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Chemical Relations: Monsanto and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Millions Against Monsanto Campaign page or our Resource Center on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

By most mainstream media accounts - especially the recent segment about her on CBS' "60 Minutes" - Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft's Bill Gates, is a smart, caring, highly-motivated and well-organized woman seeking to do great good both at home and abroad. As the co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she, along with her husband, are the world's most generous philanthropists. They have given away of hundreds of millions of dollars to such diverse efforts as improving education in the U.S., the elimination of diseases like Malaria in underdeveloped countries, fighting HIV/AIDS, and the prevention of mother and child deaths around the world.

"I have to be here. To see it, and to feel it, and to understand, you know, what motivates these people," Melinda Gates told "60 Minutes'" Scott Pelley, during a Foundation trip to north India. "What is it that they're doing for their livelihood? Unless I see it and feel it and touch it, I just don't feel like I can do the foundation justice in terms of what we're trying to accomplish."

For the most part, the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gets the positive recognition that it deserves. However, every once in a while something comes up that makes you wonder exactly how much attention the Gates' are paying to some nitty-gritty details, like its investments portfolio.

Gates Foundation and Monsanto: Unlikely or unholy relationship?

According to a late-September post at the Guardian's Poverty Matters blog, the Foundation -- which sponsors the Guardian's Global development site - "is being heavily criticized in Africa and the US for getting into bed not just with notorious GM company Monsanto, but also with agribusiness commodity giant Cargill."

The criticism was set off when a financial website in the U.S. "published the foundation's annual investment portfolio, which showed it had bought 500,000 Monsanto shares worth around $23m," in the second quarter of 2010. Apparently the purchase was "a substantial increase in the last six months and while it is just small change for Bill and Melinda, it has been enough to let loose their fiercest critics," the Guardian reported.

One of the Foundation's most persistent critics is the Seattle-based Agra Watch -- a project of the Community Alliance for Global Justice. According to a late-August Agra Watch press release titled "Gates Foundation Invests in Monsanto: Both will profit at expense of small-scale African Farmers," "Farmers, and civil society organizations around the world are outraged by the recent discovery of further connections between ... [the foundation] and agribusiness titan Monsanto."