Gates Chides Critics, Defends Biotech Crops

Bill Gates, Chair of Microsoft, keynotes the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines on Thursday.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman who is pouring part of his fortune into alleviating global poverty, defended the use of genetically engineered crops to help poor farmers increase food production. In what was billed as his first major speech on agriculture, Gates chided critics who he said are “instantly hostile to any emphasis on productivity.

Gates said transgenic crops “can help address farmers’ challenges faster and more efficiently than conventional breeding alone.”

His foundation has committed about $1.4 billion to agricultural development, with about 5 percent of that targeted to biotechnology projects, including one focused on developing drought-tolerant corn for us in east Africa. Gates said the seeds would be licensed royalty free to distributors so that there won’t be any extra cost to farmers. The seeds could allow farmers to increase corn production by 2 million tons a year during a moderate drought, he said.

Also, watch the video of Gates’ comments via the Des Moines Register.

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