The web of destructions behind the mask of philanthropy

“Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy: A Global Citizens Report on the Corporate Control of Technology, Health, and Agriculture” edited by Vandana Shiva

This is a series of papers by several experts that expose the hijacking of technology, media, health, education, and the main focus of the book, agriculture, by opportunists that hide behind the mask of philanthropy. Edited by none other than the Gandhi of grains herself, Dr. Vandana Shiva.

It is a critical view on how capitalism destroys the planet’s ecosystem, the rich variety of seeds, and hundreds of food sources to replace them with corporations’ own genetically modified crops, all in the name of profit and shareholders’ wealth. Along the way, by doing so these corporations eliminate thousands of year worth of ancient methods of sustainable agriculture that are good for the Earth, and subsequently send the indigenous population into poverty and famine.

Worse still, the newly genetically modified food, as it turns out, are proven in this book to have less nutritions and more risk to cause multiple diseases, even those in the “healthy” plant-based food hype including the Impossible Meat. But the corporations then create their own research with paid scientists arguing over the benefits of the new food and the primitiveness of the ancient way.

As mentioned in the book, just like missionaries trying to save indigenous people from their “barbaric practice”, corporations “turn a blind eye to the knowledge, tools, and innovations farmers have evolved over millennia to breed seeds, renew soil fertility, manage pests and weeds ecologically and produce good food. They elevate corporate tools to a new religion and new civilizing mission, which has been imposed to civilize the ecological, independent, knowledge-sovereign farmers who are seen as the new “barbarians.””

To be clear, this is not a case against capitalism per se, since “a more enlightened and beneficent capitalism is possible…, but it requires capitalists to transcend self-interest and greed, which is not wholly supported by the record.”

Indeed, self-interest and greed are what this book is investigating, with arguments predominantly build up against the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (or the Gates Foundation for short), the philanthropy foundation that have made strategic donations to some of the nastiest bunch of capitalists: the petrochemical companies, agribusiness, and multinational corporations that together form what is dubbed in the book as the “Poison Cartel.”

It is through the web of Gates Foundation’s fundings that the book is making its case, by providing a thorough evidence complete with the dollar amount and the sinister purpose of the projects.

However, we need to take a grain of salt in reading this book, as some of the arguments look suspiciously biased. Such as the critic over Bill Gates’ funding for geo-engineering experiments to curb the climate change, which could well be a genuine attempt to search for options rather than to protect the fossil fuel industry (in which Bill Gates has some stakes in them). Or the attempt to create a digital education was criticised as if they’re trying to deny the children access to human relationship and prevent them to be out in nature, and instead an author in the book proposes a new concept of holistic school as suggested by one guy, J. Krishnamurti.

Another minor bias is shown in some of the authors who criticise Warren Buffett for giving a large chunk of his money to the Gates Foundation, money that they say came from “speculations on the market”, which is not how Buffett makes his money and thus makes me wonder on what else do they get the detail wrong or misleading? And then there’s the concluding chapter in part X where bizarrely “Gaia” or “Mother Earth” somehow can write an article about herself, where the terra madre herself basically criticise the human conduct since the industrial revolution for destroying her (which is true) but not presenting the acknowledgement that it also generates many good things to modern society (which is half the story) and is not necessarily implemented only by pure greed as presented.

But then again, for the most part the critics towards the Gates Foundation are indeed justified (and more importantly, argued with concrete evidence). Such as Gates’ effort to eradicate malaria using gene drives in Burkina Faso that turns out to be an open air lab for human experiment on genetic manipulation of mosquito. Moreover, the revelation on how Buffett invested the Gates Foundation Trust’s money in food and consumer products that are harmful to health, is indeed questionable. And the good image and good reporting about the Gates Foundation do come from the likes of NBC, Al Jazeera, BBC, Viacom, the Guardian, El Pais, NPR, to name a few, that happen to either receive funding from the Gates Foundation or they are its partners on global health and development agenda issues.

Then there’s the Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunizations (GAVI) where the Gates Foundation is the largest private donor for 20.8% of its budget and where the Foundation strongly promotes the financialization of health. And of course their infamous big funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) that makes them the second largest contributor in 2010-2011 after the US government (and 24 times higher than Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa combined). As a result, the WHO priorities have mimics Gates Foundation’s priorities (although the book doesn’t elaborate further on the Covid conspiracy theories that expand from this).

All in all, the book is filled with incredible accusations towards one of the biggest philanthropic foundations in the world and one of the richest people in the world. But it is nonetheless accusations with solid evidence that should make us at least listen and think, although a degree of healthy skepticism is still needed.