In late 2003, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was strongly criticized by “international charities, farmers’ groups and academics” as a result of a $25 million grant it had given to “GM [genetically modified] research to develop vitamin and protein-enriched seeds for the world’s poor”. This money supported research being undertaken by two groups, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture and the International Food Policy Research Institute, two groups which played an integral role in the first Ford and Rockefeller Foundation-funded (so-called) Green Revolution (see later). Both of these organizations are also part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a group of global public institutes that is “widely accused of being a creature of its two major funders – the
Given this accusation of corporate influence it is poignant to reflect on the large number of ties that the Gates Foundation’s current leadership has to various biotechnology ventures. Thus Melinda Gates has served on the board of directors of drugstore.com; the president of the Gates Foundations global health programs, Tachi Yamada, formerly acted as the chairman of research and development at the global drug company, GlaxoSmithKline (2001-6); the president of the Gates Foundations global development program, Sylvia Burwell, is a director of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (discussed later); their chief financial officer, Alexander Friedman, was the founder and president of Accelerated Clinical, a “biotechnology services company dedicated to accelerating the clinical trial process for biotechnology firms”; the Gates Foundations managing director of public policy, Geoffrey Lamb, formerly held several senior development positions at the World Bank, and is the chair of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative; while finally, Jack Faris who formerly served as the Gates Foundations director of community strategies has, since February 2005, been the president of the corporate lobby group the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association.
In addition, given the key role played by liberal philanthropy, most notably the Rockefeller Foundation, in promoting the initial Green Revolution, it is noteworthy that many important people at the Gates Foundation are directly connected to the Rockefeller philanthropies: Tachi Yamada is a former trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the two chairs for the Gates Foundations advisory panels for their U.S. program and their global development program both serve as Rockefeller Foundation trustees (these are Ann Fudge and Rajat Gupta respectively); while Henry Cisneros, a former Rockefeller Foundation trustee sits on the Gates Foundations U.S. programs advisory panel.
Part 2 of this article has already demonstrated the Gates philanthropies (like many liberal foundations) have an affinity for funding population control programs, so the aforementioned connections to both the Rockefeller philanthropies and to the biotechnology industry cast an ominous shadow over the Gates Foundation’s activities in this area. To fully understand this statement one must look critically at the history of the first Green Revolution, as the whole idea of the Green Revolution is problematic because although the “chief public rationale” for it was supposedly humanitarianism, a good case can be made that the logic undergirding this revolution was Malthusian not humanitarianism (for further details click here).  Moreover as critical scholars like Eric Ross have pointed out, the Green Revolution should be considered to be an “integral part of the constellation of strategies including limited and carefully managed land reform, counterinsurgency, CIA-backed coups, and international birth control programs that aimed to ensure the security of
Former Rockefeller Foundation president, George Harrar, has been credited as being the “architect of the Foundation’s agricultural programs, beginning in
“The threat of Malthusian crisis justified the central premise of the Green Revolution, that, if there was not enough land to go around, peasant agriculture could not yield sufficient increases in food. In the process, it side-stepped the important question of whether land was truly scarce or just unequally distributed. It also concealed another agenda. J. George Harrar… observed in 1975 that ‘agriculture is … a business and, to be successful, must be managed in a businesslike fashion.’ Thus he was acknowledging that the Green Revolution was not just about producing more food, but helping to create a new global food system committed to the costly industrialization of agricultural production. Throughout much of the world, Malthusian logic, hand in hand with the new technologies of the Green Revolution, helped to put land reform on hold.”
Ross concludes that support for the ‘new’ Green Revolution – now currently very much in vogue at the Gates Foundation – only serves to “accelerate the emergence of a globalized food system” which will ultimately “only enhance a world economy in which the rural poor already have too little voice or power.”
Bearing this history in mind, it is consistent – but alarming nevertheless – that the president of the Gates Foundations global development program, Sylvia Burwell, is a director of a group called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – an
Other than Burwell, another Gates Foundation representative serves on the
Having now elaborated the links between biotech companies, population control research, and the new Green Revolution, it is critical to acknowledge that in large part, the modern day environmental movement grew out of the highly successful population control movement in the late 1960s, and so environmental organizations are also well enmeshed in this web of philanthropic causes and democracy manipulators. These links are best represented through the person of Walter Falcon. From 1979 until 1983 Falcon chaired the board of trustees of the Agricultural Development Council – a group that was established in 1953 by the influential population control activist John D. Rockefeller 3rd – and when this group merged with two other Rockefeller-related agricultural programs to form what is now known as Winrock International, Falcon continued to serve on their board of trustees. In 1987 Falcon also became a trustee of the International Rice Research Institute, and thereafter went on to serve as the chair of their board. The Falcon-environmental connection, however, comes through his presence on the board of trustees (from 2001 until 2007) of the Centre for International Forestry (CIFOR), a CGIAR member organization whose mission suggests that they are “committed to conserving forests and improving the livelihoods of people in the tropics.” In 2006, this group had a budget of just over $14 million, of which just over nine percent came from the World Bank (their largest single donor), while in the same year the Ford Foundation provided them with just under $0.4 million in restricted funds.
