Summary: Exploration of the relationship between the Gates Foundation and Monsanto
Microsoft’s colonisation in Africa is a subject that we last covered earlier this year. It is a complicated and long subject, but our reader Scientes responded specifically to yesterday's post about the Gates Foundation, doing so by showing this article from earlier this month. It alludes to some of the things we previously wrote about, including genetically-modified crops and their relation to Bill Gates.
The preference for private sector contributions to agriculture shapes the Gates Foundation’s funding priorities. In a number of grants, for instance, one corporation appears repeatedly–Monsanto. To some extent, this simply reflects Monsanto’s domination of industrial agricultural research. There are, however, notable synergies between Gates and Monsanto: both are corporate titans that have made millions through technology, in particular through the aggressive defense of proprietary intellectual property. Both organizations are suffused by a culture of expertise, and there’s some overlap between them. Robert Horsch, a former senior vice president at Monsanto, is, for instance, now interim director of Gates’s agricultural development program and head of the science and technology team. Travis English and Paige Miller, researchers with the Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, have uncovered some striking trends in Gates Foundation funding. By following the money, English told us that “AGRA used funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to write twenty-three grants for projects in Kenya. Twelve of those recipients are involved in research in genetically modified agriculture, development or advocacy. About 79 percent of funding in Kenya involves biotech in one way or another.” And, English says, “so far, we have found over $100 million in grants to organizations connected to Monsanto.”
This isn’t surprising in light of the fact that Monsanto and Gates both embrace a model of agriculture that sees farmers suffering a deficit of knowledge–in which seeds, like little tiny beads of software, can be programmed to transmit that knowledge for commercial purposes. This assumes that Green Revolution technologies–including those that substitute for farmers’ knowledge–are not only desirable but neutral. Knowledge is never neutral, however: it inevitably carries and influences relations of power.
Is anyone in this case participating in an experiment for the potential of long-term profit? This is already done at a pharmaceutical level. The population is made dependent on American patents (medicine and agriculture) and those who benefit incidentally receive endorsements and heavy investments in them from the likes of the Gates Foundation, which in turn profits. █