Bill Gates in Scotland for 'cutting-edge' crop announcement

26 January 2018, 05:37

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is to visit a Scottish university for the unveiling of a new "cutting-edge" crop research project.

The Microsoft founder will be on a joint visit to the University of Edinburgh when the announcement is made.

It comes after major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into developing more nutritious and flood-resistant foods has helped towards the scheme.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who is announcing the research, said: "Unpredictable flooding, plant diseases and drought are threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa who struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table - the urgency of the task is clear.

"That's why UK aid is supporting British scientists to develop new crops that are more productive, more nutritious and more resistant to droughts and flooding, as well as creating new medicines to protect cattle and poultry from devastating disease.

"This transformative UK aid research will not only stop diseases from destroying the livelihoods of African farmers, it will also help control livestock diseases on British farms.

"New ideas, cutting edge science and innovative partnerships with organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help Britain create a healthier, more secure and prosperous world for us all."

Millions of farmers in Africa, who depend on agriculture to support their families, struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table because of natural disasters.

Now UK scientists are using their expertise to identify specific genes that help them become more nutritious, grow faster and more resilient to disease and extreme weather.

It is estimated the work will help up to 100 million African farmers lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

At the University of Edinburgh, UK scientists are also researching diseases which cause huge economic losses for African farmers, including Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT).

This disease kills more than three million cattle a year and has been estimated to cost over four billion US dollars a year in total to African economies.

Scientists believe within the next five years a new drug will be available to treat AAT.

The research, being carried out by CGIAR could, also help British farmers who face similar threats in the future, by identifying responses to diseases before they reach the UK.