01.10.11

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AGRA-Gates Lobbying for Monopolies on Life

Posted in Bill Gates, Patents at 1:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Post cross-validated by G. Forbes

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Summary: Articles from the past two months about Bill Gates’ boosting of patents on seeds and now animals too

IN THE COMING days we are going to write about the latest publications that Bill Gates practically or virtually ‘bought’. On issues close to Gates’ heart (or wallet), they will boost his point or view (or, to put it differently, they will advance his agenda). Before we get to that, here are some recent stories that we missed and feel ought to be shared at least as a part of a prerequisite.

“Website funded by the Gates Foundation praises simplistic solutions funded by the Gates Foundation,” argues Gates Keepers (regarding
this Gates-paid advert disguised as a blog post):

[This] website funded by the Gates Foundation extolls the virtues of ‘health solutions’, most of which are also funded by the Gates Foundation. There is no disclaimer.

Gates Keepers don’t blame the intern for choosing them as that may be how she is going to earn her living for the next half century. But do we trust an intern to tell us what WE want to see more of?

Here is one way of putting it:

But some scientists, having experienced the way Gates can give, then take away, are wary of pinning their research programs to the interests of one very rich man.

These people are organising events to lobby the British government, as Oxfam blogs (see this for context about Oxfam and Monsanto) shyly admit in “An evening with Bill and Melinda Gates and the decade of vaccines: is this the future of aid?”:

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, was in the audience, and the Gateses dropped in on David Cameron to drive home their message. As they stressed business thinking, ‘return on investment’ and the need to increase impact assessment, backed by a blizzard of stats, it became clear just how influential the Gates Foundation has become in terms of the aid discourse both here and in the US.

Petitions protesting what the Gates Foundation is doing with AGRA, which is a sort of front group to promote particular corporate interests (there are many just like it which get disguised similarly). One site is trying to build the pressure on the Gates Foundation:

The Gates Foundation is increasingly being forced to deal with criticism of its more dubious activities and programmes. With Via Campesina, the AGRA Watch campaign group (AGRA = The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an initiative of the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its the biggest grantee) based, like the Gates Foundation, in Seattle, has initiated both a letter for sign on and an electronic petition to the Gates Foundation. Please sign on, and also circulate to other groups and individuals.

Also see this “Sign-on letter to the Gates Foundation sponsored by AGRA Watch/Community Alliance for Global Justice & La Via Campesina North America” (from Seattle Global Justice). There is the article “Dysfunctional philanthropy: Gates and AGRA“:

English began by first providing evidence showing that there is no reason to believe AGRA is an African led organization as stated by the Gates Foundation. He followed this by illustrating the funding patterns of Gates/AGRA, making strong connections to Monsanto both within the Foundation itself and among their grantees. The tie with Monsanto was also illustrated by presenting the recent purchase of its stock by the Foundation; other ways in which Gates is promoting corporate incursions into Africa include TechnoServe’s fruit project with Coca-, and the African Harvest “Golden Sorghum” work. He also discussed highlights from a conference in Uganda in which presenters urged African governments to harmonize and fast track biosafety legislation that provides industry with the least amount of barriers, and in the words of Gates funded Africa Harvest, “less truth and more emotion” as the keys to getting farmers and consumers to adopt GM foods.

Also: “Activists challenge Gates Foundation’s agricultural development strategy

Seattle-based AGRA Watch, an activist organization that believes the Gates Foundation’s approach to agricultural reform in Africa is environmentally, economically and ethically unsound, today released a protest letter signed by more than 100 organizations, food experts and scientists opposed to the strategy.

The letter was released to coincide with street protests in Cancun held by groups angry with the nature of the climate talks going on there this week. (Note: KPLU’s Liam Moriarty is there, and reports here.)

And for a change, the booster of the Gates Foundation gives room to critics, echoing that message we find under the headline “eattle-led coalition tells Gates Foundation to change approach” (also in Accra Daily Mail and elsewhere)

A coalition of groups led by Seattle-based activists has sent a letter and online petition to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, saying its current approach to agriculture in Africa is unlikely to solve problems of hunger, poverty and climate change, and may make them worse.

The letter, signed by 100 organizations and individuals from 30 countries, was released to coincide with protests at the UN climate talks in Cancun.

Led by the Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ), the coalition said the foundation and its private sector partners are pushing industrialized agriculture and genetically engineered crops at the expense of small farmers and the environment.

“Gates-funded AGRA Flogged” is how Gates Keepers summarised it:

You would have to look hard to find two more optimistic people to flog Gates-funded AGRA than the ever-sanguine Sachs and the failed bureaucrat Annan.

[...]

If food production in Africa increases, it is unlikely to be due to AGRA.

Monsanto’s interest in monopolising seeds was also discussed in “Monsanto, Monsanto, Monsanto. And China.

Many people I know are ambivalent about Monsanto. When the Gates Foundation invested in the Monsanto, for example, The UK Guardian couldn’t but ask why…

One has to remember that this article was written after The Guardian had been paid by Gates. It was a poor article as we noted at the time.

