Bill Gates, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) located in Seattle, Washington, is one of the world’s leading charities that brings advanced healthcare (including vaccinations) and other leading-edge technology to underdeveloped countries. As I’ve said before, I am not a hero worshipper, but there is something admirable and moral about a person who has built incredible wealth, and then decides to give it back to the world in a way that cannot itself be measured monetarily.
Bill and Melinda Gates appear to be genuinely devoted to helping people, especially those who lack access to modern technology and medicine. To that end, they have stated that they will give away about 95% of their wealth through charitable causes.
This focus on vaccines has made Bill Gates a target of the antivaccination lunatics. Numerous lies about Gates have become internet memes, from “Gates’ vaccines are population control” (based on a complete misreading of something he said) to Gates’ polio vaccines have paralyzed 47,000 kids in India. I refuted the most egregious lies. And then there’s the postmodernist antivaccine cretin Sayer Ji who invented a whole host of lies about Gates. I debunked those too.
Bill Gates and GMO research
Of course, the BMGF provides funding for more than vaccines. They are extremely interested in agriculture in underdeveloped countries, because malnourishment is as critical to saving lives as bringing all the vaccines ever known to prevent diseases. The BMGF has given over US$70 million in research grants for genetically engineering crops to feed people where foods are difficult to grow in sufficient quantities to feed the local population.
Cue the GMO haters, because if there’s one group that exceeds the passionate scientific illiteracy of vaccine deniers, it’s the anti-GMO crowd. I noticed a lot of GMO stories about Bill Gates, and many (if not all, because you’ll find that in the pseudoscience world there’s a tendency to repeat one meme or article over and over again, which makes it appear that it’s a broadly written “truth”) have their roots in a website called Natural Health. It’s designed and written with the same anti-science rhetoric as the similar sounding, Natural News.
Bill Gates and Monsanto
Natural Health has published a handful of articles that attack Bill Gates:
- Failed Monsanto GMO Corn Pushed on African Countries. Apparently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the use of a Monsanto genetically modified corn called MON810 in several sub-Sahara African countries. The corn has been modified to be resistant to certain pests, allowing for better yields and lower use of expensive (and potentially toxic) pesticides. Sounds like a win for the farmers and the environment. But Natural Health claims that the GMO corn is a failure, declaring (without evidence) that Monsanto’s corn doesn’t do what it supposed to do. The science says otherwise. It’s approved for use and found to be safe in a number of countries, including the USA, EU, and other locations. Of course, the incompetent anti-GMO researcher (and incompetent is the nice word) Séralini wrote another scientifically unsound paper claiming that MON810 caused cancer in rats. Like his more recent paper about a GM corn causing cancer in rats, this one is of similar quality (or lack thereof) without sound experimental and statistical design. The MON810 corn is not a failure, and the fact that Bill Gates’ foundation is supporting farmers to obtain this corn (contributed at no cost by Monsanto) so that they can feed people–that sounds like a good thing.
- Bill Gates Foundation Buys 500,000 Shares of Monsanto. “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock. Monsanto is the world’s largest producer of genetically modified food, which has been tied to numerous health ailments such as sterility and infant mortality.” Well, here we go. The BMGF purchase stock for investment so that their charitable work can be funded far into the future (it can’t be 100% in Microsoft, that would be a bad investment strategy). According to the anti-GMO clique, because the foundation purchased this stock, the implication is that every decision they make will be influence by Monsanto? That’s what we call the Monsanto Shill Gambit, which is a logical fallacy that is a type of ad hominem and poisoning the well, wherein one party dismisses the other’s argument by proclaiming them to be on the payroll of some company. Unfortunately for Natural Health, there isn’t one piece of evidence that the Foundation is influenced by Monsanto. However, there is one more, and quite a bit more significant, problem–according to the last reported holdings of the Foundation (pdf), the BMGF owns stock in hundreds of companies, none of which are named Monsanto. Undoubtedly, one or more of Foundation’s institutional investments, like a mutual fund, owns stock in Monsanto, but that’s several steps away from Monsanto having any logical influence over Gates.
- Genetically Engineered Rice Pushed by Bill Gates & Monsanto. Essentially, the BMGF is funding the adoption of golden rice, which is a type of rice that produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice. Why is this important? Because over 670,000 children die every year from vitamin A deficiency. Since rice is an inexpensive and ubiquitous food source throughout the world, fortifying it with vitamin A will save lives. It’s that simple. Thank you Bill Gates.
- Monsanto Investor Bill Gates Says GMO Crops Fight Starvation. “Bill Gates, the heavy Monsanto investor who purchased 500,000 shares of the biotech giant in 2010, has been touting Monsanto’s genetically modified creations as a tool that is necessary to prevent starvation in poor nations.” Over-the-top Shill Gambit with some added ad hominems against Monsanto.
The evidence supporting the safety of genetically modified, to humans and to the environment, is overwhelming. The evidence showing that GMO crops are dangerous is notably lacking, and that includes the embarrassingly bad research from Séralini.
Again, I don’t deify people (and since Bill Gates is an atheist, why would I?). I’m sure Gates isn’t perfect, maybe he hates cats (no, I don’t know that, and I’m not going to waste my time refuting or supporting such nonsense). His and his foundation’s efforts to help feed the world, save children from malnutrition (and vaccine preventable diseases), and find innovative ways to improve the world are the absolute definition of a moral human being.
The anti-GMO horde can only rely upon logical fallacies, bad science, and straight up lying to attack the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m sure he doesn’t care, and I’m sure he’s going to continue doing what is best for people all over the world. Because the Gates family seems to genuinely care about making the world a better place when they leave it compared to when they entered. How many of us can say that?
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2013. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.
- Black RE, Allen LH, Bhutta ZA, Caulfield LE, de Onis M, Ezzati M, Mathers C, Rivera J; Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group. Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. Lancet. 2008 Jan 19;371(9608):243-60. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61690-0. Review. PubMed PMID: 18207566.
- Chungjatupornchai W, Höfte H, Seurinck J, Angsuthanasombat C, Vaeck M. Common features of Bacillus thuringiensis toxins specific for Diptera and Lepidoptera. Eur J Biochem. 1988 Apr 5;173(1):9-16. PubMed PMID: 2833395. Impact factor=4.25.
- Séralini GE, Cellier D, de Vendomois JS. New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007 May;52(4):596-602. Epub 2007 Mar 13. PubMed PMID: 17356802. Impact factor=3.20
- Ye X, Al-Babili S, Klöti A, Zhang J, Lucca P, Beyer P, Potrykus I. Engineering the provitamin A (beta-carotene) biosynthetic pathway into (carotenoid-free) rice endosperm. Science. 2000 Jan 14;287(5451):303-5. PubMed PMID: 10634784. Impact factor=31.03.