Commentary: Bill Gates, a voice of reason for modern agriculture
One of those voices belongs to Bill Gates. Yes, the Microsoft founder is an advocate for agriculture, championing the use of technology and modern agriculture to alleviate hunger throughout the world. At a speech to the UN rural poverty agency (IFAD) in Rome, this week, Gates called for a “digital revolution” to combat hunger by increasing agricultural productivity through satellites and genetically-engineered seed varieties.
“We have to think hard about how to start taking advantage of the digital revolution that is driving innovation including in farming,” Gates said. “If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it’s possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land.”
Gates’ foundation has committed $2 billion for farmers over the years, and in Rome he announced $200 million in new grants to finance research on a new type of drought-resistant maize, a vaccine to help livestock farmers and a project for training farmers.
“Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty,” he said.
Gates defended the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the developing world and large-scale farm land investments by foreign states in the developing world – both seen as highly controversial by many.
“You should go out and talk to people growing rice and (ask) do they mind that it was created in a laboratory when their child has enough to eat?” Gates said. “The change in the way mankind lives over the last several hundred years is based on adoption of innovative practices and we simply haven’t done enough for those in the greatest need to bring these things (into use).”
Now that’s a voice worth championing to all those who would denounce modern agriculture.