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Better late than never

After decades of neglect, Europe is starting to rediscover agricultural research, and Africa may stand to benefit

If your best-selling book has been read by the great and the good of the development world, including academics, policymakers and philanthropists like Bill Gates, how do you top that?

Such a thought must have crossed Gordon Conway’s mind as he sat down to prepare the sequel to his 1999 classic, ‘The doubly green revolution: Food for all in the 21st century’. Perhaps the answer is that he didn’t need to. So impressed was Gates that he funded the ecologist and former Rockefeller Foundation president to set up an office at Imperial College London: Conway’s mission would be to persuade European Union member states to revive their earlier passion for agricultural research and in doing so to persuade their populations to become more relaxed about genetically modified technology in food, if not in their own countries, then at least as a tool to combat hunger.

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