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Bill Gates Blames Hunger in Africa on Anti-GMO Environmentalists

[Editor's Note: Clearly Bill Gates has not read Failure to Yield, a study on GMOs put out by the Union of Concerned Scientists earlier this year. One would think he'd be a bit more concerned with where his money is going and its effectiveness.]

DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The fight to end hunger is being hurt by environmentalists who insist that genetically modified crops cannot be used in Africa, Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of software giant Microsoft, said on Thursday.

Gates said GMO crops, fertilizer and chemicals are important tools -- although not the only tools -- to help small farms in Africa boost production.

"This global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two," Gates said in his first address on agriculture made during the annual World Food Prize forum.

"Some people insist on an ideal vision of the environment," Gates said. "They have tried to restrict the spread of biotechnology into sub-Saharan Africa without regard to how much hunger and poverty might be reduced by it, or what the farmers themselves might want."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in recent years has turned its focus to helping poor, small-holder farmers grow and sell more crops as a way to reduce hunger and poverty.

The foundation, which has committed $1.4 billion to agricultural development efforts, announced on Thursday nine new grants worth a total of $120 million aimed at raising yields and farming expertise in the developing world.

Funding will go to legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil, higher-yielding varieties of sorghum and millet, new varieties of sweet potatoes that resist pests, and a project that will support African governments to develop policies to serve small farms, Gates said.

Gates told the World Food Prize forum, which honors people who make significant contributions to alleviating hunger and improving agricultural production, that farmers need training and access to markets, not just new seeds.

The prize was established by Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize winning scientist often called "the father of the Green Revolution" for his work with rice and wheat.

Gates acknowledged criticism of the first Green Revolution, which dramatically raised yields in Asia and Latin America, but had environmental impacts and crowded out small farmers.