What is in this article?:
- Even the wealthy understand the need for GMO research to address world hunger
- Too little investment
- Innovation is the key to improving the world” and agricultural research represents the best method to achieve that goal, says Bill Gates.
- Gates believes managing soils and tools like drip irrigation can help grow more food to meet world demand in the years ahead.
- The $3 billion spent each year on agriculture crop research isn’t enough.
Self-made billionaire, software magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates may not know everything about agriculture, but when it comes to addressing the problem of world hunger, he understands the meaning of making sound investments in the future.
“Right now, just over 1 billion people—about 15 percent of the people in the world—live in extreme poverty. On most days, they worry about whether their family will have enough food to eat. There is irony in this, since most of them live and work on farms. The problem is that their farms…don’t produce enough food for a family to live on,” writes Gates in his Fourth Annual Letter, released online Tuesday by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates says “innovation is the key to improving the world” and agricultural research represents the best method to achieve that goal.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, in what is called the ‘Green Revolution,’ Norman Borlaug and other researchers created new seed varieties for rice, wheat, and maize (corn) that helped many farmers vastly improve their yields…food intake went up…the price of wheat dropped by two-thirds [and] saved countless lives and helped nations to develop,” he writes.
Saying technology holds the key to accelerating progress, Gates believes managing soils and tools like drip irrigation can help grow more food to meet world demand in the years ahead, and says the $3 billion spent each year on agriculture crop research isn’t enough. The 24-page letter suggests seed research points the way to providing enough food to feed not just the world today, but for generations to come.
The Gates Foundation has spent about $2 billion in the past five years to fight poverty and hunger in continents like Africa and Asia, and much of that money has gone toward improving agricultural productivity, including research into genetic engineering and plant breeding.
“Given the central role that food plays in human welfare and national stability, it is shocking—not to mention short-sighted and potentially dangerous—how little money is spent on agricultural research. This shortage of funds for research is particularly worrying because of the increasing prevalence of plant diseases,” Gates writes. “[When] The Rockefeller Foundation enticed Borlaug to move to Mexico, where he created new varieties of wheat that were resistant to a fungus called wheat stem rust…it was only after he got there that he figured out additional strategies to increase wheat productivity. Borlaug was always concerned that new forms of wheat rust would emerge.”
Gates writes that back in the 19th century most people in the United States worked in agriculture. But he notes that now less than 2 percent of the workforce is involved in farm ownership, and less than 15 percent of U.S. consumer spending goes to food. Farming issues rarely make the news he says, until crop diseases strike. He says agriscience holds the key to not only increasing productivity but also fighting diseases that have the potential of destroying crops and forcing farmers out of business.