Gates' $25m 'will aid biotechnology' (14/10/2003)

Public and elite foundation subsidy continues to prop up this technology as the companies themselves go increasingly into retreat.

1.Gates Foundation Pledges $ 25-m For 'New Agri Tech'
2.HarvestPlus' grants will aid biotechnology
1.Gates Foundation Pledges $ 25m For 'New Agri Tech'
Ashok B Sharma
New Delhi, Oct 12

The US-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has decided to render an assistance of $25 million for combating malnutritional problems in the developing countries, including India. This assistance will also include programmes for improving the nutritional quality of staple food through `new agricultural technology.'

The $25 million assistance will be routed through the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which is one of the 16 agri research institutes under the apex global body, Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research (CGIAR). IFPRI in turn would initiate programmes for improving the nutritional quality of staple food in developing countries through national research agencies. India is one of the beneficiaries.

The grant will also support HarvestPlus, a global research initiative to breed and disseminate crops for better nutrition, which is being spearheaded by the International Center for Tropical Agricultural Research (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Using an innovative approach called biofortification, agricultural and nutrition scientists will work together to breed crops that provide higher levels of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and Vitamin A.

According to UN estimate, nearly one-third of the world's population suffers from deficiencies in micronutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A. Iron deficiency alone affects over 3.5 billion people in the developing world and is responsible for 100,000 maternal deaths during child birth each year. Vitamin A deficiency causes more than 500,000 children to go blind each year and is a leading cause of child mortality.

The director of the HarvestPlus initiative, Dr Howarth Bouis has already identified crops like rice, wheat, maize, beans, cassava and seeet potato  for biofortification. However, the grant of $50 million from Gates Foundation provides only half of the budgetary requirement of HarvestPlus  initiative for the initial four years.
2.HarvestPlus' grants will aid biotechnology
Rachel Melcer
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/14/2003

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said today it is donating $25 million for an advanced crop-breeding and biotechnology program that could improve nutrition and health in the developing world.

The program, dubbed HarvestPlus, is developing staple crops that are enriched with iron, zinc and Vitamin A (also known as beta carotene). Its scientists will breed and, eventually, genetically modify seeds to produce grains, legumes and vegetables that carry enough of the key nutrients to improve consumers' health and help them to ward off disease.

"The goal of HarvestPlus is to improve the health of the poor," said program director Howarth Bouis.

The program will launch in January. Its initial focus will be on improving the nutritional content of rice, wheat, maize (corn), beans, cassava and sweet potato - the foods that are a staple for the poor of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Once the seeds are developed, it will help to distribute them to farmers big and small, in urban and remote rural areas, Bouis said.

Harvest Plus will combine the efforts of university researchers, non-governmental organizations, private foundations and agribusiness companies.

Monsanto Co., based in Creve Coeur, is donating its knowledge and expertise in growing genetically modified, Vitamin A-enriched white maize. It is the primary crop in many African countries where people are Vitamin A-deficient - a condition that causes blindness, especially among children.

"This is a clear example of the use of biotechnology to meet an unmet need. ... This is a use of biotechnology that directly impacts the farmers and their communities," said Gerard Barry, Monsanto's director of research, product and technology cooperation.

Reporter Rachel Melcer: E-mail: [email protected]

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