British GM crop scientists win $10m grant from Gates 16 Jul 2012
A team of British plant scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich 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.
It is hoped that the work will benefit African farmers who cannot afford fertiliser. Agricultural fertiliser is important across the globe. But 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. Giles Oldroyd, from the John Innes Centre, said the project was vital for poorer African farmers and would have a huge impact on global agriculture.
Success could revolutionise agriculture, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wants to help struggling maize farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Opponents of GM say results will not be achieved for decades at best and global food shortages could be addressed now through improving distribution and cutting waste.