Advocates of sustainable agriculture are shocked by the recent discovery of significant financial connection between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto.
In August, a financial website published the Gates Foundation’s investment portfolio, which included recent purchases of 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock estimated to be worth over $23 million. (See the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission).
The most troubling part about this discovery is that it marks a substantial increase from the Foundation’s previous Monsanto holdings, which were 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 in a press release. “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 is a notorious bully in the agricultural business; misleading farmers, lobbying politicians, and flirting with supreme court judges until they agree to pass legislation that edges out small family and organic farms.
News of the Gates 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.”
And this isn’t the first time the Gates Foundation has come under fire for its questionable investments. In 2007, the L.A. Times exposed the Foundation for 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 also chastised the Foundation for what it called “blind-eye investing,” with at least 41 percent of its assets invested in companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially-concerned philosophy.”