British GM crop scientists win $10m grant from Gates

Corn crops Poorer farmers in Africa cannot afford agricultural fertiliser for their crops

Related Stories

A team of British plant scientists has won a $10m (£6.4m) grant from the Gates Foundation to develop GM cereal crops.

It is one of the largest single investments into GM in the UK and will be used to cultivate corn, wheat and rice that need little or no fertiliser.

It comes at a time when bio-tech researchers are trying to allay public fears over genetic modification.

The work at the John Innes Centre in Norwich is hoped to benefit African farmers who cannot afford fertiliser.

Agricultural fertiliser is important for crop production across the globe.

But the many of the poorest farmers cannot afford fertiliser - and it is responsible for large greenhouse gas emissions.

The John Innes Centre is trying to engineer cereal crops that could get nitrogen from the air - as peas and beans do - rather than needing chemical ammonia spread on fields.

If successful, it is hoped the project could revolutionise agriculture and, in particular, help struggling maize farmers in sub-Saharan Africa - something the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is keen to do.

'Major problems'

Professor Giles Oldroyd from the John Innes Centre, who is leading the team, said the project was vital for poorer producers and could have a "huge impact" on global agriculture.

"We believe if we can get nitron fixing cereals we can deliver much higher yields to farmers in Africa and allow them to grow enough food for themselves."

However, opponents of GM crops say results will not be achieved for decades at best, and global food shortages could be addressed now through improving distribution and cutting waste.

Pete Riley, campaign director of the group GM Freeze, said there was a realisation by many farmers across the world that "GM is failing to deliver".

"If you look in America, yields haven't increased by any significant amount and often go down," he said.

He added: "Now we're seeing real, major problems for farmers in terms of weeds that are resistant to the herbicides which GM crops have been modified to tolerate."

See more on this story on BBC One's Countryfile at 20:00 BST on Sunday 15 July


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Bill Gates gives pots of money for GM research to be carried out on our soil to benefit African farmers! We really have become the dumping ground of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    134. DenmarK
    The luddites of this world have been given too much say in this argument
    You have a point but dont be conned into assuming all change and technology is good.
    We need to carefully way up the pro's, con's and risks associated with all innovation.
    Especially, where big money and the sniff of large profits is involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    GM crops could be the new DDT. The effects become apparent only years after they are in general use. The potential to infect the arable farmland of the world looms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.


    Agbiotech gains no economic benefit from producing products that reduce the need for pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

    The GM industry is dedicated to patenting and copyrighting food products that lock farmers into proprietary license cycles, with Agbiotech having the Bladerunner style ability to identify patents on every cell of the product and prosecute those without a user license

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    So if they ARE successful will they be submitting a public patent, free to all users, and no user may profit from this research in any manner or form?

    ...or perhaps not...

    Perhaps they could modify a gene to make people who work for corporations altruistic

  • Comment number 142.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    The problem being that GM is not about alleviating starvation its about making money for the likes of Monsanto who patent the seeds. If the farmers become reliant on them they are then ensnared for good. More helpful would be education about more diverse crop use, irrigation methods, and fertilizers (eg micro-dosing which uses much lower amounts) so farmers are independent from big agri-business

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    GM is about maximising profit not about production, intensive farming is unsustainable. GM scientists use the same rhetoric re pesticides in the 50’s. Promising everything when the result was environmental disasters, wildlife has not been the same since! GM will cross contaminate, create artificial ecosystems and consumers will still pay more! Don’t be fooled, forgot you already have been!

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    From reaction to some very sensible comments it's easy to see the Monsanto corp are here in force this morning!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    "So what will happen if we make an accident with a GM crop - half tomato, half virus ? What will happen ?"

    Im sorry, what? I dont even... are you trolling? "Half tomato-Half virus?" Please, educate yourself on basic genetics, let alone modifying them, before coming out with drivel like that....

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    "GM just means we can make changes in months not centuries"

    And nature fought back with changes in years not millenia..

    This Seed is the answer to current GM crop problems, but where do Monsanto fit in. It's all about the money and I doubt Gate's would buy 500000 shares in Monsanto to promote an alternative. Something stinks

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    If Gates was a real philanthropist he wouldn't have created a business model that denied millions the opportunity to get themselves out of poverty while he and his ilk entered the realm of the obscenely wealthy.

    Gates' obscene wealth keeps the World in famine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    GM is not safe and cannot be proved to be safe in a lab, the only way for it to be proved safe is for an entire generation of kids to eat them for their entire lifespan and then compare EVERYTHING about them to a generation of no GM eaters, for any and all side effects, lower/higher average blood pressure, heart-rate, white-cell count, the list is nearly endless!

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    The luddites of this world have been given too much say in this argument. If it were down them, we’d all be still living in mud huts and burning scientists at the stake for being in league with the devil. They should be made to live off turnip soup and rabbit for a year as punishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    God I hate Hippies.

    Having achieved Nirvana and living a parasitic existence on the edges of Society they become instant experts on any subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Accidents happen. We see that with Fukushima. Big big accidents.

    So what will happen if we make an accident with a GM crop - half tomato, half virus ? What will happen ?

    Are you going to 'recall' it ? Or will the accident just keep on growing and spreading ?

    It is great to have science.

    But it is a different thing to have intelligence.

    So many accidents ? Is man capable of intelligence ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    In the past I seem to remember farmers in some trials complaining that F1 seed from GM crops could not be used to grow the next years crop. This would mean poor farmers have to buy seed from the suppliers every year. This will not fight poverty in the 3rd world especially in years of failing crops. Science good. commercial ethics bad. This needs to be changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    So it's all being done for Africa, where no doubt any large scale testing will be done, well away from the North American continent. Before GM of any kind is allowed to be put into general use or even large scale trials it's the researchers' and bio-industrialists' job to show there's no risk of harm, (long- or short term). And to do it in language we can all understand. They've not done it yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Hybridisation as practiced over the previous several thousand years is completelly different to genetic modification. GM is a step too far and is dangerous potentially resulting in disaterous consequences. GM is more about American firms charging poor farmers in Africa to grow crops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    GM is not 'only' speeding up natural cross breeding. It does the naturally impossible crossing wheat with fish sort of thing. Do not be conned that they are doing nothing that could happen naturally.

    This is only about patenting food. Next it will be air!

    We do not need more food we need less humans anyway, the planet is not going to 'GM' more metals, and other resources.


Page 24 of 31


More Science & Environment stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.