On Wednesday, 14 October 2020 a panel of fourteen of the co-authors of Navdanya International’s collaborative Citizens Report on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – “Gates to a Global Empire” – launched the report through an online event. Each author gave a short presentation over their individual contributions, highlighting the range of topics covered in the report.
The Report gathers evidence and throws light on the dangers of philanthrocapitalism, which is boosting the corporate takeover of our seed, agriculture, food, knowledge and global health systems, manipulating information and eroding our democracies.
The rhetoric of humanitarian and development causes provides a thin veil of moral justification to Bill Gates’ monopolization of global development for personal technological development. But as the report details, this consolidation of global development has huge implications. Chained to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s million-dollar grants are private corporations and private market interests, the negative feedback loops of a technological solutionism, and the further rotting of legitimacy for international institutions.
Throughout the authors’ presentations, we see how the same patterns of an aggressively imposed consensus through direct influence over all global development actors, repeat over and over again, and how technocratic solutionism, powered by an “unholy alliance” between the science and technology institutions, states, and big capital, are embodied by the Gates’ Foundation and dangerously put into accelerated action through a philanthropic development.
Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (India) and President of Navdanya International.
“Nearly 36 years ago I witnessed the state of Punjab erupting in violence as a consequence of the Green Revolution and the genocide in Bhopal because of a leak from a pesticide plant. Since then we have seen the Green Revolution and the industrial agriculture model fail, wiping out forests, transforming the land into a monoculture, causing pollution and illness, destroying natural resources and livelihoods. And it is now a major contributor of climate change and species and biodiversity extinction. In spite of this, while we are looking at better ways to farm, Gates has pushed the Green Revolution in Africa. He seems too impatient to look at the complexity of the natural world and biodiversity. He’s taking control of the worlds’ seed banks, pushing failed GMOs that we had rejected in India to other countries, taking control of gene traits through gene editing, trying to control the climate through geoengineering, and driving extinction through gene drives. All those participating in this panel have been working for many years to protect the rights of nature and people. We will stand together and continue to fight, with love, to protect the beauty of this planet and the freedom of people.”
Chito Medina, founding member of MASIPAG (Farmers-Scientists Partnership For Development), and former National Coordinator of the network. Associate Professor of environmental science in a leading university in the Philippines.
“In 12 years Bill Gates has supported more than 15 projects at IRRI in the Philippines, including Golden Rice, with very big amounts. What is interesting about his funding of Golden Rice is that it is not only for research but also for commercialization. And that is a pervasive issue. He’s supporting 64% of the research, aimed at modernizing rice breeding through new genetic engineering techniques. He is also consolidating research, into his own technological perspective, among all national research institutions, in all countries involved in rice research and science.In this way he has eliminated all more affordable and conventional approaches to improving rice and rice science. Moreover all these technologies are covered by intellectual property rights, and will take away farmers’ seed sovereignty on rice varieties.”
Claire Robinson, managing editor at GM Watch.
“The Gates Foundation has invested continuously in the genetic modification with little to show for it. The latest incarnation of the GM food venture is gene editing. This is supposed to be much safer and predictable than the old style genetic modification. Proponents of this technique claim that it’s precise and leads to predictable outcomes, but in reality the results are not precise or predictable. Scientific studies show that many unintended changes occur during gene editing processes, both at the intended edit sites and at other locations in the genome.”
Michel Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics in the Department of Medical & Molecular Genetic at King’s College.
“Gene editing food is ‘doomed to fail before you even begin’ – The totality of the genes are working as a network, characteristics of plants are a function of the whole genome, it’s a holistic system -tweaking 1 or 2 genes is not going to impart tolerance to environmental stressors. The latest genetics is being ignored by those pushing gene editing, which is based on assumptions that are destined to fail. Instead of maintaining and helping the integrity of the plant. GMO food and crop technology is conceptually flawed – and genome editing won’t change that. These resources should be channelled to appropriate holistic approaches to crop development within a holistic system of agriculture that maintains the integrity of organisms.”
Adelita San Vicente Tello, Doctor in Agroecology, Director General of the Primary Sector and Natural Resources, SEMARNAT, Mexico, and Aidé Jiménez-Martínez, MA in Sciences, Director of Regulations of Biosafety, Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, SEMARNAT, Mexico.
“Digital Sequence Information Technology must be put at the centre of the issues related with the Convention on Biological Diversity & the Nagoya protocol. Genetic traits developed by farmers and indigenous peoples should remain accessible to them and not become ownership of corporations through patents.”
