BY BILL GATES ON OCTOBER 22, 2014
Of all the things I did when I visited Cornell University recently, I probably had the most fun brushing up on how plants have sex.
Cornell is one of the world’s top universities for research on improving crops. Their work involves a lot of plant breeding. During one meeting, I got to try my hand at cross-pollinating wheat, which is a surprisingly delicate procedure. It gave me even more respect for the people who do it every day.
Cornell’s work on crop improvement also involves a lot of cutting-edge genetics. You might see the words “crop improvement” and “genetics” in the same sentence and think I’m talking about GMOs. Although Melinda and I do support research in that area—we don’t think poor farmers should be denied the choice to use any tools that might benefit them—the work I saw at Cornell is different. It’s focused on how the science of genetics can improve agriculture in other ways. And the advances are really exciting
I got interested in crop breeding through my work with the Gates Foundation. Because most of the world’s poor people are farmers, helping farmers grow more food is one of the most powerful levers we have for fighting poverty. The faster we can improve crops—making them more nutritious or drought-tolerant, for instance—the faster we can help farmers become more productive.