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HarvestPlus' grants will aid biotechnology

(Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Rachel Melcer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/14/03: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said today it is donating $25 million for an advanced crop-breeding and biotechnology program that could improve nutrition and health in the developing world.

The program, dubbed HarvestPlus, is developing staple crops that are enriched with iron, zinc and Vitamin A (also known as beta carotene). Its scientists will breed and, eventually, genetically modify seeds to produce grains, legumes and vegetables that carry enough of the key nutrients to improve consumers' health and help them to ward off disease.

"The goal of HarvestPlus is to improve the health of the poor," said program director Howarth Bouis.

The program will launch in January. Its initial focus will be on improving the nutritional content of rice, wheat, maize (corn), beans, cassava and sweet potato - the foods that are a staple for the poor of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Once the seeds are developed, it will help to distribute them to farmers big and small, in urban and remote rural areas, Bouis said.

Harvest Plus will combine the efforts of university researchers, non-governmental organizations, private foundations and agribusiness companies.

Monsanto Co., based in Creve Coeur, is donating its knowledge and expertise in growing genetically modified, Vitamin A-enriched white maize. It is the primary crop in many African countries where people are Vitamin A-deficient - a condition that causes blindness, especially among children.

"This is a clear example of the use of biotechnology to meet an unmet need. ... This is a use of biotechnology that directly impacts the farmers and their communities," said Gerard Barry, Monsanto's director of research, product and technology cooperation.

Source: http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/business/stories.nsf/Business/ECF7134C90D1E4A886256DF0611BD8?OpenDocument&Headline='HarvestPlus'+grants+will+aid+biotechnology