Bill Gates’ plan to remake food systems by increasing crop yields will do more harm than good

(Planet-Today) An investigative research group has pointed out that Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ plan of a “Green Revolution” in Africa will do more harm than good. Public health group U.S. Right To Know (USRTK) said Gates is pushing to model Africa’s food systems after that of India’s in order to address rampant hunger in the continent. But the promotion of a Green Revolution through industrial agriculture in India has harmed both the ecosystem and worsened the predicament of smallholder farmers.

(Article by Ramon Tomey republished from

In a Feb. 25 piece, USRTK Co-Founder and Managing Editor Stacy Malkan cited Gates’ plans to model African farming after that of India. The Microsoft founder wrote in his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: “If we can help poor farmers raise their crop yields, they’ll earn more money and have more to eat. [Millions] of people in some of the world’s poorest countries will be able to get more food and the nutrients they need.” He asserted that the only thing preventing a similar Green Revolution in Africa is the fact that most farmers cannot buy fertilizers.

Malkan remarked that Gates failed to mention that hunger is largely caused by poverty and inequality. She also pointed out the Microsoft founder’s apparent ignorance of the Green Revolution’s detrimental legacy in India. Aside from the damage it caused to the ecosystem, it worsened the predicament of small farmers – who have taken to the streets to air their grievances.

Ashoka University environmental studies professor Aniket Aga appeared to share Malkan’s sentiment. He wrote in a Jan. 24 piece for Scientific American that the farmer protests in New Delhi “are writing the Green Revolution’s obituary.” Aga noted that decades after the industrial agriculture strategy was put in place, “it is evident that new problems … have added to the old problems of hunger and malnutrition.” He continued: “No amount of tinkering on the marketing end will fix a fundamentally warped and unsustainable production model.”

Aga explained the history and the aftermath of the Green Revolution in India

The professor also outlined the Green Revolution’s history, stemming from its roots as a Cold War strategy. Following India’s 1947 independence from the British, peasant movements led by communists had put pressure on the ruling Indian National Congress party to redistribute land from landlords to peasants. However, the party was unwilling to implement comprehensive land reform as it was beholden to landlords for support in rural areas.

The U.S. government that time promoted the Green Revolution as a possible solution for India. It involved subsidized fertilizers and irrigation, rice and wheat varieties bred to absorb high fertilizer doses and government training programs to help farmers transition into new practices. Given the expense, it was rolled out in a few places such as the northwestern Indian state of Punjab.

The actual extent of the damage caused by the Green Revolution reflected in the ecosystem of the places where it was rolled out. These areas saw falling groundwater tables, saline and degraded soils, biodiversity loss and health disorders from pesticide use. The revolution culminated in a full-blown agrarian crisis by the 1990s marked by many farmers taking their own lives. 

Bill Gates’ plan for agriculture – involving synthetic fertilizers – will impact climate

Synthetic fertilizers play a role in industrial agriculture, and Malkan noted Gates’ espousal of their use. The Microsoft founder did not conceal his support for synthetic fertilizer, calling it a “magical invention that can help lift millions of people out of poverty. He wrote in a November 2018 blog featuring the Yara Tanzania fertilizer distribution plant: “Watching workers fill bags with the tiny white pellets [of synthetic fertilizer] … was a powerful reminder of how every ounce … has the potential to transform lives in Africa.” 

But the problem with synthetic fertilizers is that their transformative nature causes more harm than good. The fertilizers produced by Yara are responsible for worrying increases in nitrous oxide emissions, according to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.

Chemistry professor Kristie Boering suggested limiting the amount of nitrous oxide emissions as a possible first step against greenhouse gases. “On a pound for pound basis, it is really worthwhile to figure out how to limit our emissions of [nitrous oxide] and methane. Limiting [nitrous oxide] emissions can buy us a little more time in figuring out how to reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions.”

The Microsoft founder acknowledged the impact of synthetic fertilizers on climate. Instead of curbing the use of these fertilizers due to lack of evidence that they did increase yields, Gates placed his hope on technological innovation to “dramatically reduce the need for fertilizer and all the emissions it’s responsible for.”

Visit to read more about the negative effects of industrial agriculture.

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