from ViaCampesina Website
La Via Campesina (www.viacampesina.org), a global peasant movement representing small farmers, landless workers, fisherfolk, rural women, youth and indigenous peoples, with 150 member organizations from 70 countries on five continents, has denounced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s recent acquisition of Monsanto Company shares.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 1994 by Microsoft founder William H. Gates, and today exerts a hegemonic influence on global agricultural development policy. The Foundation channels hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that encourage peasants and farmers to use Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) seed and agrochemicals.
In August the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the $33.5 billion asset trust
endowment that funds the Foundation’s philanthropic projects (and to which
Bill & Melinda are trustees) disclosed that it purchased 500,000 shares of
Monsanto shares for just over $23 million.(1)
Since 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has collaborated with the Rockefeller Foundation, an ardent promoter of GE crops for the world’s poor, to implement the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which is opening up the continent to GE seed and chemicals sold by,
The Foundation has given $456 million to AGRA, and in 2006 hired Robert Horsch, a Monsanto executive for 25 years, to work on the project.
In Kenya about 70 percent of AGRA grantees work directly with Monsanto (2), nearly 80 percent of Gates' funding in the country involves biotech, and over $100 million in grants has been made to Kenyan organizations connected to Monsanto.
In 2008, some 30 percent of the
Foundation's agricultural development funds went to promoting or developing
GE seed varieties (3).
In June GAFSP announced that it gave $35 million to Haiti to increase smallholder farmers’ access to “agricultural inputs, technology, and supply chains.” (5)
In May Monsanto
announced that it donated 475 tons of seed to Haiti, which is being
distributed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The
administrator of USAID is Rajiv Shah, who worked at the Gates Foundation
before being appointed by the Obama administration in 2009.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also funds the US government’s Feed the Future initiative, administered by the State Department.
At a July 20 congressional subcommittee hearing on Feed the Future, executive vice president for Monsanto Gerald Steiner testified that,
Monsanto’s project to develop drought resistant maize for Africa, also
funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.(6)
Perhaps not by coincidence, in July Monsanto’s chief executive officer and president Hugh Grant purchased $2 million of company shares, and vice president and chief financial officer Carl M. Casale bought $1.6 million of shares.
Purchase of Monsanto shares by Gates, Grant and Casale could have been in anticipation of last week’s news that researchers published the genome for wheat, the staple grain for one-third of the world's population.
In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded
$26.8 million to Cornell University to research wheat, and in May awarded
$1.6 million to researchers at Washington State University to develop
drought-resistant GE wheat varieties.(9)
In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monsanto Co. vs. Geertson Seed Farms, its first case about a GE crop. The Court recognized that genetic contamination of non-GE crops from transgene flow of DNA from GE crops, which occurs through the spread of pollen by wind and bees, is harmful and onerous to the environment and farmers.
According to the web site of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
La Via Campesina maintains that the best way to ensure healthy food, adapt to climate change, conserve soils, water and forests, and revitalize rural economies is with policies that promote food sovereignty and small-scale, agroecological farming systems - the foundation of which is native seed varieties.
The United Nations estimates that 75 percent of the world’s plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers have abandoned native seed for genetically-uniform varieties offered by corporations such as Monsanto. Genetic homogeneity increases farmers’ vulnerability to sudden changes in climate and the appearance of new pests and diseases, while seed agrobiodiversity - with native seed adapted to different microclimates, altitudes and soils - is fundamental for adapting to climate change.
and replanting native seed increases agrobiodiversity and strengthens crops’
genetic plasticity (their capacity to adapt rapidly over generations to
changing growing conditions).
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