Gates foundation funds £6.4m GM work

Published on Monday, 16 July 2012 12:08
Written by Vicki Mitchem

Scientists at the UK's John Innes Centre are to lead a £6.4million research project on genetically modified cereal crops.

It's hoped the work will revolutionise agriculture in the developing world by lessening the need for the application of expensive fertilisers.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates' charity has funded the $10millon investment – the single biggest in UK GM research.

Professor Giles Oldroyd will be leading the project at the centre.

He said: "During the green revolution, nitrogen fertilisers helped triple cereal yields in some areas. But these chemicals are unaffordable for small-scale farmers in the developing world."

The five-year project will centre on developing crops that can fix nitrogen in the same way that peas and beans do. Research will start by attempting to engineer maize that can sense nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria. Even slight increases could improve yields for farmers who do not have access to fertilisers.

"We're excited about the long-term potential of this research to transform the lives of small farmers who depend on agriculture for their food and livelihoods," said Katherine Kahn, senior program officer of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"We need innovation for farmers to increase their productivity in a sustainable way so that they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Improving access to nitrogen could dramatically boost the crop yields of farmers in Africa."

GM has returned to the headlines recently with news that scientists from Rothamsted Research are conducting a controlled experiment to test whether wheat that can repel aphid attack works in the field. Anti-GM protestors were thwarted in their attempts to sabotage the trials in May.

Source: ©NFU

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