The likes of Monsanto and Gates are owning life by modifying genes, in animals too: “Oxitec has received $5 million from the Gates program, but the Grand Cayman trial is not part of that.”

Is Gates trying to privatise life now, at least by assisting those who do plot to do so for profit?

Regarding GMO, there is a lot more that we found recently and have not had time to share. Take for example:

i. The Gates Foundation’s Delusional Techno-Messianism

Of course, given the power and influence the Gates Foundation now wields not just in Washington but also globally, this will not come anytime soon. (The man with the gold makes the rules, and all that.) In all likelihood, the next Green Revolution—if it succeeds it will almost certainly be along the lines of the largely Gates-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa—will have to be revealed as no more of a silver bullet than its predecessor of half-a-century ago for any serious reconsideration to begin. In the meantime, though, raising the public’s expectations of what aid can accomplish is almost certainly going to backfire when, inevitably, those expectations fail to materialize. If our policymakers cannot bring themselves to devise policy like adults, perhaps they could see their way clear to treating the public like adults and speak accordingly.

ii. Gates Foundation Urged to Back Away From Pushing GE Crops, Industrialized Agriculture for Africa

A coalition of 100 groups has written to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, urging the foundation to refocus its activities in Africa away from genetically engineered crops and industrial agriculture.

The groups signing the letter included environmentalists, academics and groups opposed to genetic engineering of food crops. They said they are concerned the foundation’s grants are “heavily distorted in favor of supporting inappropriate high-tech agricultural activities, ignoring scientific studies that confirm the value of small-scale agro-ecological approaches.”

iii. World Food Prize winner: IT revolution won’t be model for agriculture in Africa

During a lively Q&A session, he sparred with a representative from Seattle-based AGRAWatch, which opposes the use of GMO crops and the Gates Foundation’s close ties with GMO promoters and agribusinesses like Monsanto.

But agribusinesses possess the type of expertise that can help build Africa’s agricultural sector, Ejeta said. Few of them currently operate on the continent, because profit margins are too slim.

“I would like to see them there,” he said – but in a non-exploitative way.

Ejeta helped develop AGRA, the Gates-funded push for a Green Revolution in Africa. Among the goals are introducing more productive crop varieties through both conventional breeding and genetic modification, and improving distribution of fertilizers and pesticides.

It remains to be seen whether the program will be effective, said Ejeta, who criticized the preference for funneling money through NGOs rather than giving it directly to African governments.

“They don’t blink an eye at putting resources in the hands of beltway bandits, consulting companies masquerading as NGOs.”

Loud applause greeted a questioner who wondered why AGRA doesn’t instead promote organic agriculture.

As with Gates, Ejeta didn’t hesitate to disappoint his audience.

iv. Bill Gates Foundation / Bill Gates helps the city of Harare to refurbish its infrastructure (Mugabe’s town gets money from the Gates Foundation, usually it involves ‘agriculture’ too)

v. An African Green Revolution: Can the Continent Become Agriculturally Self-Sufficient?

Historically, Africa was bypassed by the green revolutions that happened in countries like India and Mexico, due to a lack of good seeds and water management, and no government support. “The World Bank said ‘no subsidies, no state support’…so the seeds were never adopted, the fertilizer was unaffordable, there was no uptake of modern varieties…without using fertilizer, as [Professor] Pedro Sanchez showed in his research, the soil nutrients were utterly depleted, and that became one of the main findings for the need to do something different,” said Professor Sachs. In India and Mexico, only one kind of crop was grown—it was a monoculture—but Africa has a wide variety of foods: cassava, yams, sorghum, and millet, to name some. “We need to produce all these varieties in quantities to feed our populations,” said Mr. Annan.

vi. Ending Africa’s Hunger Means Listening to Farmers

Their answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

[...]

Following the food crisis in 2008 there is a major push for a “new green revolution” in Africa, championed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) a $400 million effort headed by Kofi Annan, former secretary- general of the United Nations and funded by the Gates Foundation and the Rockrfeller Foundation. AGRA aims to double or quadruple the yields of smallholder farms.

“We’re are choosing to invest in what we believe will work,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a member of the AGRA board and president of the Global Development Program, which is one of three focus areas for the Gates Foundation.

[...]

AGRA, many scientists and large NGOs believe the business approach of high-technology and public-private partnerships is the way to feed Africa, they can’t accept the smallholders’ worldview, he said. What will happen instead is that smallholders will buy the new hybrid seed, fertiliser and pesticide on credit, eventually be forced off their land to repay their debts and end up in the cities, while large corporate style farms will consolidate smallholder land.

“This is what happened to many of India’s smallholders,” Pimbert said.

For more of our writings about AGRA see (in order of relevance) [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

One reader, Tony Whitcomb, sent this pointer to his blog, which also mentions Monsanto. People become better aware of the Gates Foundation’s deeds and consequences.

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