What if — you could spray a naturally occurring material on a crop that would cause the plants to activate their own defense mechanism to protect against diseases and pests?

What if — this could be done without any genetic alteration of the crop involved?

And what if the process would also enhance plant growth and yield?

A technology that does all that has been selected as a recipient of a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for 2001.

Eden Bioscience Corp., a Bothell, Wash., company was cited for its technical innovation in the development of Messenger, a biochemical pesticide that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved for disease management and yield enhancement in more than 40 crop groupings, plus turf and ornamentals.

The awards are presented by the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics to recognize organizations and individuals successfully research, developing, and implementing outstanding “green” chemical technologies — defined as chemical products and manufacturing processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. It was only the third time an agricultural product company has won the award.

This year's award winners were formally recognized in ceremonies at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

Stephen L. Johnson, EPA assistant administrator for Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, said award winners “represent a fundamental shift in thinking,” and that the environmental and economic benefits “can be very powerful.”

There are “many examples of green chemistry being used by American industry,” he said. Johnson said to date the program has resulted in the elimination of 38 million pounds of hazardous solvents and chemicals from the environment, with a savings of 275 million gallons of water and 88.9 trillion BTUs of energy.

“These results are truly exceptional.”