In his 2012 Annual Letter, Bill Gates summarizes major efforts taken by his foundation and emphasizes future goals in three areas where the Foundation is engaged. They include Innovation in Agriculture, Global Health and US Education. All of those efforts are probably equally important but I will focus here on the one that seems to be the most striking but at the same time the most neglected by the broad public of the West: the FOOD PROBLEM.
The world is facing a fast population growth and problems arising from this process together with the climate change issues are already affecting underdeveloped and developing countries to much larger extent than the developed world. And it will get worse (unless we do something about it...).
Couple of facts:
1) In poor countries agriculture is a major fraction of the economy;
2) Food prices are rising constantly and have already reached levels of mid 70's of the previous century, and show a trend towards further increase;
3) In underdeveloped and developing countries the proportion of farmers to entire population is high and very often exceeds 50% and families in those countries spend the highest proportion of their incomes on food (e.g. 45% in Kenya but only 9% in UK);
4) Rise in global temperature is predicted alone to decrease the productivity of main crops by over 25%;
5) Earth population is constantly growing with the highest growth rates observed in underdeveloped countries, which implies the growth in food demand that will not meet the needs, especially of the poor.
|Sources: World Bank, 2009; US Department of Agriculture, 2009; Euromonitor International|
by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, click to enlarge
This situation reminds the one of 1960's when major global food crisis seemed to be unavoidable. Luckily, the solution came from the Green Revolution of 1970's and the disaster was prevented at a time.
Today we are facing a similar problem, and according to Bill Gates words, the NEW Green Revolution is required. Unfortunately, the amount of fundings that go to agricultural research, which addresses the needs of the neglected portion of world's population, is absolutely insufficient. The development of crops resistant to different acute climate conditions, as well as to most spreader crop deceases can safe millions of human beings. In this regard a much bigger financial and technological engagement of western countries is inevitable.