In a surprising turn of events, one of the leading voices for fixing our broken food system, Jamie Oliver, just announced his partnership with the Gates Foundation.
Jamie is an incredibly powerful entity in his own right, one of the most respected voices in the food movement.
He does not need Gates.
But Gates does need Jamie. The Gates Foundation saw an early opportunity to engage in food’s operating system, investing heavily in Monsanto, serving as one of the agrochemical company’s largest shareholders. And they have been hammered for it. From the Seattle Times to the Guardian in the UK, the issue has been covered. Every time the Gates Foundation enters the public forum on food, these facts are highlighted: the foundation purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto. It has destroyed their credibility in the clean food movement.
The Gates are brilliant and have since hedged and invested in other operating systems, cleaner operating systems, ones that are less dependent on agricultural chemicals, fertilizers and other synthetic pesticides. It’s a smart move for any investor, to hedge, that’s no question.
But is this a smart move for Jamie?
As soon as Jamie shared the announcement in a video, his fans and followers took to his Facebook page sharing their concern. Jamie was quick to respond, issuing the following comment:
January 23 at 4:05pm ·
Hi guys, my video message in support of Bill and Melinda Gates’ letter was in response to their big bets for the next fifteen years. My big bet is that food education for all is fundamental to fixing our broken food system and feeding the world. Following my message a lot of you have shared your concerns about GMOs so I wanted to make sure you knew that my video message wasn’t in support of GMOs but instead sharing my belief in food education. Sharing views, having a right noisy debate and getting to the food truth – including about GMOs – is essential to tackling the big problems we face and is at the heart of the Food Revolution. Jamie
The landscape of food is increasingly crowded with people that are in it for different reasons. Some are in it to monetize, others to become famous, others for the health of their children and others to solve the problem. Some dance between one, two, three or any number of other reasons. Partnerships also happen for different reasons, some financial, some for shared goals, others for shared agendas.
The question with Jamie’s emphasis on “food education” is: what will the Gates’ Foundation’s ‘food education’ look like? Does Jamie play a role in defining that?
I have had the honor of meeting Jamie while hosting his first Food Revolution Day Google hangout. He is extraordinary. The work that he has done is unparalleled. He has done all of it while also being an incredible dad of four and family man. Few if any could juggle those demands.
I can’t help but wonder what drove the decision making process, and if he had gotten more support here in the U.S. for his Foundation, if he could have stood alone on this issue. It’s food for thought.
In the meantime, please keep sharing your comments on his Facebook page. He is listening. Together, we have to build a new food system that promotes a healthy operating system for farmers and a healthy future for all families.
Courage is contagious, and sometimes we have to be brave with our lives so that others can be brave with theirs.
Image Credit: Tefal