Viewpoint: Anti-biotechnology activists harshly criticize Gates Foundation funding of African agricultural initiatives

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Credit: Libertatea
Credit: Libertatea

Africans have long been told that our agriculture is backward and should be abandoned for a 21st-century version of the Green Revolution that enabled India to feed itself. 

A primary proponent of this view is the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), founded in 2014 to “depolarize the charged debate” around genetically modified (GM) seeds. With $22 million in funding thus far from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the CAS in fact consistently defends GM seeds, arguing that they are healthy, productive and environmentally friendly, while attacking agroecology as economically and socially regressive.

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We welcome investment in agriculture on our continent, but we seek it in a form that is democratic and responsive to the people at the heart of agriculture, not as a top-down force that ends up concentrating power and profit into the hands of a small number of multinational companies.

While describing how GM seeds and other technology would solve hunger in African countries, Bill Gates claimed that “it’s a sovereign decision. No one makes that for them.”

But the massive resources of the Gates Foundation, which he co-chairs, have had an outsized influence on African scientists and policymakers, with the result that food systems on our continent are becoming ever more market-oriented and corporate-controlled.

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