At the World Food Prize Forum in Des Moines on Thursday, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates praised the work of Norman Borlaug and called for a new “Green Revolution” to help feed the poorest of the world’s poor. Gates also announced grants totaling about $120 million to help small farmers in developing countries such as Africa.
“In the middle of the 20th century, experts predicted famine and starvation, but they turned out to be wrong – because they did not predict Norman Borlaug. He not only showed humanity how to get more food from the earth – he proved that farming has the power to lift up the lives of the poor,” Gates said.
The billionaire noted that Borlaug’s Green Revolution “helped avert famine, save hundreds of millions of lives, and lift whole countries out of poverty” but “it didn’t go far enough. It didn’t go to Africa.”
He blames that on ideological differences between technology and environmentalism that forces a “false choice” between productivity and sustainability. “It blocks important advances. It breeds hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers. The fact is, we need both productivity and sustainability – and there is no reason we can’t have both.”
“We have to develop crops, including new inputs to go with them that can grow in a drought,” Gates said. “We have to have crops that can survive a flood, that can resist pests and new diseases. We need higher yields on the same land, despite more difficult weather. And we will never get there without a continuous and urgent, science-based search to increase productivity, especially focused on the needs of small farms in the developing world.”
I’m no big fan of Bill Gates, but I was very pleased to hear him standing up to radical environmentalists who want us to move backward instead of forward and supporting the use of biotech crops to help the poor in developing countries grow enough food to feed themselves.
You can watch Gates’ address on YouTube in three different segments (due to the 10 minute limit on videos for YouTube). Here is the first installment.