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Unformatted text preview: lanthropic intervention arose in the first
place. The faltering quality of African agricultural research institutions, and the decline in government spending on agriculture,
is a result of the budget austerity imposed by international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, in the 1980s and ’90s.
As Filipino scholar-activist Walden Bello has noted, Africa
exported 1.3 million tons of food a year in the 1960s, but after
being subject to international development loans and freemarket fundamentalism, today it imports nearly 25 percent of
its food. In a 2008 report, the Bank’s internal evaluations group
lambasted the policies that led to this situation. What the
Gates Foundation is doing is using its private money to fund
activities that once were in the public domain and were,
albeit imperfectly, under democratic control.
The preference for private sector contributions to agriculture shapes the Gates Foundation’s funding priorities. In a
number of grants, for instance, one corporation appears repeatedly—Monsanto. To some extent, this simply reflects
Monsanto’s domination of industrial agricultural
research. There are, however, notable synergies
between Gates and Monsanto: both are corporate titans that have made millions through
technology, in particular through the aggressive
defense of proprietary intellectual property. Both
organizations are suffused by a culture of expertise, and there’s some overlap between them.
Robert Horsch, a former senior vice president at Monsanto,
is, for instance, now interim director of Gates’s agricultural
development program and head of the science and technology
team. Travis English and Paige Miller, researchers with the
Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, have
uncovered some striking trends in Gates Foundation funding.
By following the money, English told us that “AGRA used
funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to write
twenty-three grants for projects in Kenya. Twelve of those
recipients are involved in research in genetically modified
agriculture, development or advocacy. About 79 percent of
funding in Kenya involves biotech in one way or another.”
And, English says, “so far, we have found over $100 million
in grants to organizations connected to Monsanto.”
This isn’t surprising in light of the fact that Monsanto and
Gates both embrace a model of agriculture that sees farmers
suffering a deficit of knowledge—in which seeds, like little tiny
beads of software, can be programmed to transmit that knowledge for commercial purposes. This assumes that Green Revolution technologies—including those that substitute for farmers’
knowledge—are not only desirable but neutral. Knowledge is
never neutral, however: it inevitably carries and influences
relations of power.
The first Green Revolution spawned and exacerbated many
social divisions, especially around access to land and resources,
since the scale required by Green Revolution technologies
meant that it...
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2012 for the course MATH 2313 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Texas El Paso.
- Spring '08