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June 18, 2012

Gates Foundation and Monsanto: when a non-profit gets in bed with the enemy

For opponents of GM crops in particular and of Monsanto’s business methods in general, whatever good work the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing in the areas of health and agriculture around the world is neutralized by its shareholding in the famous/infamous/notorious giant seed company.

 The Gates Foundation weakly argues that its philanthropic and business arms are quite separate and do not influence each other. The many anti-GM crops people who are unconvinced by this find it much more logical to see the foundation, through its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), as part of the early work for Monsanto, a company with a generally poor image, to get a foothold in and eventually dominate the seed market in Africa, with consequences the opponents believe will be dire for African farmers.

The Monsanto-Gates Foundation link is not yet a big talking point even in the African countries where AGRA has a prominent presence. In pitifully, willfully, irresponsibly donor-dependent Africa, AGRA is just another exciting ‘donor project.’ Donor projects bring in some much-needed, hard-to-come-by money and jobs, so are therefore not to be scrutinized too closely or questioned.

'Shhhh, don't publicly express doubt about their projects; the donors might get upset and leave in a huff with their money.'

But in the home country of the Gates Foundation and Monsanto, bands of activists loudly interrogate what they consider to be an unholy alliance, as implied by the provocative heading of an article by Paul Haeder, ‘When a non-profit gets in bed with the enemy.’

He writes, ‘More than 40 people, as part of a global day of action against Monsanto, recently marched to and around the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “campus” to deliver a letter asking the Foundation to divest from Monsanto (the Foundation has more than $23 million in Monsanto stock as part of a very odd mix of companies in their portfolio).’

Taking no prisoners, Haeder continues, ‘Trying to eradicate developing countries’ diseases, forcing genetically modified farming into Africa…are just a few of the Gates Foundation’s larger goals…’

Haeder doesn’t hide his feelings about AGRA’s godfather!

He asks, ‘What’s all the protesting about?’

And he answers, ‘According to Dena Hoff, a diversified family farmer… “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s purchase of Monsanto shares indicates that the Gates Foundation’s interest in promoting the company’s seed is less about philanthropy than about profit-making. The Foundation is helping to open new markets for Monsanto, which is already the largest seed company in the world.”

To those few who may not be aware of it, Haeder helpfully points out that ‘Monsanto, who created the dioxin-leeching defoliant Agents Orange and Blue, is one of the main drivers of genetically modified foods.’

He then goes into greater detail about several now well-known criticisms of GM crops, focusing attention on what Haeder and many others see as the basic incongruity of the Gates Foundation being between the bed sheets with Monsanto.

After these two entities have finished consummating their tryst, what kind of agricultural offspring is their romp going to produce in Africa?

Even as an increasing number of Africa’s weak governments fall in line with the GM crops gospel (sugar coated with donor aid, a drug African governments are now helplessly hooked on), many more people in Africa are pondering just the sort of questions that Haeder poses.

Paul Haeder's article is long and detailed, and provides plenty of food for thought about just what the Gates Foundation, its AGRA and their friends, partners and collaborators are bringing to Africa.

African Agriculture

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