Bill Gates tackles controversy over genetically-modified crops
At a talk in front of students at University of California at Berkeley, the Microsoft chairman and philanthropist is quizzed about his views on genetically modified food. Gates recommended the book "Tomorrow's Table" by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak, and believes that improving resistance to drought with new seeds is important to feeding people in developing countries.
>>We have a substantive question about your view of certain areas of biotech and individual rights. Although I personally believe in the promise of biotech, many people question its use in the food system because it is one, exploitative of farmers by biotech companies, two, leads to a loss of genetic diversity and three, is ultimately unsustainable in the long run. Do you have a response to these critics?
>>Yes. laughter The best book on this recently is one called Tomorrow's Table. It's a fantastic book. I totally recommend it, whether you're pro GMO, anti GMO. It will really bring you up to date on what has the science done and it will talk to you about the history of organic farming. You know what are the true principles of organic farming, in terms of helping the farmers, not using insecticides where you don't have to. It's a case where there's a couple. The wife happens to be a genetic scientist who's done some breakthrough rice work that our foundation helped support and the husband is a lifelong organic farmer, that's his thing. And they talk about what are the complimentary elements and the tensions there. It's definitely worth splitting out two different issues, one is what the pricing intellectual property is going to be for this stuff and is that appropriate and the second is, are there any long term negative effects. And although no one is saying you shouldn't have to test and trial this stuff, in fact the GMO crops that have come out have reduced, you know, billions of gallons of use of insecticide. They've helped poor farmers have higher productivity. There've been some pretty substantial benefits. The benefits to come in this area are really quite phenomenal because new techniques, like R and E interference, should let us front run diseases that get out of control and really decimate the poor farmers, more than anyone, cause they can't afford the other inputs and all the work that the production farmers are able to do. What we, our foundation, has done is we've gone to the seed companies and we've gotten all the intellectual property from people like Monsanto, DuPont, Baer, to create seeds for Africa and those companies get no royalties in any way of any kind. They simply donate their scientists to work on seed varieties that combine the traits that they've done for ritual farming, drought resistance being a very, very important one, and get that in for these African farmers. Then we've also funded the regulatory groups in Africa so that each country on a sovereign basis can make a decision, you know given a crop, what are the risks and what are the benefits? And the benefits, you know say your corn grows 30 percent more in a drought year and that you can prove that there's never been a negative effect, you know then that's a decision that that country should make. So these things certainly are sustainable in the sense that scientific improvements in crops, we have a long ways to go. We've done actually very little. So if you get the pricing right, the safety right, it is the only thing where you can say we're gonna reach a nine billion people population by 2050 or so and we're gonna eat richer diets, the poor, not us. You know say we cut our diets in half, that's a rounding there. If they just start getting the basic nutrition levels, we're gonna have to do a lot more output and you can't put that much more land under cultivation. That's a bad thing. There's some that's under cultivation that should not be. So what's the solution? It's productivity. And where are you gonna get it? There's only one place to get that productivity and that's appropriately used, tested, controlled, not to expensive science, being applied to this problem. So you know I have a bias but the book I'm recommending is less biased than I am.
==== Transcribed by Automatic Sync Technologies ====