By Dr. Mercola
Above, ABC's "Nightline," Bill Weir talks with Microsoft founder Bill Gates about his charitable endeavors.
Gates' latest plan is to try to end world hunger by growing more genetically modified (GM) crops.
He's already invested $27 million into Monsanto Company—leading some countries to reject his charity due to the high risks, such as:
- New disease vectors
- Mutated pesticide-resistant insects
- Resistant "superweeds"
- Contamination of surrounding non-GM crops
We already know how deeply entrenched the U.S. government has become with Monsanto.
For a visual illustration of their 'revolving-door-relationship' with the governmental regulatory agencies, see the graph toward the bottom of this article.
It is this type of government infiltration that allowed genetically engineered alfalfa to be approved without any restrictions at all, despite the protests of the organic community and public comments from a quarter of a million concerned citizens.
In Bill Gates, Monsanto also has one of the wealthiest and most influential "philanthropists" supporting their agenda and spreading misleading propaganda about their products.
In recent years, it has become disappointingly clear that Gates may be leading the pack as one of the most destructive "do-gooders" on the planet... His views on what is required to make a difference in poverty- and disease-stricken third world nations are short-sighted and misinformed at best. A recent article in the Seattle Times1 joins me in arguing that Bill Gates' support of genetically modified (GM) crops as a solution for world hunger is based on unsound science. A team of 900 scientists funded by the World Bank and United Nations, investigated the matter over the course of three years, and determined that the use of GM crops is simply NOT a meaningful solution to the complex situation of world hunger.
Instead, the scientists suggested that "agro-ecological" methods would provide the most viable means to ensure global food security, including the use of traditional seed varieties and local farming practices already adapted to the local ecology.
"Philanthropy is the Enemy of Justice"
In a recent article with the same headline, "Philanthropy is the Enemy of Justice", Robert Newman criticizes2 the choice of Bill Gates as the designated "voice" of the world's poor at the World Economic Forum, held in January.
"Am I saying that philanthropy has never done good? No, it has achieved many wonderful things... But beware the havoc that power without oversight and democratic control can wreak," Newman writes.
"The biotech agriculture that Lord Sainsbury was unable to push through democratically he can now implement unilaterally, through his Gatsby Foundation. We are told that Gatsby's biotech project aims to provide food security for the global south. But if you listen to southern groups such as the Karnataka State Farmers of India, food security is precisely the reason they campaign against GM, because biotech crops are monocrops which are more vulnerable to disease and so need lashings of petrochemical pesticides, insecticides and fungicides – none of them cheap – and whose ruinous costs will rise with the price of oil, bankrupting small family farms first. Crop diseases mutate, meanwhile, and all the chemical inputs in the world can't stop disease wiping out whole harvests of genetically engineered single strands.
Both the Gatsby and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations are keen to get deeper into agriculture, especially in Africa. But top-down nostrums for the rural poor don't end well."
I agree. Donating patented seeds, which takes away the farmers' sovereignty, is not the way to save the third-world poor. As reported by Netline last year3, Monsanto and other biotech companies have collaborated with the Gates Foundation via the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to promote the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa. The Gates Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to AGRA, and in 2006 Robert Horsch was hired for the AGRA project. Horsch was a Monsanto executive for 25 years. In a nutshell, the project may be sold under the banner of altruism and 'sustainability', but in reality it's anything but. It's just a multi-billion dollar enterprise to transform Africa into a GM-crop-friendly continent.
Conflicts of Interest Abound
Gates' philanthropic methods came under scrutiny back in August 2010, when it was discovered that The Gates Foundation had purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock; dramatically increasing its previous holdings—and hence its financial conflicts of interest—in the biotech firm. AGRA-Watch commented on the ties stating4:
"The Foundation's direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels," said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering.
"First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation's heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests."
It would be naive to think that all these philanthropic collaborations are designed to solve any problem besides how to help Monsanto monopolize the world's food supply with expensive patented GM seeds, and the herbicides to go with them.
In the interview above, Gates claims the seeds would be donated to the impoverished areas in question. But seriously, how long would the seeds remain free? There's rarely such a thing as a free lunch anymore, and it appears highly unlikely that Monsanto is poised to "feed Africa" indefinitely... And since you cannot save Monsanto's seeds from year to year, they will literally own the areas and the people they temporarily donate their seeds to. And once you own the rights to all the food grown around the globe, you literally rule the world.
That appears to be the goal. And only sane, rational, thinking people can stop them. It's really too bad that Gates has signed up as a lackey for "the Dark Side," as it were, instead of using his unfathomable wealth to really create positive, sustainable change.
It's an undisputed fact at this point that the introduction of genetically engineered crops lead to diminished biodiversity, which is the direct opposite of what the world needs. Truly, in order to save the planet and ourselves, small-scale organic and sustainable farming must not only prevail but flourish, and GM crops do not help, but rather threaten their existence. Seeds have always been sold and swapped freely between farmers, preserving biodiversity, and without that basis, you cannot have food sovereignty. And with fewer farmers, "feeding the hungry with GM crops" is nothing but a pipe dream.
