EU and Gates Foundation pledge €500 million for innovations in agriculture

France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) and US entrepreneur and philantropist Bill Gates talk on the boat which carries heads of state to the One Planet Summit at La Seine Musicale venue on the Ile Seguin in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, France, 12 December 2017. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

The European Union together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged on Tuesday (12 December) more than €500 million over the next three years for research and innovation in agriculture.

The  EU, which is the largest donor for development aid, and the  Bill  and  Melinda  Gates  Foundation, which is the larger philanthropist  organisation in this field, will  work together  on  a  joint  initiative  to  drive  research  and  technical  and  organisational innovations  across  agricultural  and  food  systems  in  developing  countries.

Both sides consider that more science  and  innovation  is  required  to  address  some  of  the  most  pressing challenges  posed  by  climate  change.  This joint initiative will build on the outcomes of the Paris Agreement and the recent COP23 held in Bonn on the role of agriculture in the climate change agenda.

Among other philanthropists, Bill Gates is one of the stars at the One Planet Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on the two-year anniversary of the Paris climate accord, which saw nearly 200 governments agree to end their heavy reliance on fossil fuels and limit further global warming.

GMOs

Innovations in agriculture may imply the use of GMOs. Bill Gates is known for his support for genetic engineering. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, he said that GMOs for Africa are going to make a huge difference, particularly because of climate change.

EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development  Neven Mimica  said that the impact of climate  change  was especially important for  less developed  countries,  where  extreme  weather  events  can  cause  dramatic  yield  reductions and  even  famine.

“We  therefore  need  to  support  increased  research  and  innovation  to confront  this  challenge  and  to  improve  better  farming  and  crop  production  systems.  We need to mobilise both public and private funds to finance this research and I am delighted at  the  prospect  of  working  with  the  Bill  and  Melinda  Gates  Foundation  on  this  urgent challenge”, said Mimica, according to the partnership was an  excellent  example  of  co-operation  towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Commission will provide €270 million over the next three years (2018-2020) to foster a strong climate change focus in agriculture and food systems research for development.

The commitment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to match this funding with a $300  million  pledge  over  the  same  period  (2018-2020)  will  boost  climate  change related  innovations  through  research  in  agriculture.

Given the size of the challenge and the need for urgent action, the European Commission and  the  Gates  Foundation  have  started  identifying  priority  investments  towards  putting research  into  use,  fostering  innovation  in  farming  and  food  systems,  and  ensuring  their climate relevance.

The  generation  of  scientific  knowledge  and  applied  innovations  will  encompass  agronomy for  primary  production,  technology  for  all  steps  of  processing,  general  organisation  along the value  chains, and  focus  on major  activities to increase job  creation  and food  security and  nutrition.

They  also  aim  at  enhancing  research  architecture  and  developing  the national  and  regional  research  capacities  conducive  to  innovation.  This  effort  will  also increase  knowledge  and  evidence  needed  for  policies  and  investment  decisions.

The initiative  will  aim  at  stronger  coordination  of  strategies  and  promotion  of  joint  and coordinated  actions.  It will particularly be based on collaborative activities between member states and all interested partners in order to pool financial resources and human expertise through innovative mechanisms leveraging an increased response.

Technical  work  will  continue  between  the   Commission,  the  Bill  and  Melinda Gates Foundation, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and other interested EU member states and partners, in order to identify priorities and develop long-term plans.

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