The Gates Foundation’s Ceres2030 Plan Pushes Agenda of Agribusiness
[image: The new Gates Foundation endeavor aims to infiltrate scientific
literature in order to push the agenda of agribusiness.]The new Gates
Foundation endeavor aims to infiltrate scientific literature in order to
push the agenda of agribusiness.Fotokostic / Shutterstock
By Jonathan Latham <>, Truthout
<> Published November 25, 2018

“Whether the challenge is low-yield crops in Africa or low graduation rates
in Los Angeles, we listen and learn,” states the website
<> of the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation (the Gates Foundation). Even though it is the richest and most
in all of international aid, the Gates Foundation prides itself on
listening to small farmers.

Its critics, however, have often accused the Gates Foundation of not living
up to this goal
The importance of listening to farmers might seem straightforward — to
avoid the risk of giving people what they don’t need. But underneath, much
more is going on.

Historically, international development was funded not so much for the
welfare of the poor, the hungry or the landless, but rather to fight the
Cold War <>.
Boosting allied governments, winning hearts and minds, and opening spaces
for commercial exploitation by Western corporations were the priorities

Those bad old days are behind us, according to the Gates Foundation. Their
new wave of development interventions has left behind the tainted
philanthropic foundations and their Cold War attitudes. Aid is now

However, on account of the Gates Foundation’s heavy-handed efforts to
control the development agenda
not everyone is convinced.

If it doesn’t ask the farmers what they need, however, who does a
development foundation ask? The answer, says the Gates Foundation, is
science. The Gates Foundation has nailed its flag to the mast of big data
<> and scientific rigor.
It has aggressively pursued scientific data collection as the key to
effective action in health care, education and now agriculture.
The problem with science, however, is that it is dissonant and
contradictory. Scientific literature overflows with competing paradigms
and answers for how to best help small farmers.

This then is the context for a new Gates Foundation endeavor,
Ceres2030, launched
at the recent gathering
of the Committee on World Food Security in Rome, Italy, on October 16.
Co-funded with the Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and
Development <> with a starting grant of $3.1 million,
Ceres2030 is a nonprofit based at Cornell University.

Ceres2030 <> is also a partnership with the
International Food Policy Research Institute of Washington, DC, and The
International Institute for Sustainable Development of Winnipeg, Canada —
organizations, detractors will note, with solid neoliberal credentials and
strong corporate connections

Its press release
describes Ceres2030 as a “groundbreaking data project to support
smallholder farmers and end hunger.” It will “map the fullest possible
range of knowledge in agricultural research, establish protocols for
systematic review, create a risk-of-bias tool, and then drill down to find
the most powerful interventions that can help end hunger.”

Its end product will supposedly “help donors prioritize investments by
evaluating agricultural interventions and investment costs to achieve the
UN’s sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030.”

In this way, according to Ceres2030 Co-Director Jaron Porciello of Cornell,
<> who spoke about Ceres2030
at a seminar held at the university
on November 8, the nonprofit “provides the tools, the framework and the
opportunity” to build consensus on development.

More specifically, Ceres2030 will use “natural language processing
to computationally parse the scientific literature on agricultural
interventions to find those of greatest benefit to small farmers. A “Global
Advisory Board” will select authors and topics. The chosen authors will
then write flagship review articles for a paid-for special issue of the
prestigious Nature magazine (slated for early 2020). These reviews will
then underpin a media outreach strategy whose intent is to sway G7 donor
spending to better help those farmers.

Even before the exact nature of the “risk-of-bias tool
<>” is
revealed, this approach to consensus-building will raise alarm bells for
those already doubtful of the disinterestedness of the Gates Foundation­.

For one, the definition of an intervention in agriculture, according to
Ceres2030, is one that raises crop productivity. According to Porciello’s
presentation, that means doubling smallholder output.

For productivity to be the key goal is highly significant. A focus on
productivity sidelines at the outset numerous other approaches to reducing
hunger and helping farmers. Many types of potential interventions that
could transform smallholder agriculture — such as targeted subsidies, commodity
price floors <>, land
distribution or food sovereignty
<>, all of
which don’t require yield increases — are automatically excluded by the
narrow focus on production.