Considering these connections it then seems appropriate that since 2006 CIFOR’s director general has been Frances Seymour, an individual who is a member of the elite planning group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and prior to heading CIFOR had been responsible for providing leadership for the World Resources Institute’s engagement with international financial institutions (like the World Bank). Earlier still, Frances had spent five years working in Indonesia with the Ford Foundation, and had also worked on USAID-funded agroforestry projects in the Philippines. In addition, another notable trustee of CIFOR is Eugene Terry, who was formerly the director general of the West Africa Rice Development Association (for nine years) before going on to work at the World Bank – see earlier, for details of Monty Jones link to this World Bank/CGIAR/Rockefeller funded group. Terry is also chair of another CGIAR member organization called the World Agroforestry Centre that was founded in 1978 and obtains funding from the World Bank/Ford/Rockefeller/USAID/World Resources Institute funding consortium. Moreover, Terry is now the implementing director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a Nairobi-based group that was formed in 2002 with Rockefeller and USAID funding to lobby for greater uptake of GM crops in
Other than via Eugene Terry, the Centre for International Forestry can be connected to agribusiness giant Syngenta through CIFOR trustee Andrew Bennett who is the former executive director (now just board member) of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. Terry joins Bennett on the Syngenta Foundation board of directors; while the Foundation is now headed by Marco Ferroni, who is a former World Bank advisor, and a former executive at the Inter-American Development Bank. Another notable director of the Syngenta Foundation is the president and CEO of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, Klaus Leisinger. This is particularly interesting because the Novartis Foundation joins the Gates Foundation and World Bank/Ford/USAID types in funding the work of a key population control group, the Population Reference Bureau; a US-based group that was founded in 1929 (during a period in history that fully embraced the necessity for eugenics) and is now headed by William Butz, who had previously served as a senior economist at the imperial think tank, the RAND Corporation.
Last but not least, Syngenta, and their Syngenta Foundation, along with USAID, Dupont, and the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations’ support a global project called the Global Crop Diversity Trust which aims to “ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide.” The aims of this project are somewhat contradictory, because the attempts of the aforementioned groups to foist a GM monoculture upon the world are already working to endanger the regular supply of adequate food resources into the future, and are threatening the livelihoods of the majority world’s farming communities. Thus it is clear that the main reason why this project aims to safeguard genetic diversity – by safeguarding seeds in an underground vault buried beneath a mountain on the island of Svalbard (Norway) – is first and foremost to protect the profits of the agribusinesses that are forcing GM crops upon the world.
The person who currently chairs the Global Crop Diversity Trust’s board of directors is none other than the former president of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations’ Population Council, Margaret Catley-Carlson; but other interesting directors include Lewis Coleman (who since 2001 has been a director of one of the world’s largest military contractors, Northrop Grumman, and is vice-chair of the controversial GM-linked environmental group Conservation International); Ambassador Jorio Dauster who is the board chairman of Brasil Ecodiesel; Adel El-Beltagy who serves on the executive council of CGIAR; and Mangala Rai (who is a trustee of the International Rice Research Institute, a former member of CGIAR’s executive council, and a former trustee of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center); while the Global Crop Diversity Trusts’ executive director, Cary Fowler, is also a former board member of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
Here it is interesting to point out that the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center is yet another key group that pushed along the last Green Revolution as it was established in the 1940s in cooperation with the Mexican government by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations’. Critically one of the central people of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, was director of this Centers International Wheat Improvement Program, and in reward for his ‘revolutionary’ work Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Just three years later Henry Kissinger – a notorious figure in America’s imperial adventures – received the same prize. This is significant because in mid 1970, while acting as President Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Kissinger had issued a classified National Security Council memorandum that “elevated population control to a ‘top priority item’ on the multilateral agenda.” Returning to Borlaug, other than his involvement in being one of the main proponents of the Green Revolution, he has long been connected to the population lobby as from 1971 onwards he served as the Director of the US’s Population Crisis Committee (now known as Population Action International), and he presently serves on the international advisory committee of the Population Institute. Also of interest, around this important time for population issues, Joe Speidel, served as chief of the research division of USAID’s Office of Population (1969-83), and then he went on to become vice-president of Population Action International (only retiring from his role as their president in 1994). Subsequently, Spiedel made a smooth transition to head the Population program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation where he remained for almost ten years.