Timothy A. Wise, Senior Advisor at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
“In 2006 the Gates Foundation started a signature program in Africa with the aim of bringing the Green Revolution to Africa. BMGF has invested 660 million on 1 billion of AGRA’s total funding. The goals in 2006 were doubling incomes and yields for 30 million farming households, cutting food insecurity in half by 2020. We noticed that it’s 2020 and BMGF and AGRA have not produced any public evaluation or reports to assess those goals in terms of yields, incomes and food security. We asked them for these data for our report, they refused, so we looked at national level data and the results show that there is no sign of any productive Green Revolution happening as AGRA has reached its own 2020 deadline. Yields have increased very slowly, but a variety of staple crops has been replaced by monocultures of maize and the poverty level has remained the same if not worsened for small scale farmers. Especially in Rwanda, which is AGRA’s poster child. One of the most striking findings of our work is the lack of accountability of the Gates Foundation and AGRA. AGRA is a program failing on all of its own terms and a range of terms of soil help, sustainability and empowerment of small scale farmers.”
Farida Akhter, founding Executive Director of UBINIG, Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is a center of origin for Brijal (Eggplant), we have so many varieties, we don’t need BT Brinjal. After the appeals for cultivation approval failed in the Philippines and in India, Monsanto and Mahyco found the ideal political instability in Bangladesh and in 2013 they were able to get it. In India the Minister of environment decided to stop them after listening to civil society movements, independent researchers and local governments. We started protesting the approval in Bangladesh. And we actually learned from farmers that the cultivation results were not so successful. But the mainstream narrative was taken over by Cornell University. From 2005 the Cornell University and Alliance of Science, funded by Bill Gates, worked to depolarize the debate around agricultural biotechnology, and about BT Brinjal in Bangladesh internationally, and they misguide the discourse by also silencing the voice of farmers and people.”
Heather Day, Co-founder and Executive Director of Community Alliance for Global Justice – CAGJ.
“We have found out that the funding for Cornell fellowship programs by Gates is enormous and the undermining of agroecology is at the core of their message. For example, the Global Leadership Fellows program, which is a 12 week intensive training course on «science-based» communications, has been held at Cornell every year since 2015, hosting 20 – 30 young communications professionals and most of them have been African at 60%. We wanted to find out if any of the Fellows had ties to the Gates Foundation so we researched the organizations affiliated with them so see how much funding they had received. 35% of fellows are related to institutions related to Gates and the total amount of Agricultural funding to be found from 2006-2019 is 776 million dollars. Unsurprisingly these fellows promote an uncritical view of biotechnology. Biotechnology is equated with science and critique of biotechnology is equated with anti-science…Gates is equipping fellows with propaganda tools and they serve as the active support network that continues to serve to spread these communications and push these narratives and ultimately push policy in their countries.”
Seth Itzkan, Co-founder and Co-Director of Soil4Climate Inc.
“Soil as the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon, carbon is in soil which is what gives it its life and its vitality. We advocate for a type of grazing and therefore meat production that heals the land and is regenerative. Impossible Foods [Burger] is really just an extension of the software model of the intellectual property of codes, sequences of instructions into the food sector and so for all practical purposes Impossible Foods is really just intellectual property and patents. The most heinous part of this is the facsimile production of the heme molecule which we have evolved to crave in meat. A fake version of this is poured over a meal of mashed GMO soybeans that have been sprayed with glyphosate, grown on what should be native grassland, carbon-rich prairie. It is the most horrendous example of fooling people into thinking they are doing something good…Impossible foods’ fake meats are an extension of the intellectual property model, not a way to reduce meat consumption which can be achieved through a real regenerative model of agriculture. There is no place for intellectual property imperialism in the regenerative food future”.
Nicoletta Dentico (Health), journalist, and director of the global health program of Society for International Development (SID).
“I think rather than being an impatient optimist, Gates is an impatient monopolist. His philanthropy is the continuation of his entrepreneurial monopoly by other means, therefore we have a serious problem for democracy, freedom and biodiversity. We have a convergence along the same dogma of pharma, food, digitalization and finance because Bill Gates, in his urge to serve the poor, or rather make markets for the poor, which is his real drive as he says, is creating new financial tools and products that contribute largely to the financialization of food and health. Making philanthro-profits from every type of crisis that can emerge out of a world that is extremely problematic…His foundation, like all philanthropic foundations, have very serious fiscal advantages through taxpayer support to these foundations. We unknowingly contribute without having a say.”
Silvia Ribeiro, Journalist, lecturer, writer, and educator on emerging technologies, Latin American Director, ETC Group.
