Gates Foundation helping poor farmers

Jan. 20, 2008 at 4:21 PM

SEATTLE, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle is attempting to help poor farmers around the world by offering agricultural assistance.

Rajiv Shah, who heads up the Gates Foundation's agricultural programs, said the Microsoft founder's charitable group was attempting to introduce new agricultural methods aimed at improving farming worldwide, The Seattle Times reported Sunday.

"This is not just about helping very poor people grow a little more food," Shah said. "This is about transforming agricultural economies so people can move on with their lives."

While the foundation has already spent more than $350 million in grants to help struggling farming areas in Africa and Asia, the group has been criticized for its solutions to agricultural issues.

Critics have said the Microsoft chairman's group is simply setting the stage for the growth of genetically engineered food through its technology-centric approach.

Those critics also told the Times the foundation's market-oriented approach could easily lead to increased involvement by big agribusiness interests.

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