The move by Monsanto and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to forcibly introduce GMO agriculture into Africa in the name of food security has profound implications for malnutrition and hunger, the future of Africa, and ecological resilience everywhere.
I have been curious about the mindset, the thinking behind this radical endorsement of an inherently unstable and exploitative plant technology. I understand Monsanto’s motivation. But what of Bill and Melinda Gates? Now, an article written by Microsoft co-Founder Paul Allen offers a wide ranging and, I think, convincing portrait of Gates’ personal SOP. The article appears in Vanity Fair May, 2011.
Allen’s description of Gates in Microsoft’s early days reveals a person driven by a conviction of the rightness of his own views. Challenging Gates involved massive personal effort with extreme attention to detail. I guess this is how you make a personal fortune of $100 billion. What it tells me that “if we are to challenge the GMO colonization of Africa” we have to prepare a campaign that goes way beyond anthropological empathy and ecological connection. We have to take on Gates on his own grounds. Money. Profitability. And ultimately, operational sustainability in a Post-Petroleum world. And we must be prepared to shout back as loud as Gates shouts at us. In other words, we face an effort that will include conflict with the largest private foundation in the world. There is no precedence for this kind of effort in our polite world of non-profits.
I do not advocate this kind of relationship with the Gates Foundation. But I think we must be prepared to do what it takes to turn back the African initiative. I must dreaming to even consider this.
We, as a movement, have had a hard time dealing with industrial agriculture’s campaign of co-option and co-existence against the organic and local food revolutions. A lot of great work has been done by individual farmers and cooperative efforts like the one lead by Michael Sligh on the future of organics. I honor this work. But we are facing a crisis that challenges our notions of effectiveness, politeness, and justice. The Farm Bill will offer one platform to demonstrate new backbone, new pushback, new organizational effectiveness if we are intentional.
Read Paul Allen’s article in May, 2011 Vanity Fair. It offers a clear view of the operational value system of the global food corporations that oppose us.
Peace and good food,
Center for Economic Security