Clive James

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Clive James is the founder and chairman of the board of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), an international not-for-profit organization that promotes the use of agricultural biotechnology, such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in the Global South. James played a major role in involving Monsanto and the U.S. Agency for International Development in funding biotechnology projects for developing countries. He also enlisted the Rockefeller Foundation to fund such an effort. This occurred in 1990, the same year James established ISAAA.

Official Biography

"In 1990, Dr James founded ISAAA, a not-for-profit charitable organization, established to facilitate the acquisition and transfer of agricultural biotechnology applications from the industrial countries, for the benefit of resource-poor farmers in the developing world. The mission of ISAAA is to alleviate hunger and poverty in the developing countries. An agricultural scientist, Dr James received his formal training in the UK with a first degree in agriculture from the University of Wales, followed by a PhD from Cambridge University. Prior to his association with ISAAA he was Deputy Director General at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, where he worked with Dr Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution, who is a patron of ISAAA. The last twenty five years have been spent living and/or working in the developing countries of Asia, Latin America, and Africa and devoted to agricultural research & development issues, and crop biotechnology. He has served, as a research scientist in the UK Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal

Department of Agriculture in Canada, as Senior Agricultural Adviser to the Canadian Bilateral Aid Agency (CIDA), senior officer to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and has consulted for many international development agencies including UNDP, the World Bank and many international philanthropic foundations, such as the Rockefeller Foundation. He has published internationally-recognized Annual Reviews on the Global Status of GM crops, and their contribution to global food, feed and fiber security, since 1996, when GM crops were first commercialized."[1]

James Sells Monsanto on Humanitarian Work

"The fate of the world's poorest farmers certainly did not weigh heavily on the minds of Monsanto's executives as they dove into biotechnology during the 1980s. Outsiders brought those concerns to the company's front door. Three names stand out: Gary Toenniessen, Luis Herrera-Estrella, and Clive James."[2]

Toenniessen worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, Herrera-Estrella was a researcher at the University of Ghent who had "been among the pioneers in the genetic manipulation of plants," and James was the former deputy director of the Center for the Improvement of Wheat and Maize (CIMMYT) who went on to lead the ISAAA.[3] At the Rockefeller Foundation, Toenniessen began funding a research program on rice in 1984, just a year after the first genetically engineered plants were created. James played the role of "[trying] to enlist companies as allies... persuading them to donate their tools and expertise to researchers working on crops grown by the poor."[4]

In 1990, James visited Toenniessen "and came away with the promise of funding" for a project "that would match the desires of a developing country with the capabilities of the biotech industry."[4] On Toenniessen's recommendation, James got in touch with Herrera-Estrella, who had returned to Mexico. Herrera-Estrella proposed working on virus-resistant potatoes. Typically, farmers must purchase certified seed potatoes if they want to ensure their potatoes are free of disease. For a farmer who cannot afford to purchase seed potatoes, Herrera-Estrella felt that genetically engineered virus resistant potatoes would solve the problem.

"Herrera-Estrella pointed out that it would be a simple matter to ensure that their project would never take any sales away from Monsanto. The Mexican researchers could apply the technique only to traditional varieties of potatoes grown by small-scale subsistence farmers."[4]

In 1990, Herrera-Estrella and James met with Monsanto's Earnest Jaworski ("the godfather of plant biotechnology himself"), who was supportive of the project.[5] In addition to the clear humanitarian goals of the project, there was another benefit for Monsanto:

"As part of the project, the Rockefeller Foundation would fund efforts to set up regulatory institutions in Mexico to handle genetically engineered crops. The potato might thus smooth a path for other, more commercially valuable products emerging from Monsanto's laboratories."[5]

While Jaworski's interest in humanitarian concerns is likely genuine, Herrera Estrella also notes the project's public relations value for Monsanto. "The interest of Monsanto was, they were always claiming that genetic engineering would help solve the food problems of the world. This was a very good opportunity for them to show that this technology could indeed help a developing country.[5] For more information, see the article on Monsanto's Use of Humanitarian Projects to Open Global Markets to GMOs.

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. BRIEF BIOGRAPHY FOR Dr. CLIVE JAMES, Accessed October 17, 2011.
  2. Daniel Charles, Lords of the harvest: biotech, big money, and the future of food, p. 264.
  3. Daniel Charles, Lords of the harvest: biotech, big money, and the future of food, p. 265.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Daniel Charles, Lords of the harvest: biotech, big money, and the future of food, p. 266.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Daniel Charles, Lords of the harvest: biotech, big money, and the future of food, p. 267.

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