British GM crop scientists win $10m grant from Gates

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

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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


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  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Let's hope that the scientists at the John Innes Centre have rather more integrity than their Climate Change colleagues round the corner at the UEA who were happy to 'edit' their results to ensure that the grant money kept flowing in...

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I really hope that the ethics of the UK and the Gates Foundation...

    The Gates Foundation was created to dodge 50% tax on asset disposals which would have gone towards society instead of a private family cabal

    UK ethics?
    You mean our poor-people and environment loving Tories??

    Ethics are irrelevant in this case
    (apart from that "ethics mission statement" stuff they all excrete)

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Maybe the £6.4m can be used to invest in cheap fertiliser that can be sold at the fraction of the cost to poor countries which would be safer and more logical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Makes you shudder when you imagine what the military applications are from this research

    The genetic structure of food manipulated by large multinational organisations with no oversight

    Glad I'm old

    The Evil will definitely Inherit this earth

    AIDS "appeared from nowhere" in the 1950s around the Belgian Congo...
    ...from an area where a rejected WHO TB vaccine was being tested

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The genetic manipulation industry reminds me of the Nuclear Industry

    It's safe every body !
    Don't worry !
    We're in control !
    It could never happen !
    A one in a million years probability !


    A bunch of monkeys playing with fire if you ask me
    ...and they'll do anything for a few extra bananas


Comments 5 of 607


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