Probably a bad idea having a pop at the world’s second richest man, or the world’s largest independent aid agency, but somebody had to post a rebuttal to the outrageous comments in the East African newspaper interview with the great man.
I suppose it’s only to be expected that the man who became the world’s second richest through technology development and the pursuit of global market domination should back techno fixes and big business interests – hell he even hired a Monsanto vice president to head up the Gates Foundation’s GMO African agriculture programme, and then bought half a million Monsanto shares. But being so rich presumably means that you can make unsubstantiated and misleading assertions with impunity. Take for instance this double whammy: “One key benefit of GMOs in Africa is that they reduce the need for pesticides, which is why a lot of the anti-GMO work is funded by the pesticide industry.”
First – GMOs have actually increased the use of pesticides, notably the use of ‘RoundUp’ glyphosate herbicide (pesticides include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and bactericides). According to Reuters U.S. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to fight weeds and insects due largely to heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies that are sparking a rise of “superweeds” and hard-to-kill insects, according to a newly released study. Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 527 million pounds while insecticide use decreased by 123 million pounds.
Secondly – who are these anti-GMO pesticide industry people? The pesticide industry largely owns the GM seed industry. The ‘Big Six” pharmaceutical and chemical companies have acquired, and created joint ventures with hundreds of seed companies over the past 15 years. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and world leader in GMO seeds is also the worlds fourth largest pesticide company, and now controls more than one-quarter (27%) of the commercial seed market. Three companies control more than half (53%) of the global commercial market for seed. As a proud member of a coalition of more than 200 African civil society organizations resisting the spread of GM industry seed control across Africa, its outrageous to suggest that any would take money from the pesticide industry.
The kingdoms of Experience
In the precious wind they rot
While paupers change possessions
Each one wishing for what the other has got
And the princess and the prince
Discuss what’s real and what is not
It doesn’t matter inside the Gates Foundation.
(with apologies to Bob Dylan)