AS we approach a winter of discontent and food systems go from bad to worse, there is trouble in paradise.
by DUSTIN BROADBERY
At the root of these problems, government responses to covid have contributed to a six-fold increase in famine-like conditions as global supply chains collapse and field trials for gene-edited crops and farm animals restart in the UK.
Against the backdrop of this perfect storm, the UN’s World Food System Summit convened last month, with member states joining the private sector, civil society groups and researchers to bring about “tangible, positive changes” to the world’s food systems, and as the story goes, “drive recovery from covid-19”.
But even if we could solve our problems using the same logic that created them, there are deeper institutional problems undermining the integrity of the Summit. Specifically, its corporate capture by one man, whose vision of the future of food security places the interests of civil society and farming communities in a different universe to the corporations he is beholden to.
A household name on the world stage of disaster capitalism, there is more to Bill Gates than doomsayer- general terrorising the world’s population into a permanent state of suspended animation, and it typically involves the future of food security.
In less than a decade, Gates has become America’s largest private farmland owner, acquiring more than 269,000 acres of prime farmland in the US, including the 100 Circles Farm where fast food giant McDonalds’ potatoes are grown. Gates effectively owns McDonalds’ fries, his commitment to public health aside.
On the one hand Mr Gates is the most influential player in global public health, following in the footsteps of his spiritual leader, John D. Rockefeller. On the other, he backs a confederacy of fast food brands that are killing more people than tobacco, and driving those who survive towards the very pharmaceuticals which he also wheels and deals to half of all Americans suffering from chronic health disorders.
When it comes to fast food, Gates owns 7.8% of Warren Buffet’s investment vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, which controls 39% of the largest Subway fast food franchise and 9.3% of The Coca-Cola Company. That’s in addition to the Gates Foundation’s 16.8% stake in the largest Coca-Cola bottling franchise in the world, named for the fourth consecutive year as the world’s biggest plastic polluter.
But Gates’ environmental effrontery is only part of the problem. He also backs multiple ventures blurring the lines between food and tech, and if, indeed, Gates has his way, the food of the future will little resemble what grows out of the ground.
That’s because his centre of gravity is GMOs. He owns 500,000 Monsanto shares worth a modest $23 billion, making him, by implication, the sworn enemy of everything natural, organic and sustainable. There’s the Gates-funded Impossible Burger, made from genetically engineered soy and yeast, with its manufacturer, Impossible Foods, owning 25 patents on artificially replicated cheese, beef and chicken.
Another Gates-backed start-up is Ginkgo Bioworks. According to their mission statement, Gingko will produce custom organisms using cell programming technology to genetically engineer flavours and create ingredients for ultra-processed foods. Their plan is to license more than 20,000 engineered cell programmes to the food industry.
If, indeed, the agrifoodtech ventures Gates is bringing to market continue to flourish, traditional diets will soon be replaced by lab-cultivated meat and other Frankenstein foods.
Like Rockefeller before him, Gates is transforming our relationship with food, only he’s weaving climate change and the mantra of ‘following the science’ into his worldview.
This typically involves genetics, agrochemicals, and a shedload of automation, with his foundations industry partners operating Herculean monopolies over services and supply chains. What is of little importance to Gates are the social and environmental costs of his ventures. Or at least, he promotes one set of values, and invests in another.
For example, Gates accepts that agriculture accounts for 24% of ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions, but thanks to the 100 Circles transaction, Gates is now the largest farming real estate holder in the U.S. This despite, as we are told by the likes of Gates, that agriculture makes up as much as 70% of fresh water usage globally, leads to greater soil erosion, deforestation, and, you guessed it, climate change.
Gates flouts the very values of low carbon and sustainability which he himself helped to popularise. From the carbon footprint of his farmland holding, to $1.4 billion invested in the world’s biggest oil companies, Gates backs all the largest corporate perpetrators on the list of the European Commission’s top five causes of ‘climate change’.
When it comes to unsustainable scientific interventions, however, nothing quite hits the mark like synthetic fertilisers, which Gates describes as the “magical innovation that’s responsible for saving millions of lives from hunger and lifting millions more out of poverty”.
What he fails to divulge is that synthetic fertilisers pollute the world’s water sources, destroy the world’s largest carbon sink - the soil - exhaust the soil’s natural nitrogen deposits, deplete the soil’s microbial biomass, and, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are one of the key drivers of ‘climate change’.
Taking no notice of these facts, synthetic fertilisers are central to Gates’s master plan for the future of food security. He’s under the spell of Europe’s biggest fertiliser producer, Yara, which is not only causing climate catastrophe, but also had their top executives sent to prison in one of Norway’s biggest corruption scandals. There’s also the small matter of his 14.4% ownership of Canadian National Railways - one of the most important fertiliser supply chain operations in North America.
On the one hand Mr Gates uses his influence to transform public policy towards high input farming interventions; on the other, he directly profits from their deployment. What is of little importance is whether these interventions are fit for purpose.
Marking a broader takeover of the farming commons, fertilisers were once solely derived from natural and organic farming practices, including compost, animal manure and crop rotation – which have been shown to be more robust, sustainable, and profitable to farmers.
That was until the arrival of the Rockefeller Foundations’ ‘Green Revolution’ in the 1950’s, which galvanised an industry-wide overhaul to chemical interventions, large scale, technology-driven monoculture and hybridised seeds. Modernisation that heralded the arrival of mega corporations into farming and the reliance of small-scale farmers on their products and services.
But that’s only half the story.
A generation before the Green Revolution, John D. Rockefeller (the first) belonged to a group of prominent industrialists at the turn of the century, including the Carnegie and Harriman families, who were committed to facing off a threat presented to America’s Anglo-Saxon ruling elites by inferior genes, such as they were considered.
That culminated in the adoption of eugenics programmes across the U.S., which set out to eradicate the poor, feeble-minded and ethnic minorities from the gene pool through the forced sterilisation of 80,000 so- called defectives. That was until the Nazis’ race purification programmes were revealed to be imported from America’s flourishing eugenics movement, which, to say the least, proved to be a public relations disaster for eugenics.
The solution was to distance the pseudo-science from the holocaust by transmuting eugenics into the morally acceptable fields of ‘birth control’ and ‘genetics’ (with the reconstruction generously funded by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations), and with many of the original eugenics institutions morphing into today’s medical genetics organisations.
Fast forward a generation and many of the principles of eugenics were put to work in the Green Revolution of the 1950s when John D. Rockefeller Jr brought the gene revolution and its hybridised seeds to India. He was signalling man’s conquest over nature and the principle that only the strong amongst plants and animals should thrive and survive.
Half a century later, Gates would come to inherit this legacy through his foundation’s programmes in Africa. As is often noted, Gates’s father was the head of Planned Parenthood, one of the birth control descendants of the original eugenics movement, founded by prominent American eugenicist, Margaret Sanger.
This explains why the Gates Foundation is today active across the barometers essential for life itself - birth, health and food, and why no other organisation is so deeply embedded in medical genetics, from GM seeds and farm animals to the mRNA gene-based vaccine to the myriad birth control organisations funded by Mr. Gates, these principles are central to his philosophical worldview, which like Rockefeller before him, involves the aberration of man meddling with natural laws to rein in a subordinate nature. If, indeed, Gates has a maxim, then it is science over nature, man above God.