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.