Ending Africa’s Hunger

Such philanthropic intervention arose in the first

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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.

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