Bill Gates’ super-secret visit

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok April 13,2015 - 11:16 AM

Advocates of the Reproductive Health Law must be chafing that Bill Gates visited Manila without ringing their doors. After all, the call to the nation’s capital by the co-founder of Microsoft, considered as the world’s wealthiest man (more than $78 billion as of 2014) would have been a fitting cap to the passage of the Reproductive Health Law –  a measure that boosts the “lifetime work” of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is none other than the promotion of artificial contraception.

The foundation’s $34-billion financial resources funded this well-oiled drive in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia so there are really no surprises in the passage of the RH Law. The propaganda machine is crowing that some 120 million women in these countries have been economically liberated through access to artificial contraception, all in the name of human development, thanks to the foundation’s partnership with a giant pharmaceutical company as well as pliant states that bow down to pressure by international aid donors.

Because resistance to the RH measure has already been subdued, what is Mr. Bill Gates up to this time, visiting the International Rice Research Institute IRRI in Los Baños, Laguna minus protocol? Why the super-secret visit?

Some two days before the arrival of Mr. Gates in Manila, I came across an article in the social media posted by the apex body of co-operatives, the International Cooperative Alliance ICA.

The article, “Carving up Africa” by the online publication, The Ecologist, reported that “A secretive conference, co-organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), one of the world’s largest donors, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) took place in London  on March 23, 2015. Also invited were topnotch companies in the agribusiness world, like Syngenta (the world’s third-biggest seed and biotechnology company) and its relative, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and The World Bank according to the online magazine.

“The Multiple Pathways for Promoting the Commercial and Sustainable Production and Delivery of Early Generation Seed of Food Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa” conference was intended for aid donors obsessed with free market, that is to say, they were to discuss how to increase their control of the global seed sector, according to the report.

Despite the fact that food is at the center of the discussion, not a single farmer organization was invited. Agricultural cooperatives all over the world should have been properly summoned, but in the words of The Ecologist, “Why invite a farmer organization when your aim is helping companies sell new seed varieties? Why invite civil society when your aim is to impose a predetermined profit-driven agenda?

The alleged plot to “take over Africa’s seeds, replace traditional seed-breeding and saving by small farmers with a corporate model of privatized, improved, patented, genetically uniform and hybrid seeds in a profit-driven market” was to be discussed within the framework of a report by the international management consultancy firm, Monitor Deloitte with the aim of “developing the seed sector” in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Deloitte report presented “examples of potential business models that could scale the production and delivery of environmental goods and services (EGS) in a commercially sustainable manner.”

It also recommends that “in countries where demand for patented seeds is weaker (that is, where farmers are using their own seed-saving networks), public-private partnerships should be developed so that private companies are protected from ‘investment risk.’”

The seed-privatization plot will see the mobilization of NGOs and aid donors to pressure governments to introduce intellectual property rights for seed breeders and help to persuade farmers to buy commercial, patented seeds rather than relying on their own traditional varieties.

The adoption of commercial, patented seeds among poor farmers in Africa is the main agenda of the so-called New Alliance.

According to The Ecologist, “up to 75% of the seed varieties needed to produce our food are currently in the hands of small farmers; smaller farms are more biodiverse, and therefore more resilient to crop disease and climate change than large plantations.” But despite the incredibly important role that small farmers play in preserving seed varieties and creating resilient food systems, large donors with the support of Mr. Gates and large agricultural companies “seem more interested in supporting big business and promoting policies that make it easier for agribusiness companies to control seed markets.”

The puzzle why Bill Gates came here last week looks partially solved.  Some quarters are singing praises to the BMGF for endowing IRRI with $18 million, but unless the nongovernment organization is forthright about what it is doing for Bill Gates, his visit here invites suspicion rather than elation.

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TAGS: Bill Gates, Reproductive Health Law, RH Bill, secret visit, Summer, vacation

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