In seeking to strike down Kauai's new GMO/pesticide regulatory bill, seed company attorneys are arguing the law “is simply hodge-podge legislation, linked only by the fevered imagination of self-proclaimed environmental activists.”
The claim isn't far wrong, with tax records revealing the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii has been bankrolled not by grassroots greenies, but fortunes derived from big oil, big industry, big pharma and big banks.
A major player in the Hawaii anti-GMO movement is the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helped write Bill 2491, which became Ordinance 960. A federal judge recently allowed CFS and Earthjustice to represent national groups like Pesticide Action Network and Surfrider Foundation, along with a new Kauai organization, in defending the law from the seed companies' lawsuit.
CFS receives the bulk of its funding from the Rockefeller clan. Other significant support comes from funds and foundations endowed by the scions and former spouses of oilman J. Paul Getty, chemist George Merck of Merck Pharmaceuticals, General Motors executive Charles Stewart Mott, industrialist and banker Andrew Mellon and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
The 990 form filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS) shows total revenues of $7.2 million in 2012, with $3.8 coming from grants and contributions — up from $2.8 million in 2011. It listed total expenses of $5.3 million, with $1.3 million spent on legal fees and $1.5 million on salaries. Andrew Kimbrell, who is part of the legal team defending Kauai's law, was paid $222,540 to serve as CFS executive director in 2012, with another $25,194 listed in compensation from that and similar organizations.
Kimbrell also received $31,000 in 2012 compensation as director of the Cornerstone Campaign, whose tax return lists the same address as CFS. Additionally, he earns income from the International Center for Technology Assessment, an anti-nanotechnology group that shares the same office. It paid him $30,525 for working just eight hours per week in 2011.
Cornerstone, whose officers include Mary Rockefeller Morgan and Abby Rockefeller, is the largest source of support for CFS. The two heiresses, along with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Inc., donated at least $8.8 million to the Cornerstone Campaign between 2002-11. But since the IRS does not require gifts from charitable remainder trusts to be disclosed in tax returns, it's impossible to determine the full extent of contributions by Rockefeller heirs.
Kimbrell also apparently uses Cornerstone to write off substantial expenses that are missing from the CFS tax return, including $18,608 in travel, $62,691 in lodging and $15,115 in meals and entertainment for 2012 alone.
Though founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Cornerstone Campaign functions only to disperse grants to groups active in the anti-biotech movement, including Friends of the Earth, Genetic Engineering Action Network, Organic Seed Alliance, International Forum on Globalization, Californians for GE Free Agriculture and Earthjustice.
In the decade spanning 2002-11, CFS received 90.5% of its funding from foundations and trusts, as opposed to individual, grassroots donors. One of its funders is the Ceres Trust, which has pumped substantial money into Hawaii SEED, the anti-GMO umbrella group.
The Ceres Trust was created by Judith Kern, apparently derived from her family's business, Kern Generator Co. The 2012 tax returns for Ceres show it awarded Hawaii SEED $228,550 for a pesticide drift-catcher project that, as I previously reported, failed to detect any significant amount of toxins, prompting the group to shift its focus from evidence-based activism to fear-mongering.
Other major funders of Hawaii Seed are The Sacharuna Foundation, which was founded by money inherited from industrialist and banker Andrew Mellon; the Merck Fund, which was based on pharmaceutical fortunes; the Cornerstone Foundation and Ho Oli Foundation, a Delaware company with a Hawaii Island address. Overall, four anti-GMO groups in Hawaii received $931,840 in grants between 2002-12, with the bulk awarded in 2011-12.
However, reports are not yet available for 2013, the year that fierce anti-biotech political battles were waged on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui. So we don't yet have a clear idea just how much mainland money was poured into a movement that organizers claimed was "local grassroots."
Meanwhile, the foundations and funds that are supporting anti-GMO groups in their supposed fight against “big chem” have invested their assets in the very same corporate giants that are reviled by activists as the gouging, oppressing, polluting pillars of industrial capitalism. In other words, the “antis” who have cloaked themselves in self-righteousness and claimed the moral high ground are themselves running on dirty money that is "green" only in color.
I point this out not merely to highlight the hypocrisy, but to underscore this reality: There is no good guy vs bad guy in this crazy game, no David vs Goliah scenario at work.
At core, it's just big money fighting big money, with the citizens of Hawaii being intentionally polarized and played as pawns.