Wednesday Oct 5, 2022
Wednesday Oct 5, 2022

Bill Gates: Technological innovation would help solve hunger


Nepalnews
2022 Sep 13, 20:32, NEW YORK
Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks at a news conference during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (AP Photo)

Bill Gates says the global hunger crisis is so immense that food aid cannot fully address the problem. What’s also needed, Gates argues, are the kinds of innovations in farming technology that he has long funded to try to reverse the crisis documented in a report released Tuesday by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates points, in particular, to a breakthrough he calls “magic seeds,” crops engineered to adapt to climate change and resist agricultural pests. The Gates Foundation on Tuesday also released a map that models how climate change will likely affect growing conditions for crops in various countries to highlight the urgent need for action.

In assigning technology a pre-eminent role in addressing the world’s food crisis, Gates puts himself at odds with critics who say his ideas conflict with worldwide efforts to protect the environment. They note that such seeds generally need pesticides and fossil fuel-based fertilizers to grow.

Critics also contend that Gates’ approach doesn’t address the urgency of the crisis. Developing “magic seeds” takes years and won’t immediately deliver relief to countries currently enduring widespread suffering because they rely on food imports or are experiencing historic droughts.

It’s a debate that could intensify international pressure to meet the shared goals for global prosperity and peace, known as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, ahead of a 2030 deadline. The 17 goals include ending poverty and hunger, battling climate change, providing access to clean water, working toward gender equality and reducing economic inequality.

Gates pointed to the war in Ukraine and the pandemic as the main causes for the worsening hunger crisis. But his message to other donors and world leaders convening for the U.N. General Assembly this September is that food aid won’t be enough.

A man carries a sack of wheat flour imported from Turkey in the Hamar-Weyne market in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo)
A man carries a sack of wheat flour imported from Turkey in the Hamar-Weyne market in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo)

As he has for more than 15 years, Gates called for investment in agricultural research, highlighting corn seeds that thrive at higher temperatures and in drier conditions than other varieties. Those seeds were developed under a program of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation to which the foundation has given $131 million since 2008.

Since then, the Gates Foundation has spent $1.5 billion on grants focused on agriculture in Africa, according to Candid, a nonprofit that researches philanthropic giving. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is by some measures the largest private foundation in the world and is best known for its work on global health, including vaccines. It began in its current form in 2000, after Gates left his CEO position at Microsoft, the tech giant he co-founded. Forbes estimates his net worth to be around $129 billion.

Gates said he is lucky that his former wife has continued to put her time and energy into the foundation. In July, Gates said he would contribute $20 billion to the foundation in response to the significant setbacks caused by the pandemic, raising its endowment to approximately $70 billion.

Through his giving, investments and public speaking, Gates has held the spotlight in recent years, especially on the topics of vaccines and climate change. But he has also been the subject of conspiracy theories that play off his role as a developer of new technologies and his place among the highest echelons of the wealthy and powerful.

Gates said he does not spend time thinking about conspiracies and that his foundation’s work has nothing to do with his personal reputation.

“If you go into these countries, they’ve never heard of me or the foundation,” Gates said. “Maybe in the rich world somebody is reading some internet thing, but the people we care about have never, will never, and it’s not important that they ever know who I am.”

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Bill Gates Technological innovation help solve hunger Food Aid The Gates Foundation
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