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Seeds of Doubt

September 2, 2010

A press release issued last week by Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice announced that the world’s largest philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, dramatically increased its holdings in agribusiness giant Monsanto, from $360,000 in 2008 to a total of 500,000 shares valued at $23.1 million.  The scope of this relationship has raised questions as to the intentions and effectiveness of the Foundation’s programs in global development, along with the level of influence corporations wield over charitable organizations.

Monsanto states that its “crop protection chemicals” and genetically modified seeds allow farmers around the world “to produce more with less, conserving resources like soil and water.”  But critics suggest that industrial agricultural systems are more costly than the farming methods they replace, both monetarily and in terms of hunger, human displacement, and environmental degradation.

A recent 13F filed by the Gates Foundation Trust reveals more: Monsanto stock is one of the Foundation’s smallest holdings, dwarfed by their 9 million shares in WalMart, 9 million shares in McDonald’s, 10 million shares in Coca Cola, and 7 million in BP.

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