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Technology & Innovation

The Gates Foundation and GMO Food

The Gates Foundation has made a new foray into the contentious field of GMO crops. This time it’s a bid to develop virus-resistant cassava varieties for Africa.

What’s the Latest Development?

The Gates Foundation has joined the Monsanto Fund and the Howard Buffett Foundation in giving $11.9 million to the Virus Resistant Cassava For Africa (VIRCA) project. The goal is to develop cassava varieties that can resist deadly viruses and thereby reduce famine risk. Cassava is a staple food crop for over 200 million sub-Saharan Africans but over one-third of Africa’s harvest is lost each year to disease.

What’s the Big Idea?

Former Grist food writer Tom Philpott notes that GMO crops haven’t been proven to increase yields. He urges Gates to turn away from biotech labs and focus on “the field, where the best research on organic ag is being done. Indeed, one of the great benefits of organic farming is its long-term focus on soil health–and healthy soils can increase productivity over time without massive ecological externalities.”


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