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Monsanto Vice President Joins the Gates Foundation

GM WATCH daily
Oct. 19, 2006
1.Monsanto vice president joins the Gates Foundation - GM Watch
2.Want to work for the Gates Foundation? - Seattle Times
1.Monsanto vice president joins the Gates Foundation - GM Watch

The Gates Foundation has hired Rob Horsch, Monsanto's vice president for international development partnerships.

As the piece below from the Seattle Times notes:

"The foundation... has hired... Monsanto vice president Robert Horsch, a scientist who led genetic engineering of plants at the seed giant. As senior program officer, Horsch will apply the technology toward improving crop yields in regions including sub-Saharan Africa..."

Horsch's most famous project for Monsanto was also a GM project for Africa. The GM sweet potato project was dreamt up by Horsch with his Monsanto colleague, Robert Fraley, and Joel Cohen from USAID. The three men then recruited Florence Wambugu to come to Monsanto and front the project for the company. Wambugu, incidentally, has also been involved with the Gates Foundation.

And Horsch's GM sweet poatato project really exposes the cras and misguided character of much of Gates' philanthropy, because in actual practical terms the project totally failed to deliver. (See 'Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails', New Scientist)

But getting the GM sweet potato out to farmers was not the real intention anyway. Horsch's project was a PR confection, based to a very large extent on lies and misinformation, which generated endless media hype for Monsanto and helped open doors to GM, and in those terms it was a runaway success.

In other words, the project served its purpose as a vehicle for poor-washing GM while driving forward the regulatory frameworks and the technical capacity that US corporations require to build-up global markets for their GM crops.

As Horsch himself has said of his philanthropic mission at Monsanto, his role was twofold - to "create goodwill and help open future markets" for the company.

The Gates Foundation provides him with a perfect platform for much more of the same.

Meanwhile, as Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies is not alone in pointing out, the hype over GM crops "can divert financial, human, and intellectual resources from focusing on productive research that meets the needs of poor farmers."

In other words, the kind of showcase "philanthropy" that Horsch, Gates, USAID and Monsanto seem determined to engage in can actually inhibit change for some of the world's poorest farmers.
2.Want to work for the Gates Foundation?
By Kristi Heim
Seattle Times business reporter
Seattle Times, October 17 2006 [shortened]

If you were the richest person in the world out to solve some of the hardest problems on the planet, who would you put on your team?

The newest members of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation include a World Bank vice president, a genetic engineer from seed giant Monsanto, the founder of an Internet company in Africa, and the former chief executive of a $100 million cattle-breeding company.

The Gates vision to remake the world has plenty of capital, flush with the first $1.6 billion infusion of Warren Buffett's estimated $31 billion donation. Now the foundation requires experts to manage burgeoning programs and figure out how to spend twice as much money each year as it did before.

New hires are flocking to Seattle from around the country and the world, demonstrating the foundation's ability to attract top talent.

But keeping them all focused on the same goals and values in the midst of such frantic growth is another challenge...

No part of the foundation has grown as fast as its newest effort, Global Development, which aims to bolster the nonprofit's work in health and education by improving food production, supporting small business through microcredit, and increasing access to computers and the Internet in libraries.

With the breakneck pace of a startup company, Global Development went from a strategic opportunity to be studied to a major program doling out $200 million in grants this year. Since its inception in May, the program has grown to 36 employees...

The foundation also has hired heavyweights from the agricultural industry, such as Monsanto vice president Robert Horsch, a scientist who led genetic engineering of plants at the seed giant. As senior program officer, Horsch will apply the technology toward improving crop yields in regions including sub-Saharan Africa, where the foundation recently launched a major drive with the Rockefeller Foundation.

One of the biggest challenges is "instilling the principles of the foundation" in its newest team members, Mathews said.

At the core is faith in the power of science and technology to improve lives.

Some of the new global development initiatives head into controversial territory, such as the debate over genetically modified crops. But the foundation says it intends to pursue any options that could help to reach its goal of increasing agricultural productivity in poor countries.

Free giveaways of Microsoft software to libraries in 35 countries, part of the Global Libraries Initiative, could face resistance in places like Europe, where the government has imposed antitrust sanctions.

Another challenge will be getting people with such vastly different backgrounds to embrace a common culture. It might not be so easy convincing high achievers with advanced degrees from Ivy League schools to be "humble and mindful."

That motto, one of the principles said to reflect the Gateses' views about philanthropy, originated with Bill Gates Sr., who is the "ultimate conscience" of the foundation, Harrington said.

As the new employees converged on Seattle, a scavenger hunt was organized in September to help them get acquainted. Teams raced around to find landmarks, donning ski jackets at REI, jamming air guitar with a Jimi Hendrix sculpture, heaving raw fish at Pike Place Market and searching shelves at Elliott Bay Book Co. to find a book written by Bill Gates.

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