The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their neoliberal agenda

You might remember I had my suspicions about The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation​, when I went to listen to Melinda speak at a Family Planning conference in London last year. This week, they’ve gone and proven me right…

Last week, it was reported in the Guardian that they’re investing in fossil fuels. This, from an organisation that says that the threat of climate change is so serious that immediate action is needed.  According to Guardian analysis of the charity’s most recent tax filing in 2013, they held at least $1.4bn (£1bn) of investments in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies.

You can support the Guardian campaign to persuade them to move this money here.

Today, an email from Global Justice Now, and confirmed by reports from The Ecologist and openDemocracy, announces that the Foundation is holding a secret meeting in London with USAID – US Agency for International Development​, entitled “Multiple Pathways for Promoting the Commercial and Sustainable Production and Delivery of Early Generation Seed of Food Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Or, as openDemocracy​ puts it “this is a meeting where corporations will discuss how to increase their control of the global seed sector”.

The report recommends that in countries where demand for patented seeds is weaker (i.e. where farmers are using their own seed saving networks), public-private partnerships should be developed so that private companies are protected from ‘investment risk’. It also recommends that that NGOs and aid donors should encourage governments to introduce intellectual property rights for seed breeders and help to persuade farmers to buy commercial, patented seeds rather than relying on their own traditional varieties.

Finally, in line with the broader neoliberal agenda of agribusiness companies across the world, the report suggests that governments should remove regulations (like export restrictions) so that the seed sector is opened up to the global market.

The neoliberal agenda of deregulation and privatisation poses a serious threat to food sovereignty.

This neoliberal agenda of deregulation and privatisation, currently promoted in almost every sphere of human activity – from food production to health and education – poses a serious threat to food sovereignty and the ability of food producers and consumers to define their own food systems and policies.

The two organisations organising the conference, BMGF and USAID, are two of the main driving forces behind the adoption of commercial, patented seeds among poor farmers in Africa. When seed markets are dominated by a handful of companies selling their patented seeds, farmers’ ability to save, exchange and sell their own seed varieties is threatened.

Source: openDemocracy, 23 March 2015



2 thoughts on “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their neoliberal agenda

  1. I understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t think you should look for secret or hidden agendas in this. From my limited East Africa-based perspective, BMGF, though its support to AGRA, seems to be seeking one major outcome, which is to deliver access to improved seed varieties which will increase agricultural productivity and therefore food security and household income. As a general rule, East African farmers use saved seed because they aren’t able to buy improved certified seed. Second, the large mutlinational and regional seed businesses already market their varieties across East Africa. However, because of the wide variety of ecologies, seed varieties developed outside the region do not always perform well. So, AGRA has invested heavily in public sector breeding programmes and in supporting smaller locally-managed seed businesses to commercialise new seed varieties. So, it is actually trying hard to increase competition in the seed industry, not to reduce it.

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