Gates to back Edinburgh-based crop research project

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A "cutting-edge" crop research project in Edinburgh is to be backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Mr Gates will join International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt for the announcement at the University of Edinburgh.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded research into more nutritious and flood resistant foods.

It is claimed the work could lift 100 million African farmers and their families out of poverty.

Ms Mordaunt 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."

Mr Gates is arriving in Edinburgh after attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.

The focus of the research is farmers in Africa who are vulnerable to natural disasters.

Scientists in the UK will attempt to identify specific genes in crops which help them become more nutritious, faster-growing, and more resistant to disease and extreme weather.

Ms Mordaunt added: "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."

Growing population

Edinburgh University principal Prof Sir Timothy O'Shea said: "Feeding the world's growing population well while protecting the natural systems on which we all depend is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

"In addition to world-class research, our Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security will equip future leaders with the knowledge and expertise to tackle this challenge and safeguard the future of the world's food supplies for generations to come."

While in Edinburgh, the minister will also announce plans to develop the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, which is based in both Edinburgh and Nairobi.

Later, Mr Gates will meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and hear a presentation on work being carried out as part of the NHS Global Citizenship Programme.

Mr Gates, and other members of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will be told about three different pieces of international development work being undertaken in Zambia, Ethiopia and Malawi.

The meeting will be chaired by Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood.

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