The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made its support of genetically modified foods no secret over the years, and the recent $10 million grant awarded by the foundation to a team of British plant scientists makes it even more apparent.
Researchers at the UK’s John Innes Centre will use the generous funding to develop new crops—mainly corn, wheat and rice—that require little to no fertilizer, theoretically pulling nitrogen from the air instead of through chemicals common in fertilizers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributes major funding to nations in Africa where poor farmers often don’t have access to affordable fertilizers. “We believe if we can get nitrogen fixing cereals, we can deliver much higher yields to farmers in Africa and allow them to grow enough food for themselves,” professor Giles Oldroyd and lead researcher on the project told BBC News. The researchers also suggest that a decreased need for fertilizers could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions common from chemical-based fertilizers.
The award marks one of the largest biotech investments in the UK at a time when GMOs are being rapidly developed and shrouded with controversy. Scientists at Rothamsted Research have been working on a genetically modified wheat plant able to deter aphids, which has garnered attention from anti-GMO groups and concerned individuals.
The recently unveiled G8 program, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition program is positioned to invest more than $22 billion in supporting Africa’s poverty and hunger issues with funding from major biotech companies including DuPont, Cargill, Monsanto and Snygenta.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger