[Please see fact sheet, background research and post-card text on Media Resources page of website here]

August 25th, 2010

Travis English, AGRA Watch
(206) 335-4405
Brenda Biddle, The Evergreen State College & AGRA Watch
(360) 878-7833

AGRA Watch

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.

Posted in Agra Watch Blog Posts, Events, Food Justice Blog Posts, News.


  1. But lets get this straight the GAtes Foundation spends a lot of money making the developing world better. When Monsanto and others are trying to help a countinent like Africa but agreeing to give away their technology if it can be showed to be useful, this should not be discouraged. Bill Gates happens to recognize that to feed a growing world we need new technology (and old clean technology to be applied to places like Africa. African can’t use the best technology to gropw crops they get 10% the yield in the US this is because they can’t afford the seed and people wouldn’t lend them money because there is a very good chance that drought will make the crop fail but with drought tolerant, insect protected crops they will be more likely to get a crop. Why should the US farmer have this technology to make money and the African small holder not be allowed to use it. You don’t need special equipment or much land. to use GM crops. Most users of GM croips are small holder growers. Look at the facts. Look at the WEMA Bill Gates web site and see for your self. Monsanto is a company who makes money by keeping farmers happy and profitable – there is a very quick response when they don’t – see this years’ sales and again the drought tolerant corn that GAtes is sponsoring is fee of fees that the US farmers have to pay. I hope you would agree with this or would you rather keep the African’s in poverty. tetsingw as just allowed in Kenya and Uganda for drought tolerant corn even when the EU tries to blackmail the countries into staying GM free so that they can feed the EU population. Bill Gates is pretty transparent about his support for good scientific development to help people and that includes GM crops combined with the best traditional genetics

  2. Since 1998 I have followed these titanic thieves. Corn and all crops are common heritage. Monsanto sues farmers who are not using their products because the wind blows the pesticide-corn pollen into unwelcoming farms. These two entities will destroy Africa and ultimately poison all the pollinators such as bees, butterflies and all. No pollinators, no food. For 10 thousand years corn thrived, even with the corn borer worm, to feed us. Now, genetically engineered corn is classified as a pesticide because cornseed has Been genetically altered to include that pesticide in every fiber, kernel and grain of pollen. Our soil is dying and soon food will be the weapon of mass oppression worldwide. No tree, blade of grass, fish, grain or eventually, person, will be safe from Big Biotech. It is indeed the end of the world as we know it. Monsanto has destroyed my faith in humanity. Beware the PinkertonPolice in your yard….

  3. Aside from the myriad, cultural, social and economic problems that the first Green Revolution caused for farmers around the world, there have been dire ecological problems, which have resulted in an inability to grow food in certain areas. The technical fixes of the first Green Revolution have left enormous swathes of dead land and dead water — soil devoid of nutrients, biomass, and living organisms that can support life in a sustainable way. Industrial agriculture destroys topsoil and depletes ground water. Over time, it creates dust bowls and dead zones due to pollution run off in the ocean. The person who posted a message about all the good done by the previous Green Revolution should ask Indian farmers about the long term “success” of the Green Revolution and watch the trailer of the film One Man, One Cow, One Planet to see what farmers all over India are doing now to restore their capacity to grow abundant, healthy, organic food with methods that do not require them to buy external inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides.

  4. In response to the first comment, the exclusive focus on yield in this country displaced a lot of farmers who couldn’t keep up with “economies of scale.” Additionally, the US has continued to subsidize industrial crops even though, through the WTO, World Bank, and IMF, most of the Global South had to give up agricultural subsidies and cut their agriculture extension programs. That Gates and co. may be funding higher yields doesn’t take into account or make any steps toward rectifying the historical and political causes of hunger, and they are repeating the first Green Revolution’s focus on yield, at the expense of biodiversity, farmers’ resiliency, variety of nutritious foods, and access to the foods that are available locally and regionally. It’s important to break down the myth that higher yield + “apolitical” scientific advancements = feeding the world, because we’ve already taken that path and it doesn’t work.

    Furthermore, while it may be commendable that Gates and others are concerned about and wants to help Africa and “developing countries,” that does not excuse them for their alliances with TNCs like Monsanto. Likewise, good intent should not excuse them for their adherence to imperialistic mainstream development discourses that a) fail to acknowledge how the West and our “technological advancements” were built on taking resources from and strategically under-developing Africa, b) fail to take on the international political-economic inequalities and structures that contribute to hunger and poverty, and c) do an enormous disservice to the work, struggles, and innovations of African people.

  5. @Mike Stephens>>> Wake up man! Monsanto is bankrupting small farmers all over the planet! They’re development of frankenfoods is poisoning all of us at the cellular level. You’ve bought all the propaganda media/government BS just like you were intended to. You’re a very good little slave/subject.

