Rising Global Food Prices
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new partnership with the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) in an effort to "reduce hunger and poverty in developing countries by supporting agricultural research projects to help small farmers increase their yields and incomes."
The foundation will contribute $70 million to address some of the most serious threats to food production, like crop diseases, pests, poor soil quality, and extreme weather.
This partnership comes amidst reports that rising food costs are causing increased hunger and violence in developing nations. According to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, prices for cooking oils, grains, sugar and meat have soared to levels not seen in 20 years.
Focus On Wheat
Cornell University will receive $40 million to continue their research in developing varieties of wheat that are resistant to stem rust disease, such as Ug99.
Wheat represents 30 percent of the world's grain yield, and almost half of that will be harvested in developing countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Thanks to Cornell's Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project, these countries have already started planting varieties of wheat that are Ug99 resistant.
Is It All About The GMOs?
Critics point out that the Gates Foundation has a private relationship with biotech crop giant Monsanto, adding that this new project could be an effort to industrialize agriculture and promote GMO crops in developing nations. In August 2010, the Gates Foundation's investment portfolio listed a new purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock, equaling $23.1 million.
"The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation's heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers," says Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering.
Monsanto has a history of hurting small farmers. In 2009, its genetically-modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers in South Africa were devastated.
- UK Government and Gates Foundation Partner to Support Agricultural Research, Boost Productivity of Poor Farmers (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
- Gates Foundation works to boost food production (Reuters)
- GATES FOUNDATION INVESTS IN MONSANTO, Both will profit at expense of small-scale African farmers (Community Alliance For Global Justice)