Productivism, as it is called, represents an agenda. It is a premise whose
well-recognized effect is to remove the politics from hunger and poverty.
More than that, it provides a ready-made entry point for certain other
classes of solutions: the chemicals and GMOs of agribusiness, the promotion
of which the Gates Foundation is rapidly becoming known for

Alarms will sound still louder since Global Advisory Board members
announced by Porciello include former Cornell University Dean Ronnie
Coffman, who is Cornell’s Director of International Programs
<> in the College of
Agriculture and Life Science. As such, Coffman is Porciello’s boss at
Cornell. Coffman, more than anyone else, is also agribusiness’s man at
Cornell, as witnessed by his secretaryship
<> of the International
Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
<>, an agribusiness lobby group for GMOs based at the

In his role as Director of International Programs, Coffman is also the boss
of Sarah Evanega (formerly Davidson) who is director of the Cornell
Alliance for Science, also funded by the Gates Foundation
Despite its name, the Cornell Alliance for Science has become notorious
for its near-exclusive focus on promoting GMOs for global agriculture,
especially in Africa.

The stated goals of the Alliance
<> are banal: “We
provide accurate information” via a “global network of science
communicators.” And through the Alliance, every year, a new cohort of 20-30
“Global Fellows” are trained in media work. The Alliance’s website though,
much of it written by the fellows
<>, reveals its agenda, with
titles like: “Opposition to GM animals could leave millions hungry” and
“Unfairly demonized GMO crops can help fight malnutrition.” Perhaps most
revealing is this permanent text on the Alliance’s website

Farmers across the globe are struggling with the devastating impacts of
climate change: disrupted rainfall patterns, drought, extreme weather
events, pest infestations, plant diseases, crop losses, and hunger. Better
seeds developed through genetic engineering offer hope. But regulatory
delays are preventing millions of farmers from accessing this life-saving

Based on internal emails obtained from Cornell via the Freedom Of
Information Act (FOIA), the nonprofit US Right To Know <>
concluded that “The Cornell Alliance for Science is a PR Campaign for the
Agrichemical Industry
which uses Cornell’s name as cover.

The other Cornell member of the Ceres2030 appointed Global Advisory Board
is Cornell Professor Prabhu Pingali
<>. In 2015,
through another set of FOIA emails also obtained by US Right To Know,
Pingali was found to have conspired with Monsanto
executive Eric Sachs and PR executive Beth Anne Mumford to place into
scientific literature “subjects chosen for their influence on public
policy.” (See the emails attached to this article
That 2015 goal — infiltrating the scientific literature — is noteworthy for
replicating, on a lesser scale, the mission of Ceres2030.

Mumford subsequently moved to Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing lobby
group funded by the Koch brothers, whose website boasts that
<> Mumford “has spent
her career learning how to educate the public, organize grassroots armies,
and apply relentless grassroots pressure on wayward lawmakers.”

Comparisons between Ceres2030 and the Cornell Alliance for Science extend
not only to the similar PR strategy of using science to advance specific
ends, Gates funding and reporting to the same boss, but even to sharing the
same Cornell office.

The endgame for Ceres2030, according to Porciello’s Cornell presentation,
is to publish “7 to 11” highly visible academic reviews in Nature magazine
in early 2020 designed to showcase and promote science specifically chosen
by Ceres2030, the Gates Foundation, and behind them, it is harder than ever
to doubt, agribusiness.

Whoever conceived it, the creation of a specific organization for the
express purpose of infiltrating the scientific literature at the very
highest level represents an expensive and sophisticated marketing and PR
strategy. And it appears that Nature magazine is already lined up. Nature
has decided that pay-to-play is consistent with reputable science
publishing. It is a business model that should remunerate Nature
handsomely. The apex of the scientific literature is exceedingly valuable
real-estate. It will buy priceless influence with policymakers — unless,
that is, someone informs them exactly how it was achieved.
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Jonathan Latham <>

Jonathan R. Latham, Ph.D., is cofounder and executive director of the
Bioscience Resource Project, which is the publisher of Independent Science
News. He has published scientific papers in disciplines as diverse as plant
ecology, virology and genetics.