Gates' projects involving GM (31/7/2007)

1.Philanthropy Gates Style
2.Dark cloud over Gates Foundation
3.Gates' projects involving GE

1.Philanthropy Gates Style
ISIS Press Release, 30 JULY 2007

The world's biggest philanthropic foundation is reaping huge profits investing in companies responsible for causing the problems it tries to solve; its grant-giving is also doing more harm than good in undermining health and agricultural systems, distorting national and global priorities, and preventing the necessary paradigm change that could help secure the future of the planet.

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2.Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation
By Charles Piller, Edmund Sanders and Robyn Dixon Times Staff Writers Los Angeles Times, January 7 2007



By comparing [Gates'] investments with information from for-profit services that analyze corporate behavior for mutual funds, pension managers, government agencies and other foundations, The Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.

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3.Gates' projects involving GE

Several of the projects include use of genetic engineering, some which may remain in the lab, but others are designed to be released into the environment. They spent at least approx. US$75 million on biotech projects so far, many of which appear to involve genetic engineering.

6.1 Using Genetic Knowledge to Manage Disease-Transmitting Insects[10] There are "four Grand Challenges projects that pursue genetic strategies to reduce or incapacitate populations of insects that transmit disease."[11] The priority areas for this challenges are Malaria, Trypanosomiasis, Dengue.

The total value of the current grants for this "challenge" is US$37.7 million, approximately 8.3% of the total fund of US$450 million.

6.1.1 The aim of this challenge is as follows:

"To develop a coherent genetic strategy for making vector populations incompetent to transmit disease agents, or for substantially reducing the prevalence of the vector. The strategy must ensure effectiveness in the field, safety, and social and environmental acceptability."

6.1.2 Identified "roadblocks"

The project summary states "[w]hile we can enumerate the technologic requirements for the genetic control of disease-transmitting insects, we have not solved the full range of problems that would allow us to either replace an insect vector population in the field with one incapable of transmitting a disease aspect, or to control insect vector population numbers by genetic approaches. We also cannot accurately predict all of the ecological consequences of replacement."[12] (emphasis added)

These acknowledgements show that the project is vulnerable to uncertainty both in effectiveness and potential impacts.

6.1.3 The specific projects are:

a) Developing Novel Transgenic Strategies for Introducing Dengue Virus Refractivity in Mosquito Cells and Tissues Lead investigator: Malcolm James Fraser, University of Notre Dame, U.S.

Grant amount: $2.5 million

Researchers will develop a new approach to suppress the replication of dengue virus within mosquitoes, using genetic strategies to introduce a molecular mechanism that harnesses the dengue virus' own genetic make-up to activate a cell death pathway that kills infected cells.

b) Genetic Strategies for Control of Dengue Virus Transmission Lead investigator: Anthony Amade James, University of California at Irvine, U.S.

Grant amount: $19.7 million

This multinational team will employ a combination of molecular, field, and social science research to advance a genetic-based strategy for preventing mosquitoes from transmitting the dengue virus. The project will examine genetic approaches to controlling dengue virus transmission, including those that could inhibit viral development within the mosquito, reduce the ability of infected mosquitoes to successfully transmit the virus, and reduce or eliminate mosquito populations.

c) Homing Endonuclease Genes: New Tools for Mosquito Population Engineering and Control Lead investigator: Austin Burt, Imperial College of London, U.K.

Grant amount: $8.8 million

The inability to ensure that newly introduced genes will become established within the regional mosquito population has been a major roadblock to the advancement of genetic strategies for vector control. In this project, Dr. Burt and colleagues will test a class of artificially engineered genes known to spread rapidly from parent to offspring to move newly introduced traits, such as sterility or inability to transmit disease, through a mosquito population. Laboratory experiments will predict whether such a strategy could eradicate mosquito populations or render them unable to transmit malaria.

d) Modifying Mosquito Population Age Structure to Eliminate Dengue Transmission

Lead investigator: Scott Leslie O'Neill, The University of Queensland, Australia Grant amount: $6.7 million Dr. O'Neill and a multinational team plan to interfere with the mosquito's ability to transmit the dengue virus by altering its lifespan. Scientists will introduce a bacterial parasite that occurs naturally in other insects into mosquitoes so that it causes them to die before they are old enough to transmit the virus. Mosquitoes would "inherit" the parasite and pass it from generation to generation. The approach will be tested on controlled mosquito populations in the laboratory. Dengue virus currently infects up to 100 million people each year.

