation are increasing every year. One of the pioneers of green genetic engineering was Jozef Stefaan Schell, who showed that some bacteria can transfer genes to plants. The Ti plasmid of the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens became the basis of the first and still very important vector for producing transgenic plants.
From 1967, the Belgian worked as a professor in Ghent and founded the well-known laboratory for general genetics. He then moved to Cologne to the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research. Schell was a member of numerous scientific associations, including the New York Academy of Sciences. The molecular biologist was honored with the Gregor Mendel Medal, the Wolf Prize for Agricultural Science, the Prix Charles-Léopold Mayer, the Max Planck Research Prize, the Grande médaille de l’Académie des sciences and the Japan Prize, among others.