by Eric Holt Gimenez
Executive Director, Food
First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
August 26, 2010
If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch's recent
announcement of the Foundation's investment of
$23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto
stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed
If you are one of those people who believes the axiom that Monsanto
is the farmer's friend (and the corollary, that its climate-ready,
bio-fortified GMOs can save the world from hunger) you will not be
surprised, disappointed, or find any conflict of interest in this
But if you are part of the growing population who gets their
information about GMOs from
scientists who are not beholden to
corporate funding, has a problem with
anti-trust issues, or is getting
queasy about the increasing monopoly power of philanthropy
capital... it's time to say the Emperor has no clothes.
Under the guise of "sustainability" the Foundation has been
spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform African into
a GMO-friendly continent. The public relations flagship for this
effort is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA),
a massive Green Revolution project. Up to now AGRA spokespeople have
been slippery, and frankly, contradictory about their stance on GMOs.
The first Director of AGRA was Gary Toenniessen, a career program
officer for Rockefeller Foundation. He said AGRA was not ruling out
GMOs and if and when they were introduced it would be with all the
After AGRA was criticized for not having
any Africans, Kofi Anan was named Chairman in 2007. He first said
GMOs were out of the picture, the next day he recapitulated.
Last Spring, Joe DeVries, who
runs the AGRA seed program was asked by
a Worldwatch blogger if they were
engaging in genetic engineering.
"Read our lips," said Joe DeVries.
"We are not promoting or funding research for GMOs (genetically
In fact, in Kenya alone AGRA has used
funds from the Gates Foundation to write grants for research in
genetically modified agriculture.
Nearly 80% of Gates' funding in Kenya
involves biotech and there have been over $100 million in grants to
organizations connected to Monsanto. In 2008, some 30% of the
Foundation's agricultural development funds went to promoting or
developing genetically modified seeds (See
Ending Africa's Hunger).
More to the point is that - as Monsanto and Gates are fully aware -
to establish a healthy GMO industry one first needs a strong
conventional breeding program in place: labs, experiment stations,
agronomists, extensionists, molecular biologists... and farmer's
All of which,
...are actively lining up.
They also need the power of U.S. government funding. That is where
the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Casey-Lugar
come in. USAID is now headed up by
former Gates employee Rajiv Shah.
Casey-Lugar Global Food Security act
ties foreign aid to GMOs. When the Gates Foundation places a bet,
they like to hold all the cards.
Africa's seeds are a potential windfall investment for Monsanto.
Regardless of the philanthropic side of its intentions, cloaked in
the sheep's clothing of AGRA, the Gates Foundation is moving
stealthily opening African seed market to global corporations.
When the research, extension, and U.S.
foreign aid is all in place Monsanto will swoop in for the feast.