Three examples of problems with Gates Foundation grants

AGRA Watch research has found these problems with Gates Foundation grants:

Bandaid solutions that deepen the root problems: Queensland Institute of Technology – $8.4 million ($3.9mil in 2005, $4.5mil in 2009) – to fortify bananas, a staple food of Uganda, with beta carotine and iron. Like the infamous golden rice project, this replaces local diversity with a few engineered varieties, designed by distant researchers who have none of the farmer’s knowledge of local conditions or the special qualities of handed-down species. Such a solution is a prime example of ignoring the root cause of vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition – namely the replacement of diverse vitamin-rich food crops by cash crops – and implementing a bandaid solution that masks symptoms but in fact exacerbates the depeletion of biodiversity.

A stubborn focus on yield, in face of all contrary evidence: International Potato Center – $21.3 million (2009) – to develop high-yielding varieties of sweet potato. Study after scientific study has debunked the myth that low yield and insufficient production is the cause of world hunger. There is ample evidence today that the problem instead is poverty and lack of access, which is deepened by destruction of local food systems and commercialization of food. Grants by the Gates’ Foundation and AGRA continue to focus on yield, priming Africa for a system suited to the needs of the profit-seeking, yield-oriented commercial farmer rather than the peasant or small farmer producing diverse crops for a local community.

Supporting the power of Western science and scientists in Africa: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council – $8 million (2010)  – to support [high quality? Their term/  do we want to characterize it so/] research on sustainable crop production in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The bulk of the Gates Foundation’s grants are distributed to European or American organizations rather than African ones, even if the programs they then implement are based in Africa. This grant, for example, which uses Gates’ funding to give subgrants to particular researchers and research projects, contains a special provision to support emerging African and South Asian scientists with at least 10% of funds, already a miniscule percentage. Yet the record of these subgrants does not reflect even this stipulation. Every single subgrant given by the program thus far has been to a Western scientist in a UK research institution. This may not be+ a result of conscious intentions but of a deeply embedded structural bias that casts African scientists and scientific institutions as not qualified or legitimate enough to receive grant funding.


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