Bill & Melinda Gates help to educate decision-makers and consumers about biotech crops

6 Sep

Just as Rebecca Mark used substantial funding to educate Indian decision-makers about the ill-fated Enron power project . . .

bill melinda gates foundation logoStacey Shackford reports in the Cornell Chronicle that the Cornell Alliance for Science has received a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This followed a February gathering at Cornell of 34 representatives from public sector and not-for-profit organizations in 12 countries, who discussed a new vision for biotechnology communications.

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) will lead the project,
engaging with potential partners who may not be well informed about the potential biotechnology has for solving major agricultural challenges, but share common values around poverty reduction and sustainable agriculture.

cornell university logo

This ‘international effort led by Cornell’ will seek to add a stronger voice for science and ‘depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)’.

Multimedia resources to be developed will include videos of farmers from around the world documenting their struggles to deal with pests, diseases, crop failure and the limited resources available in the face of poverty and climate change.

Barbara M. Zawedde, coordinator of the Uganda Biosciences Information Center at the National Agricultural Research Organization, said that African scientists still find it challenging to inform the public ‘effectively’ about their work and its relevance to society.

The CALS project will supplement the efforts of another Gates’ funded organisation, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which describes opposition to GM as being due to ‘a fear of the unknown’.

The Guardian is aiding this campaign, publishing a number of articles on the subject, the latest coming from Rob Bailey, a senior research fellow at Chatham House specialising in food security. Bill and Melinda Gates’ sponsorship of Chatham House key projects does not go unrewarded:

melinda gates chatham house award

Bailey also focusses on Uganda, where public support for GM is low, alleging that opponents have waged effective campaigns against GM technology based on misinformation and scaremongering – then proceeds to warn that we ignore biotechnology at our peril . . .

The message summarised by Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS:

Biotechnology is a potential game-changer for farmers in less developed countries and an important tool in the toolbox for addressing global challenges, such as persistent poverty, a changing and erratic climate, and the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

The opposite position is outlined in GMO Myths and Truths report by Dr Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson & John Fagan.

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