Social engineering by elite philanthropists – be they conservative or liberal – is not a phenomena that is compatible with democracy, particularly the more participatory variants of democracy being promoted by progressive activists worldwide. In fact, a good case can be made that the ongoing, and escalating, philanthropic colonization of civil society by philanthropists poses a clear and present danger to the sustainability of democratic forms of governance. Unfortunately, the Gates Foundation only represents the tip of the iceberg of the world of liberal philanthropy, and thousands of other foundations pursue similar agendas across the globe, albeit on a smaller scale. For example in 2006, in the U.S. alone, there were over 71,000 grant making foundations which together distributed just under $41 billion: this massive figure also represents the greatest amount of money ever distributed by foundations, a figure that has been rising steadily over the years, and had just ten year earlier only amounted to some $14 billion.
Consequently, given the longstanding influence that all manner of philanthropic foundations have had on global politics, it is concerning that most political scientists have downplayed their importance in shaping the global polity, while others sometimes admit to the power they exert but simply consider it to be a good thing. By examining the backgrounds of many the people involved with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and by demonstrating the Foundations involvement in promoting the new Green Revolution, this paper has clearly illustrated how the world’s most powerful liberal foundation while professing to promote solution to global poverty is arguably pursuing an agenda that will aggravate such systemic problems.
Solutions to the problems raised for discussion in the article do exist, and the social engineering of elites is not always all pervasive. Indeed, one important way in which concerned citizens may begin to counter the insidious influence of liberal elites over civil society is to work to dissociate their progressive activism from liberal foundations. At the same time however it is critical that they also work to create sustainable democratic revenue streams to enable their work to continue. This of course will be the hardest part for progressive activists who have long relied upon the largess of liberal philanthropists, but it is a necessary step if they are to contribute towards an emancipatorary project that is separated from, and opposed to, the corrosive social engineering of liberal elites.
Michael has just submitted his doctoral thesis, and is currently co-editing a book with Daniel Faber and Joan Roelofs that will critically evaluate the influence of philanthropic foundations on the public sphere. His other work can be found here. This article was presented as a refereed paper at the 2008 Australasian Political Science Association conference.
For another related article see my “Liberal Philanthropy and the ‘Birth’ of Population Control Environmentalism” which was published by MRZine on July 23, 2008.
For an alternative point of view watch the recent BBC documentary, The Money Programme Special Bill Gates: How a Geek Changed the World (first aired on Friday, June 20, 2008, on BBC Two). PR for his foundation is shown from 51 min to 55 min.
 Michael Barker, 2008. ‘The Liberal Foundations of Environmentalism: Revisiting the Rockefeller-Ford Connection.’ Capitalism Nature Socialism, 19, 2, 15-42.
 Eric Ross, 1998. The Malthus Factor: Population, Poverty, and Politics in Capitalist Development.
 Michael Barker, ‘The Liberal Foundations of Environmentalism’.
 From 1991 until 1998, Falcon directed Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and although he only presently serves on their executive committee, the Institute’s current deputy director, Michael McFaul, is presently involved with two well known democracy manipulating organizations, Freedom House (where he is a trustee), and the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies (where is a board member).
 The World Resources Institute is a corporate-styled environmental group, whose founders included Jessica Tuchman Mathews who served as their vice president from 1982 through to 1993, and is now the president of the misnamed Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and is a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Jessica also served on the editorial board of The Washington Post in the early 1980s.
 For details about the Population Council’s elitist work, see Michael Barker, ‘The Liberal Foundations of Environmentalism’.
 Norman Borlaug is connected to various other groups including the International Food Policy Research Institute (where he served as a trustee between 1976 and 1982), Winrock International (where he as a trustee between 1982 and 1990), and Population Communications International (where is he was the director between 1984 and 1994).
 Norman Borlaug presently serves on the Population Action International’s council alongside Robert McNamara, an individual who in 1968, while serving as a Ford Foundation trustee Robert S. McNamara ‘‘emphasized the central importance of curbing population growth’’ in his inaugural speech as the World Bank’s new president.
 Many of the people presently affiliated to Population Action International (PAI) can be linked to the broader democracy manipulating community: for example, PAI board member Moises Naím is also a director of the National Endowment for Democracy.