ITHACA, N.Y. The United Kingdom's Department of International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Sunday announced they will invest $40 million in a global project led by Cornell University to combat deadly strains of Ug99, an evolving wheat pathogen that poses a dangerous threat to global food security, particularly in the poorest nations of the developing world.
The five-year grant, made to the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project at Cornell will support efforts to identify new stem rust resistant genes in wheat, improve surveillance, and multiply and distribute rust-resistant wheat seed to farmers and their families.
"We cannot overstate the importance of this announcement on the part of two of the most important funders of solutions for addressing the causes of poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world," said Ronnie Coffman, Cornell professor of plant breeding and genetics and director of the DRRW. "Against the backdrop of rising food prices, and wheat in particular, researchers worldwide will be able to play an increasingly vital role in protecting wheat fields from dangerous new forms of stem rust, particularly in countries whose people can ill afford the economic impact of damage to this vital crop."
First discovered in 1998 in Uganda, the original Ug99 has also been found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran. A Global Cereal Rust Monitoring System, housed at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), suggests strains of Ug99 are on the march, threatening major wheat-growing areas of Southern and Eastern Africa, the Central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia and North America.
"We applaud DFID for taking a leadership role in supporting agricultural research," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We hope other governments in both the develo
|Contact: John Carberry|