Money Can Buy

Fairness and justice can inform politics, invigorate its supporters and infiltrate the ranks of decision-makers to influence the use of government and guide the course international cooperation.

So can business.

And now the Gates Foundation has finally named a new director of agricultural development—a position left vacant since April, when Rajiv Shah left to take a post at USDA. (Shah is now director of USAID within the State Department—the top development position in the U.S. government). The foundation named long-time biotech exec and investor Sam Dryden to the post.

In doing so, the foundation could hardly have sent a stronger signal: In its vision, at least, Africa’s future as a prosperous continent hinges on the benevolence of patent-wielding Western biotech behemoths like Monsanto and its very few peers in the GMO-seed space. Here is how The Seattle Times describesDryden’s background:

At Wolfensohn and Company, which was founded by former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Dryden focused on investments in alternative energies. He formerly headed Emergent Genetics, which develops and markets seeds. Emergent Genetics, the third largest cotton seed company in the U.S., was acquired by Monsanto in 2005 in a $300 million deal. [Emphasis added.]

The tools are malleable, not permanently bent. The reasons for optimism are also the reasons to be skeptical. On neither count  should we underestimate the power of vital green interests.