Home > In Focus > The Philanthro-capitalist empire of Bill Gates

To continue to impose the old and failed policies of neoliberalism through new narratives, new make-up, new promises. Capitalism has been able to wear many masks throughout its history, but philanthropy is certainly one of the most vicious and dangerous.

Especially when behind the veil of donations and aid there are powerful economic entities capable of directly influencing policies of the world’s rulers. The latest report by Navdanya International, “Gates to a Global Empire”, aims to investigate the role and action of one of the private foundations that today is most influential in public policies all over the world: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

The philanthropic interventions of the organisation of Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates – one of the richest individuals in the world with a personal fortune of about 117 billion dollars – seem to respond primarily to a very precise logic. Logics of economic and social development, firstly, but also, purely of financial benefit, considering the economic returns on his investments, never free of enormous conflicts of interest. Global development then becomes an important field for profits, with the awareness that controlling the markets means controlling the lives of billions of people. Based on this logic, the BMGF finances, under the banner of philanthropy, everything that is in line with its interests: from the media to research, from universities to start-ups, from the development programmes of international institutions to governmental ones. In addition, the Gates foundation often co-invests with other giants in the food industry, the fossil fuel industry, the pharmaceutical industry and Big Tech.

The tentacular and pervasive nature of BMGF’s action requires a 360-degree investigation to assess its real impacts on the world economy. Navdanya’s analysis starts from the agri-food sector, on which the organisation, founded by Vandana Shiva, has been working for thirty years in defence of biodiversity and local seeds, who has declared: “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”.

The report reviews the cases reported of biopiracy and attempts to secure patents on seeds, first through GMOs and now through gene editing techniques, which also saw the involvement of the Gates foundation. The attempts to export the failed Green Revolution to Latin America, Africa and Asia confirm the thesis that the BMGF is completely disinterested in the development of new sustainable and inclusive economic models, but is  rather interested in the consolidation of the intensive, industrial monoculture model to the benefit of large-scale seed and agrochemical industries.

Being the harbinger of major economic interests, the BMGF can easily disregard the failures of its projects, as in the case of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the programme to increase agricultural productivity in Africa: “after almost 15 years there is no evidence of significant productivity increases and in terms of people suffering from extreme hunger, there has been a 30% increase in AGRA countries.”  The foundation’s ability to promote major private interests and involve strategic players in all sectors, from the media to research institutes, allows Gates to always find open doors despite the evidence of its particular conflicts of interest and general failures. This is therefore a democratic emergency that is analysed in detail by leading experts and civil society movements’ leaders such as Vandana Shiva, Farida Akhter, José Esquinas Alcàzar, Nicoletta Dentico, Fernando Cabaleiro, Seth Itzkan, Dru Jay, Satish Kumar, Jonathan Latham, Aidé Jiménez-Martínez, Chito Medina, Zahra Moloo, Silvia Ribeiro, Adelita San Vicente, Ali Tapsoba, Jim Thomas, Timothy A. Wise. The report counts on the participation of international organisations and national movements such as, ETC Group, Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch, Soil4Climate, Bioscience Resource, GM Watch, Naturaleza de Derechos – Argentina, Masipag – Philippines, Terre à Vie – Burkina Faso, UBINIG – Bangladesh.

Manlio Masucci, Navdanya International

The report is available for free download on Navdanya International website: