In February, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) released a report investigating the strategic efforts by the US government, its sponsored programs, funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and agribusiness giants such as Monsanto to force GM technologies on the African continent. While these powerful players claim that GM technologies are key to addressing food insecurity in Africa, AGRA Watch and its partners know that this is not the case and fear that such technologies will harm African communities and the environment.
The report goes into detail discussing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s aggressive promotion of GMOs in Africa. It provides statistics detailing the Gates Foundation’s biotech funding, which has gone largely to projects working to genetically modify staple food crops, as well as to projects that promote the importation, planting and commercialization of GMOs in Africa. Additionally, the report devotes a section to discussing the dangerous power that philanthropic projects can have in affecting the legal environment to suit the private sector. It uses the Gates Foundation and its funding of GM maize and banana projects as case studies, and discusses the many civil society concerns with both projects. The report notes the deception and pressure that the projects use to facilitate the private sector’s takeover of Africa’s food systems, and the resulting loss of food sovereignty, biodiversity, and small-scale farmers’ livelihoods. The report also cites the open letter sent by AGRA Watch partner, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, to the Gates Foundation as an example of civil society’s opposition to these projects, and encourages more action like this.
The report concludes by noting that despite the efforts of programs that undermine democratic processes and use public resources to fund private interests, small-scale farmers’ movements and African civil society can maintain a just food system by promoting policies that support food sovereignty.