Both Genetically Engineered Seeds and Herbicides Pose Risks to Environment and Human Health
Besides the threat to the environment and to agricultural practices, GM crops also bring a whole host of health concerns; not just from the GM seeds, but also from the herbicide used: Monsanto's Roundup. It's the world's best-selling herbicide, which is designed to be partnered with genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" crops.
According to a shocking report5, regulators were aware as early as 1980 that glyphosate, the active chemical ingredient of Roundup, caused birth defects in lab animals. However, the information was not made public. Instead, regulators misled the public about glyphosate's safety, and with the introduction of Roundup Ready crops, the use of Roundup has skyrocketed.
According to Monsanto. NO6:
"Dr. Andres Carrasco, a lead embryologist at the University of Bueno Aires Medical School and the Argentinean national research council, discovered that glyphosate-based herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup formula caused deformations in chicken embryos that resembled the kind of birth defects which where reported in areas like La Leonesa, where big agribusinesses depend on glyphosate to treat genetically engineered crops."
Golden Rice: a "Trojan Horse"
The idea that you can end world hunger with genetically engineered crops is simply not very well thought through. Last summer, I reported on The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's donation of $20 million toward the development of so-called "golden rice"—yet another untested GM crop that risks bringing economic and ecological disaster. Golden rice has been genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene, which your body can convert to vitamin A. It's been promoted as a way to alleviate vitamin A deficiency, which is common in developing countries where people don't have regular access to beta-carotene-rich foods, like vegetables and fruits.
However, while this sounds all well and good in theory, the reality of a beta-carotene producing rice may not be all it's cracked up to be. According to Food Freedom7:
"Golden rice is a Trojan horse for pushing through GE-friendly biosafety regulations under the guise of humanitarian aid. Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops; USAID and Monsanto accomplished exactly this in Kenya with their sweet potato project."
It may be easier to see why so many people question this kind of philanthropy once you understand a bit more about the product itself, and why it likely cannot ever live up to its own hype. In this case, your body can only convert beta-carotene to vitamin A under certain conditions. Specifically, beta-carotene is fat-soluble, which means dietary fat is required for your body to convert it into vitamin A. But many people in developing countries eat very low-fat diets, as they simply do not have access to animal foods or other fat on a regular basis. Furthermore, malnourished people might not be able to convert beta carotene to vitamin A efficiently, so taken as a whole, the actual usefulness of golden rice is debatable.
The soundness of the idea becomes even more questionable when you consider the unrealistic amounts of rice you'd have to consume each day to obtain the recommended amount of vitamin A. As stated in a golden rice case study from Iowa State University8:
"Even if golden rice is successfully introduced … a woman would need to eat 16 lbs. of cooked rice every day in order to get sufficient Vitamin A, if golden rice were her only source of the nutrient. A child would need 12 lbs." [Emphasis mine]
What people in the developing world need in order to receive ample dietary vitamin A is access to a diverse range of nutritious foods -- including animal products like eggs, cheese and meat and vegetables such as dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes. This is the type of diet that is attained from biodiverse farming -- the opposite of what will occur if GM crops like golden rice get planted on a large scale.
Learn More about Genetically Engineered Foods
Many Americans are still unfamiliar with what GE foods are, which is understandable when you consider that these foods do not need to be labeled in the U.S. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate, and to continue learning more about genetically engineered foods and associated risks, and help your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
An even better strategy is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit GM ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the GMO's (genetically modified organism) you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about GM foods, I highly recommend number of great films and lectures available, including:
Does Monsanto "Own" the U.S. Government?
Is sure seems like it at times. Genetically engineered seeds are now banned in Hungary, as they are in several other European countries, such as Germany and Ireland. Peru is also following the precautionary principle, and has even passed a law that bans genetically modified ingredients within the nation for 10 years9.
In the U.S., however, the opposite to consumer protection is taking place, with certain states actually passing legislation that protects the use of GM seeds and allows for unabated expansion! To date, 14 states have passed such legislation and Michigan's Sen. Bill 777, if passed, would make that 15.
The Michigan bill would prevent anti-GMO laws and would remove "any authority local governments may have to adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit or regulate the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower or forest tree seeds." Bills like these are obviously music to Monsanto's ears, which spends millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government at the federal level for favorable legislation that supports the spread of their toxic products. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from the year before, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter.
If we all had several million to spend on lobbying efforts, the world would undoubtedly be a very different place... If you aren't familiar with the power of lobbying please view the recent 60 minutes expansion on it, which is one of the best 60 Minute episodes I have seen in 40 years.
Not only that, but once you realize just how many of Monsanto's employees have simply shifted into positions of power within the federal government, it suddenly becomes easy to understand how this biotech giant has managed to so successfully undermine common sense within the U.S. government.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, the food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.