“Bill Gates is the main private financier of Geoengineering, aka climate manipulation. This is coherent with his ‘engineering’ mentality that sees the whole world as a machine. Geoengineering is a set of theoretical proposals, that are not in place, that are not proven to be useful for the climate change issue, but they are not even aimed to address the root causes of climate change. The causes of climate change are related to the fossil-fuel industry, that also includes fuel and chemicals in industrial agriculture. Bill Gates, personally (from his pockets, not through the Foundation), has investments: both in projects that are related to fossil fuels, and in the research and possibly experimenting of techno-fixes to manipulate the climate, such as removing carbon from the atmosphere (once it has been emitted) or blocking the sun from heating the earth’s surface. Other investors in geoengineering are precisely the giants of the fossil-fuel industry, as this would allow them to continue with business as usual and at the same time make profits from these debatable climate change mitigation technologies.”
Jim Thomas, Co-Executive Director and Researcher, focusing on emerging technologies, human rights, biodiversity, equity, and food systems, ETC Group.
“With gene drive technology, you can genetically modify an organism such that those genetically engineered traits can be passed down to every single one of its offspring and eventually take over entire populations and entire food webs and entire ecosystems. This is a contagious spreading GMO technology and currently it is focused on extinction. The idea that you are going to reorder and re-engineer not just a single organism, but an entire species or the web of life is highly disruptive. It is also really a technology of control and this why Gates and those around him are extremely interested in this. The public focus has been on health applications, like getting rid of malaria for example, but the real interest is in agriculture. If you can spread traits in agriculture autocatalytically, that gives tremendous control over biodiversity, food and other peoples’ cultures. It is also worth noting that it is a real threat to peace. One of the largest funders is the US government, as this is also a ‘wonderful’ way to spread bioweapons. Gene drives are not just something Bill Gates would like to see out there, they are a creation of the Gates Foundation. If you look into anyone doing research into gene drives, all of them have some tie to the Gates Foundation or to allied philanthrocapitalist. Gates and DARPA have hand-in-hand not just really shaped all the research around gene drives but also the entire discussion and governance landscape. We have even seen the media, generously funded by Gates Foundation, were very uncomfortable in trying to report properly on this controversy. So that’s to say in this area of a technology that will manipulate life, that will destroy food sovereignty and that really is a massive threat to peace, Gates has effectively controlled the research, the governance discussion and also the media.”
Ali Tapsoba, Human rights activist; Ecologist; President of the Terre A Vie association; Spokesperson for the Citizen’s Collective for Agroecology in Burkina Faso.
“After the failure of Bt cotton, we now have the experiences of Bt beans and GM mosquitoes in Burkina Faso; this nefarious project called Target malaria is funded by Bill Gates. The Bt bean is at the stage of confined research. Genetically modified mosquitoes were released into villages on July 2, 2019. To date, no environmental, social and health impact assessment has been carried out on these releases. A second release was planned for July 2020 but thanks to the opposition and protests from communities and civil society movements, this has not happened. The target malaria project is in a total limbo; no transparency; no real free and informed consent; we face threats every time we want to ask local communities for their opinion on this project. Bill Gates is investing a lot of money in my country and that puts the government’s conscience to sleep. This is a biological, health and social calamity that is unfolding in my country and in Africa. Indeed it is highly probable that GM mosquitoes, when flying, will spread to other African countries. We have endogenous solutions to cure and eradicate malaria in Africa. We just need a good health policy based on improved sanitation.”
Jonathan Latham, molecular biologist and former genetic engineer. He now edits the website Independent Science News.
“In my chapter, I wrote about how the Gates Foundation attempted to secretly manipulate a UN vote. This vote was part of a global decision making process on the controversial genetic technology called gene drives. One of the main goals of gene drive research is to develop genetic traits that can drive species extinct. That is it is a type of GMO that is instead to be used in the wild against natural populations either to genetically alter them to better meet human needs or to exterminate them entirely. In my view and in the view of many, gene drives are an inherently reckless and very dangerous invention. In 2017 the UN CBD held a meeting, in part to consider a moratorium on gene drives. This moratorium was proposed by various countries and NGOs and was intended to allow better decisions about the use of gene drives. To help resolve this question the CBD helped organize an expert group on an online consultation involving scientists and experts from around the world. While the meetings were going on it transpired, through a Freedom of information Act release, that the Gates Foundation had hired a PR firm called Emerging Ag to recruit scientists for the various expert groups. They provided feedback and promoted them to the discussions. So the goal of the coordination was to derail the moratorium and support the use of gene drives, which they ultimately succeeded in doing.”