1.Gates gives more money to GM projects
2.Gates gets Wambugu-ed!
The GM projects here should come as no surprise given the leading role played in the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health by the Monsanto-trained scientist/lobbyist Florence Wambugu - see item 2 below and her PANTS ON FIRE AWARD
excerpt from item 1: Four grants totaling $47 million are being given to researchers working to fight malnutrition by genetically altering the nutritional content of bananas, cassava, rice and sorghum. For example, bananas with greater content of vitamins A and E and iron...
1.Global research gets a big boost
Gates Foundation gives $436.6 million for health projects
SEATTLE - Two years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation posed a series of questions to scientists around the world:
How can we improve public health in developing countries? Can we develop vaccines that don't require refrigeration or needles? Are there better ways to stop insects from spreading malaria and other diseases?
The scientists answered by proposing more than 1,500 research projects. The Gates Foundation announced Monday that it would finance 43 of the proposals with grants totaling $436.6 million. That will pay for research ranging from finding AIDS vaccines to boosting the nutritional content of bananas.
"It's shocking how little research is directed toward the diseases of the world's poorest countries," Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates said in a news release. "By harnessing the world's capacity for scientific innovation, I believe we can transform health in the developing world and save millions of lives"
Among the projects:
- A team led by Abraham Sonenshein of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston will get $5 million to create childhood vaccines that don't require refrigeration. Sonenshein's plan is to encapsulate the vaccines in harmless - but naturally heat-resistant - bacterial spores. The vaccines could be distributed in packets for people to mix with water and drink.
- An international team led by Scott Leslie O'Neill of the University of Queensland in Australia will get $6.7 million to introduce a bacterial parasite to a mosquito population in a laboratory.
The parasite, which occurs naturally in other insects, should cause the mosquitoes to die before they are old enough to transmit dengue fever.
- Four grants totaling $47 million are being given to researchers fighting malnutrition by genetically altering the nutritional content of bananas, cassava, rice and sorghum.
For example, bananas with more vitamins A and E and iron could improve health in Uganda, where 38 percent of children under 5 are stunted from malnourishment.
2.Gates gets Wambugu-ed! - GMWatch, October 2003
Last year Dr. Florence Wambugu was appointed to the Science Board of the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.
Dr Wambugu is a DuPont Biotech Advisory Panelist, a two-times Monsanto Company Outstanding Performance Award winner, author and publisher of the book "Modifying Africa" and Chief Executive Director of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International. Dr Wambugu has also been called "an apostle of Monsanto in Africa". She was picked and trained by Monsanto and came to fame via Monsanto's virus-resistant sweet potato project.
Wambugu built her reputation on this project, capturing massive positive publicity for GM in the process. But Wambugu's reputation is built on a lie. The project in question has been very far from the success that is repeatedly claimed.
As Aaron deGrassi, a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, reveals in his analysis of the project, claims of big improvements in yield appear to be based on massively understating the yield of the conventional sweet potato crop in Kenya. And the project has been completely outclassed by conventional breeding and better ecological management which have produced far greater improvements in yields at a fraction of the cost of the Wambugu project.
"The sweet potato project is now nearing its twelfth year, and involves over 19 scientists ... and an estimated $6 million. In contrast, conventional sweet potato breeding in Uganda was able in just a few years to develop with a small budget a well-liked virus-resistant variety with yield gains of nearly 100%." The best improvement the GM sweet potato can produce - and there is some doubt as to whether the project has even achieved this - is 18%. The reason for doubt? "At the farm level, there is currently no evidence about the performance of transgenic sweet potatoes. The most recent account, published in January of this year, makes no mention of the state of the trials. KARI researchers have refused to state how the trials, now in their third year, have performed."
But while the reality of Wambugu's work appears to have been a waste of resources, it has been a colossal triumph in PR terms. Do a google search on "sweet potato + wambugu" and you'll find around 500 different items, many major articles reporting Wambugu's "life-saving" work from the world's media. In them Wambugu preaches the Monsanto gospel that GM crops are the key to eradicating poverty and hunger in the Third World. Her statements are largely met with the very opposite of critical scrutiny, as journalist Rankin McKay has noted,
"is it too cynical to suggest that having a black African as the face of a multinational chemical company is a spin doctor's dream? This seems to have lobotomised some journalists who have treated her views like the tablets from the Mount. Even the normally rigorous Jon Faine interviewed her in a way that was almost fawning." (GM science can be blinding)
In the Dec. 5, 2001 issue of Forbes magazine, Wambugu was named as one of 15 people from around the world who will "reinvent the future."
As deGrassi notes, the tragedy is that this kind of "excitement over certain genetic engineering procedures can divert financial, human, and intellectual resources from focusing on productive research that meets the needs of poor farmers."
[since this commentary was written, the results of the 3 years of trials on the GM sweet potato were completed. the GM crop had been a complete failure]
Aaron diGrassi, June 2003. Genetically Modified Crops and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Third World Network, Africa.