6.2 Improve Nutrition to Promote Health

The foundation website states that "[P]oor nutrition is a major global health problem. A promising long-term solution is to genetically modify crops that grow well in harsh climates so that they contain high levels of essential nutrients."[13] The aim of the current projects is to create a nutrient-rich staple plant.

6.2.1 Summary of the project - Nutrient-Rich Plants[14]

This projects summary states that the project will "use transgenesis, biochemistry, selective breeding of plants, and other appropriate technologies such as apomixes, to provide combinations of micronutrients, vitamins, and essential amino acids in a bioavailable form in local crops, such as rice, wheat, sorghum, millets, cassava, potatoes, maize, bananas and others, or to enhance energy density and improve protein quality in such foods, in a socially and culturally acceptable way."[15]

The priority projects are Iron, Zinc, Selenium and vitamin A and E deficiencies as well as protein deficiencies.

The total sum of grants to fund this "challenge" is US$36.8 million, approximately 8.1% of the total funding of US$450 million.

6.2.2 Specific Projects

a) Development of Bananas with Optimized Bioavailable Micronutrients Lead investigator: James Langham Dale, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Grant amount: $1.1 million

Researchers in Australia, Uganda, and the United States will attempt to genetically modify Ugandan bananas -- a staple food in that country -- so that they contain increased levels of pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron.

b) Improving Cassava for Nutrition, Health, and Sustainable Development

Lead investigator: Richard T. Sayre, Ohio State University, U.S.

Grant amount: $7.5 million

Dr. Sayre's team will attempt to genetically modify cassava, a starchy root crop that is the staple food for more than 250 million people in Africa. In addition to increasing the levels of key micronutrients in cassava, researchers will modify the plant to eliminate naturally occurring cyanide and to allow it to be stored for longer periods of time.

c) Improving Rice for High Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E, and Enhanced Iron and Zinc Bioavailability Lead investigator: Peter Beyer, Albert-Ludwigs University, Germany Grant amount: $11.3 million

d) Nutritionally-Enhanced Sorghum for the Arid and Semi-Arid Tropical Areas of Africa Lead investigator: A Harvest, Kenya, in collaboration with Dr. Paul Anderson of DuPont Crop Genetics Research, U.S.

Grant amount: $16.9 million

The African-based food organization A Harvest is partnering with scientific teams from agricultural company Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa. A Harvest will attempt to genetically engineer a new variety of sorghum for the more than 300 million people in arid regions of Africa who rely on this grain as their primary source of food. This project seeks to develop a more nutritious and easily digestible sorghum that contains increased levels of pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, zinc, amino acids, and protein.

di) Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI) (A Harvest) Florenece Wambugu is the CEO and founder of Africa Harvest. Wambugu was picked and trained by Monsanto for its GM virus-resistent sweet potato project. It is around this project that Wambugu has built her reputation, capturing massive positive publicity for GM crops in the process. Wambugu became the first Director of the AfriCentre of ISAAA, which was established in Kenya in 1994. AHFBI's Communication Program is supported by the Brussel-based CropLife International (formerly the Global Crop Protection Federation) led by BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Syngenta and Sumitomo.

6.3 Other grand challenge projects involving biotechnology There are several other global challenge projects that have received grant funding from the foundation which may be relevant to GE issues. They involve genetic manipulation to develop vaccines and to study the human genome through a project called MalariaGEN in order to discover natural variations in the human genome that determine an individual's ability to resist infection.[16]

Another project involves genetically engineering mice with livers and immune systems that are similar to those of humans, so that the animals can be used to test potential HIV and hepatitis C vaccines prior to human trials.[17]

[10] Using Genetic Knowledge to Manage Disease-Transmitting Insects http://www.grandchallengesgh.org/subcontent.aspx?SecID=412

[11] http://www.gcgh.org/subcontent.aspx?SecID=392

[12] Using Genetic Knowledge to Manage Disease-Transmitting Insects http://www.gcgh.org/ArDisplay.aspx?SecID=344&ID=57

[13] Improve Nutrition to promote health. Grand Challenges Projects. http://www.grandchallengesgh.org/proposals.aspx?SecID=263

[14] Nutrient-Rich Plants


[15] Grand Challenge #9, Challenge. http://www.gcgh.org/ArDisplay.aspx?SecID=344&ID=59

[16] Design Antigens for Protective Immunity http://www.gcgh.org/subcontent.aspx?SecID=399

[17] Tests for vaccine evaluations. http://www.gcgh.org/subcontent.aspx?SecID=402

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