As reported by the Real Food blog, the significant investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in agribusiness giant Monsanto has been criticized by experts and activists who are concerned in particular about the impact of Monsanto's technology and the company's treatment of small-scale farmers in Africa.
Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering, condemned the investment as an "enormous conflict of interest". "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," he said in a press release. The investment, says Bereano, casts 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."
As an example of Monsanto's destructive behaviour, the press release mentions that Monsanto gave free maize seeds to small-scale farmers. When the seeds failed to produce and the rate of crop failure reached 80%, Monsanto compensated large farming operations that purchased the seeds, but did nothing for the small-scale farmers.
"When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising," said Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg. "Monsanto's aggressive patenting practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue and bankrupt farmers for patent infringement."