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Gates Foundation Invests In Monsanto

Discussion in 'Health & Nutrition' started by Vikram singh, Sep 1, 2010.

  1. Vikram singh

    Vikram singh
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    SPNer Thinker

    Feb 25, 2005
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    Both will profit at expense of small-scale African farmers

    Seattle, WA - Farmers and civil society organizations around the world
    are outraged by the recent discovery of further connections between the
    Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto. Last
    week, a financial website published the Gates Foundation's investment
    portfolio, including 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated
    worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (see the
    filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission). This marks a
    substantial increase from its previous holdings, valued at just over
    $360,000 (see the Foundation's 2008 990 Form).

    "The Foundation's direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two
    primary levels," said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington
    Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. "First,
    Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-
    being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling
    environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast
    serious doubt on the Foundation's heavy funding of agricultural
    development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and
    hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an
    enormous conflict of interests."

    Monsanto has already negatively impacted agriculture in African
    countries. For example, in South Africa in 2009, Monsanto's genetically
    modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were
    devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and
    director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some
    farmers suffered up to an 80% crop failure. While Monsanto compensated
    the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the faulty product, it
    gave nothing to the small-scale farmers to whom it had handed out free
    sachets of seeds. "When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the
    irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is
    not very promising,"
    said Mayet. Monsanto's aggressive patenting
    practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny
    farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue--and
    bankrupt--farmers for "patent infringement."

    News of the Foundation's recent Monsanto investment has confirmed the
    misgivings of many farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates in
    Africa, among them the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, who commented, "We
    have long suspected that the founders of AGRA--the Bill and Melinda Gates
    Foundation--had a long and more intimate affair with Monsanto." Indeed,
    according to Travis English, researcher with AGRA Watch, "The
    Foundation's ownership of Monsanto stock is emblematic of a deeper, more
    long-standing involvement with the corporation, particularly in Africa."
    In 2008, AGRA Watch, a project of the Seattle-based organization
    Community Alliance for Global Justice, uncovered many linkages between
    the Foundation's grantees and Monsanto. For example, some grantees (in
    particular about 70% of grantees in Kenya) of the Alliance for a Green
    Revolution in Africa (AGRA)--considered by the Foundation to be its
    "African face"--work directly with Monsanto on agricultural development
    projects. Other prominent links include high-level Foundation staff
    members who were once senior officials for Monsanto, such as Rob Horsch,
    formerly Monsanto Vice President of International Development
    Partnerships and current Senior Program Officer of the Gates
    Agricultural Development Program.

    Transnational corporations like Monsanto have been key collaborators
    with the Foundation and AGRA's grantees in promoting the spread of
    industrial agriculture on the continent. This model of production relies
    on expensive inputs such as chemical fertilizers, genetically modified
    seeds, and herbicides. Though this package represents enticing market
    development opportunities for the private sector, many civil society
    organizations contend it will lead to further displacement of farmers
    from the land, an actual increase in hunger, and migration to already
    swollen cities unable to provide employment opportunities. In the words
    of a representative from the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, "AGRA is
    poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic
    banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what
    little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa."

    A 2008 report initiated by the World Bank and the UN, the International
    Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for
    Development (IAASTD), promotes alternative solutions to the problems of
    hunger and poverty that emphasize their social and economic roots. The
    IAASTD concluded that small-scale agroecological farming is more
    suitable for the third world than the industrial agricultural model
    favored by Gates and Monsanto. In a summary of the key findings of
    IAASTD, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) emphasizes
    the report's warning that "continued reliance on simplistic
    technological fixes--including transgenic crops--will not reduce
    persistent hunger and poverty and could exacerbate environmental
    problems and worsen social inequity." Furthermore, PANNA explains, "The
    Assessment's 21 key findings suggest that small-scale agroecological
    farming may offer one of the best means to feed the hungry while
    protecting the planet."

    The Gates Foundation has been challenged in the past for its
    questionable investments; in 2007, the L.A. Times exposed the Foundation
    for investing in its own grantees and for its "holdings in many
    companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of
    environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker
    rights, or unethical practices." The Times chastised the Foundation for
    what it called "blind-eye investing," with at least 41% of its assets
    invested in "companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals
    or socially-concerned philosophy."

    Although the Foundation announced it would reassess its practices, it
    decided to retain them. As reported by the L.A. Times, chief executive
    of the Foundation Patty Stonesifer defended their investments, stating,
    "It would be naïve...to think that changing the foundation's investment
    policy could stop the human suffering blamed on the practices of
    companies in which it invests billions of dollars." This decision is in
    direct contradiction to the Foundation's official "Investment
    Philosophy", which, according to its website, "defined areas in which
    the endowment will not invest, such as companies whose profit model is
    centrally tied to corporate activity that [Bill and Melinda] find
    egregious. This is why the endowment does not invest in tobacco stocks."

    More recently, the Foundation has come under fire in its own hometown.
    This week, 250 Seattle residents sent postcards expressing their concern
    that the Foundation's approach to agricultural development, rather than
    reducing hunger as pledged, would instead "increase farmer debt, enrich
    agribusiness corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, degrade the
    environment, and dispossess small farmers." In addition to demanding
    that the Foundation instead fund "socially and ecologically appropriate
    practices determined locally by African farmers and scientists" and
    support African food sovereignty, they urged the Foundation to cut all
    ties to Monsanto and the biotechnology industry.

    AGRA Watch, a program of Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global
    Justice, supports African initiatives and programs that foster farmers'
    self-determination and food sovereignty. AGRA Watch also supports public
    engagement in fighting genetic engineering and exploitative agricultural
    policies, and demands transparency and accountability on the part of the
    Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AGRA.


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