A Free-Market Energy Blog

Agro-Ecology Financiers: Promoting Poverty, Malnutrition, and Death (Part 2) 

By -- April 8, 2020

Private ‘philanthropic’ foundations join government agencies in funding anti-technology NGOs. Underwriting anti-life causes not only misses an opportunity to promote good living, it requires true philanthropies to expend resources to counteract the bad actors. (Part I was yesterday)

It’s easy to go organic if you have abundant food and money, don’t have the insects and crop diseases that plague African farmers on constant massive levels, and don’t live with locusts that create catastrophic conditions every few decades.

Modern pesticides can save billions of dollars of crops every year and stop locusts before they can swarm by the tens of billions. Bioengineered crops can feed more people from less land with less water with greater resistance to insects–and with less need for chemical pesticides (natural or manmade). This wonderful technology does not matter to those who demand nothing but organic for Africa.

Many African farmers are women, who today have almost no “right to choose” when it comes to which crops they will plant. They labor from sunup to sundown on mostly 2 to 5-acre plots, yet rarely have enough crops to feed their own families, much less sell for extra money. Millions live on less than a dollar a day.

Good News and Progress

A 2005 Congress of Racial Equality biotechnology conference in the United Nations General Assembly hall, and related video documentary, “Voices from Africa: Biotechnology and the subsistence farmer,” dramatically highlighted the difficulties facing the continent’s farmers – and the ways GM/biotech crops can improve their lives, especially crops enhanced with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes that enable plants to kill insects that feed on the crops, but leave other insects untouched.

Maize (corn) is Africa’s most important crop. But because of drought, poor soil, multiple plant diseases and voracious insects, and lack of modern fertilizers and other technologies, average yields per acre in Sub-Saharan Africa are about the lowest in the world. Other crops suffer similar fates.

“I grow maize on a half hectare” (1.2 acres), South Africa’s Elizabeth Ajele explained in the video. “The old plants would be destroyed by insects, but not the new biotech plants. With the profits I get from the new Bt maize, I can grow onions, spinach and tomatoes, and sell them for extra money to buy fertilizer. We were struggling to keep hunger out of our house. Now the future looks good. If someone came and said we should stop using the new maize, I would cry.” 

Countryman Richard Sithole shares her excitement.

Now I don’t have to buy any chemicals. With the old maize, I got 100 bags from my 15 hectares. With Bt maize I get 1,000 bags. Now I have money to buy better food and send my children and grandchildren to school and even university.

It was the same story with cotton. “With the new Bt cotton, I only spray two times, instead of six. At the end of the day, we know the crop won’t be destroyed and we will have a harvest and money,” South African widow, school principal and mother of five Thandi Myeni explained.

“I sprayed five times a season with pesticides, but sometimes the insects still destroyed my entire crop,” Kenyan Alice Wambuii said. “We would get pesticides all over our bodies. Last year, I got 3,000 shillings for my cotton, but I had to spend 5,000 shillings for sprays.” Bt cotton changed that for her, too.

Biotech maize and cotton enabled these South African farmers to cut their pesticide use up to 75%, triple their profits and save 35-49 days per season working in fields – mostly spraying pesticides by hand.

The Good Times Ended – Thanks to NGO Financiers

That was just 15 years ago. Life looked much better. But then the cabal of anti-biotech, anti-pesticide, agro-ecology pressure groups launched new attacks, aided by the growing network of ideologically like-minded donors that helped magnify anti-technology programs and messages – often while insulating the big financiers from direct connections to questionable, radical and callous organizations. The hopes and dreams, livelihoods and farming preferences of these African farmers mean nothing to the cabal.

The Swift Foundation was founded by an heir to a major stockholder in United Parcel Service from monies created by UPS going public. Endowed with over $60 million, it awards grants of over $2 million a year and has been a major supporter of pro-organic, anti-agricultural technology organizations at home and abroad. These include: Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, and the Center for Food Safety (long a promoter of radical anti-GMO activist Vandana Shiva), as well as helping to launch AEF.

The Christensen Fund was created in 1957 by heirs of a wealthy industrial engineer. Its $300 million in assets support “biocultural diversity” and fund projects like its Rift Valley Program, which funds “the efforts of stewards to maintain culture-based livelihoods on their ancestral lands and adapt their resource management systems in innovative ways that advance food sovereignty and resilience.”

The New Field Foundation (NFF) was founded in 2002 with money from San Francisco based real estate developers Barbara and D. Thomson Sargent. It claims to support the efforts of rural women to overcome poverty, violence and injustice in their communities. But it opposes GMOs and other modern agricultural technologies and has made direct grants to the AFSA and La Via Campesina in Africa.

The NFF supports and works with the AEF and is a grantor to the Tides Center/Foundation. With assets of nearly $200 million, Tides helps philanthropies “manage and direct” their giving, but has been described as behaving “less like a philanthropy and more like a money laundering enterprise.” The Center also receives funding and support from major US foundations, including the NFF, Wallace Global Fund, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Packard.

The Schmidt Family Foundation (SFF) was established in 2006 by Wendy and Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google. Its estimated assets of $178 million, including Google stock, primarily help finance advancing “the wiser use of energy and natural resources to support efforts worldwide that empower communities to build resilient system for food, water and human resources.” The SFF has directly donated to radical domestic and global agro-ecology groups like Friends of the Earth (FoE), the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Environmental Working Group, the Pesticide Action Network – and Greenpeace, an unyielding opponent of Golden Rice.

This miracle rice could prevent some 500,000 children from going blind and save 250,000 lives every year from Vitamin A deficiency and malnutrition. But opposition to Golden Rice caused the loss of at least 1,424,680 life-years in India alone just between 2003 and 2013. Greenpeace couldn’t care less.

To date, the previously discussed (in Part 1) AgroEcology Fund has provided more than $6 million dollars to organizations that promote subsistence farming as a supposed alternative to far more productive modern farming technologies and methods. This includes over $500,000 over the years to AFSA as well as $200,000 in direct contributions to La Via Campesina and GroundSwell International.

In the USA, AEF and NFF donors and advisors have included the Ben & Jerry Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Swift Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and many others around the world. A representative of the radical anti-technology Pesticide Action Network Asia sits on AEF’s advisory board, and the global network of financiers finds ways to support many ultra-radical groups.

Other major foundation supporters for FoE (a core member of AFSA, along with La Via Campensina) include the Foundation for the Carolinas ($5,000,000), the David and Lucille Packard Foundation (Packard – $600,000), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation ($500,000), the Ford Foundation ($328,500) and Rockefeller Brothers Fund ($300,000), and the Schmidt Foundation ($125,000).

Ending Eco-imperialism, Saving Lives

These financiers and the radical organizations they support are engaged in what many would justifiably call crimes against humanity – using their tax-exempt status and clever terminology (like agro-ecology, sustainability and food sovereignty) to advance programs that deny people access to modern agricultural technologies that would improve crop yields, increase family wealth, prevent blindness and save lives.

They should be condemned. They should be exposed and shamed for making fraudulent claims about their favored farming practices that prevent African, Asian, and Latin American farmers from achieving success.


Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ● Black death and other books and articles on energy, environment, climate and human rights issues.


  1. John Garrett  


    Many of the rich, secluded dilettantes behind these family fortunes are pathologically guilt-ridden. When combined with their complete lack of experience and knowledge, they are actually dangerous and harmful.


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