Last week, Bill Gates announced at the World Food Summit in Des Moines that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would be redoubling its efforts to improve agricultural productivity among poor farmers in less developed countries. He announced that the foundation would be making $120 million worth of new grants for agriculture research and development. Importantly, Gates eschewed the politically correct approach urged by major environmental organizations and explained, as Reuters put it, that:
“The fight to end hunger is being hurt by environmentalists who insist that genetically modified crops cannot be used in Africa, Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of software giant Microsoft, said on Thursday. Gates said GMO crops, fertilizer and chemicals are important tools — although not the only tools — to help small farms in Africa boost production.”
That’s great news, of course, but not the only good news on the food biotech front. Today, the UK’s Telegraph reports that a year long investigation into food biotechnology by the Royal Society is expected to conclude in a report issued next week that:
“GM crops should be used in the future to alleviate food shortages. This study is going to move the debate forward. The Government will have to take notice of this. The world is undergoing dramatic change and it won’t be long before people are thinking ‘where is my next meal coming from?’ Where GM has been proved effective at either increasing yields or else resistant to diseases it should be used in the UK. GM crops need to be looked at one by one. They are not the only solution to world hunger but they are part of it.”
And Reuters reports that, even European Union Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has given a modicum of support to food biotech, suggesting that “EU countries should look at scientific evidence rather than emotions, as is now the case, when deciding on authorisations for new biotech products.” Boel said last Thursday that “For the [EU] farm sector, the imbalance in GMO approval between the European Union and the rest of the world is a clear and present financial threat.”
All in all, I’d count that as a good week.