Source: ABC News
After the Gates Foundation’s vaccination efforts in India, that nation reported only one case of polio last year. And while the foundation promises to fight on against preventable diseases, the top focus of this year’s letter is agriculture and Gates’ belief that without technology, farmers could never feed the world’s exploding population.
He calls for further research into the creation of flood-and-drought-resistant crops through genetic engineering.
“It is hard to overstate how valuable it is to have all the incredible tools that are used for human disease to study plants,” he writes. But the idea of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is loaded with controversy. Environmental groups worry that the practice could upset the food chain, leading to the spread of disease, “superweeds” and mutant insects.
To the dismay of GMO opponents, public records reveal that the Gates Foundation recently spent $27 million to buy 500,000 shares of Monsanto, the agribusiness giant with labs devoted to improving on nature to boost crop yields. And while Gates avoids the words “genetically modified” in his letter, he defends the idea when pressed.
“Over time, yes, countries will need to look at specific GMO products like they look at drugs today, where they don’t approve them all. They look hard at the safety and the testing. And they make sure that the benefits far outweigh any of the downsides.”
Aside from the environmental concerns, England’s Prince Charles was among those who blamed a rash of farmer suicides in India on the higher cost of GMO seeds. But Gates insisted that his foundation’s partners are not out to exploit developing nations.
“There’s absolutely no payments, no royalties of any kind. It’s just like in medicines. … We go to the big companies who don’t expect to make profits from the poorest billion and say: ‘Will you help us?’ And so they donate it.”