UK aid partners with Gates Foundation to tackle global food insecurity
UK aid is tackling global food insecurity through a new project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to protect plants from the threat of climate change, pests and diseases.
The new funding will allow scientists to research cutting-edge technology to protect crops and also to produce “super crops” that will be more efficient and withstand the impacts of climate change. For example, one of the projects will work to increase yields by harnessing major advances in photosynthesis.
International Development Secretary Alok Sharma and Bill Gates visited the Sainsbury Lab at the University of Cambridge yesterday (Monday 7 October). They met scientists working on advances in crop engineering to help plants capture nitrogen naturally and grow without the need for chemical fertilisers which can damage the environment.
Nearly 80% of people in the developing world rely on farming for their livelihoods but the impacts of climate change and the damage caused by pests and diseases have left millions struggling to grow enough crops to put food on the table.
International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said:
“We are proud to be working alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle some of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time.
“Feeding a global population of 10 billion by 2050 is a major challenge, particularly with pests and diseases destroying up to 40% of food produced.
“Our joint investment in cutting-edge British research will produce crops that can thrive in conditions caused by climate change. This means people in the developing world will have enough food to eat, British consumers get stable prices, and we can protect our planet by avoiding fertilisers or damaging pesticides.”
Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said:
“Pests and diseases are among the biggest challenges currently facing global food systems, and the threat is intensifying due to climate change, so I’m pleased that the UK Government is stepping up its partnership with our foundation to help protect the livelihoods of farming communities around the world.
“With DFID’s additional investment, the scientists I’ve met here at Cambridge University will have the potential to transform agriculture in developing countries by helping crops grow more efficiently and increasing overall yield. DFID is one of our most valued partners, and by working together we can continue to tackle poverty and deliver agriculture that is resilient in the face of climate change.”
Global demand for food is estimated to increase by up to 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050, yet climate change poses a serious threat to global food security. This new funding for research will mean smallholder farmers can take control of their productivity and maximise crop yields, contributing to economic growth.
Mr Sharma and Mr Gates Bill participated in a demonstration of revolutionary kit, developed by the John Innes Centre, which helps farmers diagnose crop diseases within hours – something that can typically take months to do.