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Under the cover of philanthropy: a monopoly machine at work

The long-term prices of permitting a handful of firms to take over healthcare and agriculture in creating nations, in change for vaccinations and hybrid seeds bought at discounted worth, is more likely to be a forbidding one—one that the populations of the International South might be suffered to pay once the process of monopolization is full.

The likelihood of a handful firms monopolizing healthcare and agriculture in the creating world is a very actual danger at the moment. Intently associated with these firms, the Invoice and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) – the richest and the most powerful philanthropic foundation shaping these sectors globally – aids them in the process of monopolization by granting large funds to its network of NGOs to carry out activities which primarily profit these selected firms, in lots of of which the foundation has considerable monetary stakes.

Aside from making such grants, by means of the car of Public Personal Partnerships (PPP), the foundation also has been facilitating the circulate of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money into what are primarily personal tasks.

The inspiration also plays a essential position in lobbying for stronger IPR regimes which oblige creating nations to grant long patent durations for medicine which are solely minor alterations of already present, off-patent medicine. In Africa, this foundation is one of the strongest forces that is arm-twisting governments to steadily rewrite seed legal guidelines to offer patent protection for business seeds, which might ultimately require criminalization of all non-certified seeds.

The Modus Operandi of monopolizing the vaccine market

International Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a Public-Personal partnership (PPP) founded in 2000 after an initial pledge of $750 million by the BMGF, is at this time the most outstanding pressure shaping the vaccine market in the International south. Tens of millions of dollars, not solely of personal philanthropic grants but in addition public money, have been transferred via this PPP to some of the largest firms associated with the basis.

The extent of public cash flowing via this PPP is clear in the incontrovertible fact that 80% of GAVI’s funds are paid by donor states.  Solely the remaining 20% are coughed up by personal donors – principally the Bill and Melinda Gates basis which holds a everlasting seat on the board of the alliance, along with UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank. Two seats on the board are reserved for representatives from the vaccine-manufacturing firms, the remaining being held for restricted time durations by unbiased individuals and representatives from governments and civil society organisations.

One of means by means of which GAVI funds distribution of pneumococcal vaccines known as Advance Market Dedication (AMC)– a system by way of which the UNICEF calls upon producers for “a 10-year commitment to supply a share of the target demand of 200 million doses annually at a price no higher than $ 3.50 per dose”. This mechanism permits AMC-registered producers whose purposes are accepted to secure a market in creating nations for 10 years, with no menace of competitors.

Nations whose average Gross Nationwide Revenue (GNI) per capita over the last three years is $1580 or much less are eligible to use for financial help from GAVI. This enables the nations to acquire specified quantity of vaccinations by paying a fraction of this worth of $3.50 per dose, the remaining being paid by GAVI. When the per capita GNI of a nation receiving GAVI’s help for routine vaccines rises over this eligibility threshold, it enters “the accelerated transition phase” through which monetary help from GAVI is phased out over a period of 5 years, following which the authorities of that nation is obliged to buy the remaining quantity of doses specified in “Secretariat’s decision letter”, at the full worth of $3.50 per dose.

Any country failing  to comply with this obligation can be deemed a defaulter, which carries with it certain penalties, which can embrace not solely the suspension of help for the relevant vaccine but in addition of different providers on which the country might have developed a dependency on GAVI. “To come out of default, a country is required to fulfil the co-financing requirement of the current year together with the first tranche of arrears payments relating to the previous year as agreed in the payment plan”, GAVI’s co-financing policy doc (Model 2.0) states.

For the first years after AMC turned useful, double the agreed worth of $3.50 per dose was provided by GAVI to the producers “to tempt companies in”, Guardian reported. And the names of the corporations thus tempted is not any surprise.

“Two of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world – GSK and Pfizer – won contracts to supply 30m doses a year for 10 years. They were guaranteed $225m each from the AMC, in addition to the $3.50 Gavi pays, which works out to a total price of $7 a dose for the first two years.”

The conflict of interest arising from the basis’s shut relation with GSK is explained in a previous article. Even in Pfizer, in response to a report, the basis’s belief had investments as on 2014. In 2015, Pfizer’s senior vice-president, Emilio Emini was appointed as the director of BMGF’s HIV for the International Well being program.

This choice to subsidise some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations related to the foundation, relatively than utilizing the money to help generic corporations in India, China and Brazil that produce pharmaceutical merchandise at a much cheaper worth, has repeatedly come underneath criticism by MSF and Oxfam.

Far from aiding the manufacturing of low cost medicine by generic pharma via means similar to know-how transfers, the company giants, including Invoice Gates’ Microsoft, “lobbied vociferously” for acceptance of TRIPS agreement, which obliged member nations to comply with grant patents to pharmaceutical corporations for a minimum interval of 20 years. Microsoft again lobbied the G8 in 2007 to strengthen the protection of international Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which, Oxfam warned, is sure to “worsen the health crisis in developing countries”, the New Internationalist reported.

Stifling the improvement of generic pharma by lobbying for stronger Intellectual Property Rights regime (which, opposite to incentivizing innovation as is extensively claimed, has the opposite effect as demonstrated by many empirical studies including one by U.S authorities); facilitating a move of monumental subsidies into personal tasks of intently related pharmaceutical corporations, not solely by making philanthropic grants but in addition by channelizing by means of GAVI alliance the public cash granted by numerous states; and defending chosen firms from potential competitors in the market by locking nations receiving help via this programme into long-term commitments to purchase vaccinations they manufacture – all look like a multi-pronged strategy to monopolize the international healthcare business. And being “the single most influential voice in global health”, Invoice Gates is greater than well-qualified to be at the helm of this machine.

