Let me clearly say that I think that the work (at least in general) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is impressive. What they are doing with education, health and promoting scientific and technological solutions to large scale human issues.
Now, having said that, it seems that there's a worm in this apple. Monsanto, a company known for aggressively pursuing beyond the bounds of reasonableness its patents on its Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Monsanto has bankrupted farmers who find Monsanto's GMO seed has blown onto their properties, and in Africa, they totally refused to compensate farmers who they convinced to use their GMOs instead of the regular crops by giving away free sachets of maize seeds, claiming they would produce better crops - these crops totally failed to produce any kernels at all.
According to the Gates Foundation Securities Filing, they now own US$21.11 million dollars of Monsanto shares (as at end of Calendar Year 30, June 2010), up from just over US$360,000 in CY ended 30 June, 2008 (as per http://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/Documents/bmgft-2008-990-pf.PDF, p69.
So, I wonder how the Gates Foundation who promotes health, education and escaping from poverty can reconcile owning US$21.1m of a company who aggressively pursues those farmers who suffer the misfortune of having their GMO seeds blow onto an unsuspecting farmer's land. A company who doesn't care about the smaller farmer (as can be seen in this article.)
For more information on how aggressive and unreasonable Monsanto can be, spend 20 minutes having a listen to this information.
I think that an organization that promotes human rights has a moral and ethical responsibility to *not* invest in an organization that treats human rights with the disrespect and even disdain that a company like Monsanto does. If the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation cannot show where their investment in Monsanto is encouraging Monsanto to be a more reasonable company when it comes to protecting its patents at the expense of farmers' livelihoods, they need to sell these shares and invest in a more ethical company.
The Outspoken Wookie