  6. Mike Stephens you are scaring me man. There is a myriad of reasons why Monsanto is doing more harm than good. First the GMO food contains DNA from things we try to avoid and there is no long term studies done to determine how these things will act in future generations of crops. There is no telling what kinds of mutations will happen. Then there is no telling what will happen to other things as this stuff is cross pollinated with the natural environment. The mutation part is why Monsanto is also modifying the DNA to keep the plant from growing a second season forcing the farmers to buy 100% seed each year. In the past farmers would only supplement with new seed and retain much of the old seed for the next crop. This practice of buying 100% seed will greatly diminish farmers returns and they are already in the red. You are completely wrong that only the small farmers are the ones using Monsanto seed it is the big guys that are using it the small guys get away with older practices of keeping old seed because they don’t show up on Monsanto’s radar. Second Monsanto holds tons of patents on seed and charge high rates to use them so once we are dependent on their seed if there is a problem with their stock we all starve. As far as Gates helping Monsanto that is only giving money to people that already have it. The government subsidizes farmers because they are always in the red and this hurts the world economy because other countries don’t do this. The government pays some farmers not to produce to keep the rates high enough to help the farmers. The US is fertile enough to grow enough food to supply the entire world and we are paying people not to grow. If they wanted to help Africa then they could just buy the corn from the farmers and save the tax payers some money and give the corn to Africa to do with as they please. If you don’t think Monsanto is doing anything wrong well why is it they fight against labeling of food as GMO or not and educating the public as to what that means and letting the public decide what they put into their bodies? The answer is no one would buy the stuff they would loose profits and no longer be in business. This is proven in Europe who does label and the people decided no GMO’s there is no place for our farmers to sell product in Europe because of this.

  7. From what I can ascertain there would seem to be two primary goals, both of which would justify the alignment between the Gates Foundation and Monsanto. Obviously Monsanto wants to profit from increased influence over the food supply. Here’s a link to a Bill Gates presentation at a TED conference as part of a video where he discusses world population.

    Here’s a link to several resources related to Monsanto and genetically modified agriculture:

  8. Just one more step to turn everyone into complete slaves dependent on the Government, or One World Government that is. Food control is the ultimate weapon.

  9. Well, you certainly see Mr. Gates anti-piracy technology of his MS products, applied to Monsanto seeds, which are re-programmed to grow-once seed and that produce fruits and vegetables with no seeds or no-growing seeds.

  10. Revealing News! Thanks for bringing this forward! The world needs to know how these evil creatures and organizations team up in their agenda of eugenics! We all need to boycott the globalists firm but peacefully! Join the international movement UNITEDWESTRIKE.COM

  11. I have long stated the belief than Microsoft was commercially successful because compromised-blackmailed judges found in it’s favor because Gates is the NSA’s man for internet control and censorship. Foundations have long been conduits for CounterInsurgency and the Monsanto connection fits.

  12. Science without heart and full integrity…. is like a dark, hungry wolf .. in sleeping sheep’s clothing.

    I wouldn’t put stock in either of them.

  13. Monsanto does not sell seeds “reprogrammed to grow-once,” since these (with the “Terminator” gene) have been under a moratorium imposed by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). My understanding is that the moratorium may be lifted at the next meeting (Oct, in Nagoya, Japan). Monsanto certainly has developed such seeds and has them ready for commercialization.

    Unfortunately, there is no effective governmental oversight (independent risk assessment and testing) regarding Monsanto’s seeds. So the possible damages can not be discounted.

  14. Monsanto has proven to be a most evil company. We should also note that it was Gate’s family that headed up planned parenthood and that Bill would love to see a LARGE global population reduction through the use of anti-fertility vaccines. Do the research, get the truth. I would love nothing more than to see Monsanto bankrupt and wiped off the face of the planet. Suing farmers for pollen blowing over into their fields? How low can you get?

  15. Hey Mike Stephens, I don’t know how well informed you are about who Monsanto is. from this insanely naive comment “But lets get this straight the Gates Foundation spends a lot of money making the developing world better. When Monsanto and others are trying to help a continent like Africa but agreeing to give away their technology if it can be showed to be useful, this should not be discouraged.” It sounds like not at all. Talk to any family farm to whom Monsanto “agreed to give away their technology” they don’t do this. this is their version of a drug dealer giving you free crack so they can you get you addicted. only they also lock you down with huge legal contracts that basically bind the farmer into a serfdom relationship with them. This is a classic case of business and charity and philanthropy as usual. While Monsanto robs the countries blind, binds them in legal and economic traps The Gates foundation will be disbursing grants to provide economic relief and cures to diseases that may well been caused by Monsanto it self. Where is Gates Found getting the grant money from? The exploitative profiteering of Monsanto. Africa would be better off not getting either Satan’s tech nor Gate’s money. They should has Haiti did burn all the equipment as soon as it touches African soil. also see this:

  16. I am apalled but not surprised. I read through this pretty quickly as I just got to work! The information you have provided is stellar,however like alot of these articles, I read them, get fired up and there are no solutions offered! Can you provide these as well as this information? Thank you, Victoria

  17. Yes, Martin, I agree, but do not pay attention to the comments made such as Mike Stephens, who happens to be a lead guy at Monsanto, there for over 11 years… Isn’t that right, Mike? These guys surf the net just for anti-Monsantoisms so they can try to dupe the public with their mis-information and make it look as if Monsanto is a ‘good guy’. Right, Mike? Looks like we aren’t being fooled any more!!! The public is stirring from its long sleep…wake up yourself and find a better job before it is too late.

