Biotechnology, News, Science Media November 1, 2017

Gates Foundation Grants Additional $6.4 million to Cornell’s Controversial Alliance for Science

by Jonathan Latham

In a presentation yesterday at Cornell, Alliance for Science Director, Sarah Evanega, revealed that her organisation had received “a renewed contribution” of $6.4 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Originally endowed with $5.6 million by the Gates Foundation in August 2014, the new grant takes the total Gates contribution to $12 million.

The Cornell Alliance for Science has a stated mission to “depolarize” the global GMO discussion and promote “evidence based decision making”.

Our goal is to depolarize the GMO debate and engage with potential partners who may share common values around poverty reduction and sustainable agriculture, but may not be well informed about the potential biotechnology has for solving major agricultural challenges,” Evanega has stated.

Cornell alliance fellows map
Cornell alliance fellows map

The Alliance has engaged in a diverse array of biotech-related activities since 2014. A major one is to train advocates in countries where GMOs are contentious in the techniques of “strategic communications”. This Global Leadership Fellows Program is an official Cornell certificate program and fellows are given business cards bearing the Cornell logo. The program trains 25 individuals per year and fellows are expected to become the trainers of others.

The additional Gates funding will be spent on similar projects, except with a more country-specific focus, said Evanega.

This grant was formally announced to the Cornell community on Sept 12.

The Cornell Alliance for Science has, however, gained a reputation as a divisive force internationally.

According to Claire Robinson of British group GMWatch, “it is a propaganda machine for the GMO and agrochemical industry”.

“This was affirmed for me when its staff were unable to produce evidence to back a controversial claim, fed to the BBC, that Bt brinjal (eggplant) had been a “90%” success in Bangladesh. This claim was made against a background of reports from reliable sources within Bangladesh that the crop had been a widespread failure. Making claims without evidence is not science.”

In 2015 the Alliance held a GMO Debate event in Ithaca, New York, the home town of Cornell, featuring prominent GMO advocates, but no critics, on the platform. This event was intended to model community outreach for Alliance fellows. It was noted at the time that the organisation of this event closely followed a model discussed, in private—but by then revealed, between prominent GMO advocate and academic, Kevin Folta, and Monsanto.

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Comments 3
  • There are many issues that need to be addressed. It is critical at this time to evaluate the issues facing this generation and development of solutions. I believe that there are many ways we can move forward in an intellectual and appropriate program to create the absolute possible and intellectual solutions to this dilemma. There is so much to learn and to follow that would improve our natural systems and sustainable future that is so important at this time.

  • Hello:

    Thank you for this and several other articles that you send my way.

    You may be aware that ESG, the group I coordinate, has taken Monsanto, Mayhco and Sathguru, amongst others, to court on grounds of biopiracy while advancing B.t. Brinjal in India. The case is being heard in the Supreme Court, and the final hearing is tomorrow on the issue of which forum should finally adjudicate the matter.

    Sathguru is a company established as a front for Cornell Univ in advancing ABSP project financed by USAID in India. A part of this project is to advance pro-poor agricultural technologies, an euphemism for promoting GMO in India, which, i notice Cornell continues to engage in as is discussed in the article below.

    Because of the case filed by ESG, and based on a complaint of criminal fraud filed by my collaborator in this cause Bhargavi Rao, and I, the National Biodiversity Authority, with backing from the Parliament of India and Indian Environment Ministry, has also filed a criminal case against Monsanto, Mahyco, Sathguru and ors involved, on grounds of biopiracy. The case has been admitted in a criminal court, but stayed in the Supreme Court. A decision on our civil case could have a bearing on advancing the criminal proceedings.

    You could find more information about the ESG case here:

    A video of a lecture Bhargavi and I have given on the issue is here:

    An article we wrote for the India Law News of the American Bar Association is here:

    Please feel free to contact me anytime.

    Kind regards

    [email protected]

  • I read the comment from Jean Siracusa three times and I’m still not sure if she supports the Gates/Cornell activity or not. Providing funds for legitimate GM research is not necessarily bad. Providing funds to support propaganda to increase corporate profits and further a personal agenda is not.

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