Investing in Food Security? Philanthrocapitalism, Biotechnology and Development

16 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2016

Date Written: November 1, 2013


This paper traces the evolution of philanthropic involvement in developing country agriculture from the ‘scientific philanthropy’ of the Rockefeller Foundation during and after the Green Revolution era to the ‘philathrocapitalism’ of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, by examining two cases of ‘pro-poor’ agricultural biotechnology research: pro-Vitamin A-enriched ‘Golden Rice’ and drought tolerant maize. In each case, novel institutions developed for technology transfer have created conditions conducive to future capitalist accumulation in ways that are not immediately obvious. These initiatives can be understood as institutional experiments that are shifting debates about the governance and regulation of genetically modified (‘GM’) crops. Meanwhile an emphasis on silver bullet solutions and institutions that ‘connect to the market’ diverts attention from more context-responsive approaches. This trend is likely to intensify with the announcement at the recent G8 summit backing a ‘New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition’ in which agri-business corporations are to play a key role.

Suggested Citation

Brooks, Sally, Investing in Food Security? Philanthrocapitalism, Biotechnology and Development (November 1, 2013). SWPS 2013-12, Available at SSRN: or

Sally Brooks (Contact Author)

University of York ( email )

University of York
York, YO10 5DD
United Kingdom

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