The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to donate at least US$25m to research into GM foods with a view to providing malnourished people around the world with food already fortified with vitamins and mineral nutrients.

The project will be operated by HarvestPlus together with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute It will involve several publicly owned scientific research organisations around the world, including the US department of agriculture and several of its research arms, the World Bank and the US food aid programme, which distributes GM food to the world’s poorest.

A committee has also been set up which includes major GM companies, reports the Guardian. This has drawn criticism from development groups including Genewatch, but Ciat director general Joachim Voss stressed that the project was keenly focused on work for the public good, not for private companies.

The Gates foundation has previously donated significant sums to research into malaria and Aids.