The Gates Foundation and MonsantoFebruary 3, 2011
Kenya is the second largest seed consumer in sub-Saharan Africa, and a key driver of agricultural research on the continent. Western aid programs and private investors have been channeling millions of dollars into the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), in an effort to develop new plant varieties that can repel pests, withstand diseases and produce high yields.
KARI is one of the main partners in a program funded by the Gates Foundation that attempts to develop genetically modified maize which can withstand drought. It is planned to distribute the seeds to small farmers in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The technology is coming from Monsanto, which does a lot of work for the Gates Foundation in Africa. Normally Monsanto’s patented seeds are expensive, which has provoked criticism that the company is exploiting poor farmers for obscene profits. This time it is promised, that the farmers will receive the seeds royalty free as part of Gates’ push for a “green revolution” in Africa.
Agricultural experts are questioning the wisdom (and motives behind) introducing expensive farming technology to poor African countries. They also question the implications for human health and the environmental safety of GM food.
GM seeds are not yet legally available in East Africa and regulations for Kenya’s “Bio-Safety Act” are still developed. Nonetheless, Monsanto has been testing GM cotton with KARI for three years now, and plans to launch trials for GM corn next year. Kinyua M’Mbijjewe, the company’s corporate affairs director for Africa, says he expects legislation to be passed soon, and expects the commercial cotton and corn varieties to hit markets even before Gates’ drought resistance maize is ready — probably within the next five years.
The following linked newspaper reports document the connections between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Monsanto: