Will the resistance to genetically modified food by European regulators, activists and media be a problem? "It could be a big obstacle," admits Gates. This opposition began "at a time when the benefits (of this technology) were small -- tomatoes that lasted longer on the shelf -- and at the same time as Chernobyl and mad cow disease. People wondered if scientists were tough enough on themselves about the risks they were creating. Now the benefits are likely to come -- offsetting the damage of climate change, addressing the situation of the poor. The maturity of science is greater and the experience with these crops has been very good."
Gates' push for a second green revolution demonstrates much about his philanthropic method, which is non-ideological and results-driven. His faith in scientific progress is admirably old fashioned. It is trendy in some quarters of the environmental community to accept the grave warnings of science on global climate and ecological breakdown, but to dismiss the promise of science in addressing great needs. Protesters attack "Frankenfoods" and trash fields of genetically modified crops -- imposing a cost they will not bear themselves.
"A lot of stuff we do," says Gates, "is based on optimism about innovation for the needs of the poorest." And the poorest benefit because Bill Gates finds seed varieties cool.