Scramble for Africa, again: re-colonization of agriculture

Activities of the basis in agriculture – the different key sector being formed by the basis – also seems to be geared in the direction of the similar finish of monopolization. In March 2015, some of the largest players in international agribusiness, the UK government’s Division for International Improvement (DFID) and the World Financial institution met in a secretive convention co-organised by the Bill and Melinda Gates basis and the USAID – “two of the main driving forces behind the adoption of commercial, patented seeds among poor farmers in Africa.” The goal of this convention, to which not a single farmer’s organisation was invited, was to debate a report on “developing the commercial seed sector in sub-Saharan Africa.” Meals-sovereignty researcher, Ian Fitzpatrick, wrote that this report

“recommends that in countries where demand for patented seeds is weaker (i.e. where farmers are using their own seed saving networks), public-private partnerships should be developed so that private companies are protected from ‘investment risk’. It also recommends that that NGOs and aid donors should encourage governments to introduce intellectual property rights for seed breeders and help to persuade farmers to buy commercial, patented seeds rather than relying on their own traditional varieties.”

Lobbying for IPR for seeds is carried out by way of a network of non-profit organisations, one of which is African Agricultural Know-how Foundation (AATF). As on 2016, AATF had acquired virtually $118 million in grants from the Gates basis, aside from the grants its receives from other bodies together with DFID and USAID.

This organisation, by its personal admission, “ensures that intellectual property management is addressed”, aside from monitoring “Press and public opinion” and “providing product-specific information that addresses concerns regarding issues such as genetic engineering or intellectual property protection”. AATF has additionally taken upon itself to, “assess the relevant national IPR regimes to ensure that any benefit sharing agreements can be enforced.”

Based in 2006 with grants from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller foundation, the Alliance for a Inexperienced Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is one other key organisation pushing patented seeds in the region. This organisation, which the Gates foundation has referred to as the “African face and voice of our work”, has been lobbying African governments to introduce IPR for seeds in multiple methods, including drafting revisions to national seed policy of Ghana and submitting it to the authorities – a move that has evoked fierce resistance from Ghana Food Sovereignty Community. In Tanzania, AGRA’s Seed Policy Action Node has “reviewed national seed policies and presented a study on the demand for certified seeds.”  Final yr, AGRA has acquired $200 million in grants from BMGF.

By allowing the introduction of business seed methods, International Justice Now warned in a single of its report, Africa runs the danger of “enabling a few large companies to control seed research and development, production and distribution.” An IPR system incorporating business seeds in Africa requires, “a fundamental restructuring of seed laws to allow for certification systems that not only protect certified varieties and royalties derived from them, but which actually criminalise all non-certified seed.”

Lobbying for IPR is just not the solely method by which AGRA serves the pursuits of some of the largest agribusiness firms. It additionally supports a community of agro-dealers, which act as a conduit by way of which Monsanto (now trying to merge with German chemical company Bayer) sells all its seeds and herbicides in the region, as admitted by the firm’s country manager in Malawi.

In an effort to get the promised yields from the hybrid seeds circulated in Africa by means of AGRA, the farmers need to purchase the required portions of chemical inputs. 67% of all these inputs bought by agro-dealer networks supported by AGRA are that of Monsanto. In the three years between 2007 and 2010, these agro-dealer networks bought 10,908 tonnes of seeds and 18,071 tonnes of fertilizers, attaining an 85% improve in gross sales, in accordance an evaluation report perused by International Justice Now.

Monsanto, which benefited the most from these gross sales, is a firm during which the foundation purchased 500,000 shares value $23 million in 2010. Though the basis has reportedly bought its Monsanto shares in the end of 2011, it was revealed by Warren Buffett final yr that his Berkshire Hathaway – through which basis’s trust holds virtually 60 million shares– has acquired over 8 million Monsanto shares, value $846 million.

The overlapping of interests between the foundation and Monsanto isn’t restricted to the basis’s financial stake in corporation, but extends to widespread personnel, as is the case with GSK in the world of pharma. Rob Horsch, who was previously the “the leader of International Development Partnerships at Monsanto”, has been appointed the Deputy Director of Agricultural Analysis and Improvement workforce at the Gates basis since 2006.

Sam Dryden, who before working at Monsanto was related to Union Carbide and Dow Agro Sciences, was appointed as the Director of Agricultural Improvement at the Gates foundation. This appointment came “soon after his pro-biotech speech in October 2009”, by which he was advocated “American-style, patent-wielding, chemical-biotech-based behemoths such as Monsanto with their “quick-fix” options” as the salvation for Africa’s agriculture. This advice, if taken, the critics warned, would profit shareholders in Monsanto and comparable firms, at the value of making poor farmers dependent on them for inputs, reported a Guardian article which referred to Dryden as “possibly the most powerful figure in world agriculture today.”

The aim of labouring this point that BMGF is one of the very important brokers facilitating the ongoing course of of monopolization of the international healthcare and agriculture is just not necessarily to deny any constructive impacts the foundations’ interventions might have had. It is as an alternative to warn that the long-term prices of permitting a handful of firms to take over healthcare and agriculture in creating nations, in trade for vaccinations and hybrid seeds bought at discounted costs, is more likely to be a forbidding one – one that the populations of the International South might be suffered to pay as soon as the course of of monopolization is full.