  18. How reckless can you get, I thought the Gates Foundation was mindful and honorable. The truth comes out eventually I guess, control of the people that is all you wanted. Think of all the destruction of the people and the earth that Monsanto has done already. All the health of families around the world has been compromised already for generations. Do you need more experiments on how to destroy the infrastructure or what? Another way to destroy people’s seasons and rituals. Shame on you Gates Foundation and Monsanto What is the difference between theGates Foundations/ Monsanto and the Mafia. A Legitimately controlled Mafia?

  19. @Gilda, thank you for sharing who Mike Stephens is.
    I looked it up. and indeed ya’ll are correct. he the lead in St.Louis. Good catch!!!!

  20. Schumacher was on the money when he said that the only really helpful technology is intermediate technology. Technology that a community can step into, use and maintain. If we really want to help, we must resist the temptation to bestow the benefits of a supposedly superior intellect and culture and engage with a community to explore and develop progress in their terms, not ours.

  21. Thank goodness someone is critical of “the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”. The Investment in Monsanto should be a red flag to everyone who suggest this foundation is saving lives all over the globe.They are not. In fact , if you research carefully one will find this foundation slowly killing people with there programs all aroung the globe.

  22. As a farmer I can say Monsanto seeds are bad. They are bad because the seed are terminator seeds they only have one life and will not yield more crops, so even thought there seeds cost less you will have to buy more yearly. To see Bill Gates doing this surprised me but I don’t want to jump to conclusions to soon.

  23. Bill Gates needs to be alerted to the prevailing bad impact Monsanto has on the livelyhood of Farmers and the ecological damage the company causes worldwide!

  24. it can be very easy to compare the two technologies, one is to set up an experiment in various third world countries for a 10 year span to see the effects of changing weather, social and economic impacts on the small grower, lets say you get 12 growers in each country or region and make 3 groups, A- let them have the money they requiere to use all the conventional modern technologies and B- let have the same amount of money and let them produce the way they have produced by years and C- a group that uses the organic farming technologies, you can make comparisons every year and at the end of the 10 years, lets see what group of farmers are better off.. this will settle all the discussion.

  25. Pollinating insects have become a theatened species globally, from U.S. to Italy to China (where they use human workers to pollinate fruit trees.) An isolated test could be done with a pesticide infused GM planting using a hive of pollinating bees and see what happens to the bees to clear up the issue of possible connection.

  26. With fame and fortune comes responsibility and as I see, read and talk to farmers oversees, there is evidence that The Gates Foundation and Monsanto are destroying the planet while the are becoming more wealthy with blood money. I think it’s time for the rich and famous to wake up from their unconsciousness and begin to have compassion for the hard working farmer. Stop GMOs immediately before is too late. Don’t forget that there is Karma for all human beings!.

  27. There’s power, there’s money, there’s intelligence and education, and then there’s consciousness. Bill Gates and the Foundation may have power, money, intelligence and education, but they are extremely low on the scale of consciousness. Consciousness is expanded awareness: rather than looking at something with blinders on you can see the whole picture and the long-term picture and choose to do things with integrity, knowing that everything you do now can destroy the planet and health of the people who live on earth. To Bill Gates i say, “wake up and take off your blinders!”. “All the good you have done is cancelled out by the support of GMOs and Monsanto. There is a wealth of negative informationon GMOs that is beyond the sight of your blinders. How come other countries and leaders can see it and not you? Open your EYES.”

  28. Solutions for feeding the world using agroecology can see seen in a new film/movie by Marie Monique Robin (The World According to Monsanto). This film, Harvests of the Future, focuses on positive solutions to replaced failed industrial agriculture methods. If human thought and resourcefulness focusses on need and not greed and works with nature, solutions are abundant! This film is thoroughly researched, inspiring, moving, and full of the facts we need to be able to discuss this issue.

    Harvest of the Future (Marie Monique Robin), has just been shown on ARTE television and is available on DVD in English, at the moment mainly on sale in Germany and France. If you look at you will see my review of this film, I really hope English speakers can buy and watch this film very soon, it is a masterpiece.

  29. I must say, as a lot as I enjoyed reading what you had to say, I couldnt help but lose interest after a while. Its as if you had a excellent grasp to the topic matter, but you forgot to include your readers. Perhaps you should think about this from more than 1 angle. Or maybe you shouldnt generalise so significantly. Its better if you think about what others may have to say instead of just going for a gut reaction to the subject. Think about adjusting your own believed process and giving others who may read this the benefit of the doubt.
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