Fears of GMOs based on ‘commercial politics’, says Gates director

Technology needed to help poorer farmers

The head of the Bill Gates Foundation told a Dublin conferencve on hunger that the  dominance of Monsanto in the GM sector meant governments were wary of introducing genetically modified organisms.

The head of the Bill Gates Foundation told a Dublin conferencve on hunger that the dominance of Monsanto in the GM sector meant governments were wary of introducing genetically modified organisms.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013, 22:47


European fear of genetically modified organisms has more to do with “commercial politics than it does with the safety of the products”, the director of the Gates Foundation’s $2.5 billion agricultural strategy has said.

The dominance of Monsanto in the sector meant governments were wary of introducing GMOs, said Sam Dryden, who was attending the conference on hunger in Dublin.

“Right now the only company which sells much is an American company. For anyone to take on that issue and try to open it up it’s really opening it up for Monsanto. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to,” said Mr Dryden, who previously ran a GM seed company, Emergent Genetics.

While introducing GMO products was an individual choice for countries, they could help farming in poorer countries, he added. “We do it because we need to bring whatever safe technologies to help the smallholder farmers,” he said.

The foundation’s agricultural strategy is aimed at helping people to grow their preferred crops in terms of increasing yields, improving nutrition and making them resistant to disease, insects and climate change. The main focus is on sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.

The foundation was seeing the positive effects of non-GMO modern plant-breeding methods, including rice tolerant to being submerged in floods, said Mr Dryden. “If we can increase productivity in a sustainable manner that can make the farmer’s and their family’s life a bit easier,” he said.

China’s work on genome sequencing, which allows the development of disease- and climate-resistant plants, has spread the new technology beyond the private sector.