Established in 2006, The Clif Bar Family Foundation “supports innovative small and mid-sized groups working to strengthen our food system and …. safeguard our environment and natural resources.“ The foundation says a key part of this mission is “expanding organic food and farming,” and it does so by funding major anti-GMO advocacy groups and campaigns to demonize crop biotechnology.
The foundation, for example, helped finance a 2017 documentary called Seed the Untold Story. Featuring prominent anti-GMO activists including Jeffery Smith (Institute for Responsible Technology) and Andrew Kimbrell (Center for Food Safety), the film attempts to show that “our quaint family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses sowing genetically identical crops on a monstrous scale.” This transition took place, the film’s website claims, “under the spell of industrial ‘progress’ and a lust for profit.” Arguments made in the film have been rejected by agricultural scientists and farmers. They say the idea that biotech companies have consolidated seed production and now control the world’s food supply is an oversimplification.
In 2017, Clif Bar Family Foundation donated directly to Kimbrell’s Center for Food Safety (CFS), which “advocates for the containment and reduction of existing genetically engineered crops.” The foundation has also supported the Center for Biological Diversity, whose scientists say Monsanto is a “puppet master” that manufacturers evidence to hide the dangers of its chemical pesticides. As You Sow, which received foundation support from 2013-2015, pressures food companies to pull GMO crops out of their supply chains, because they boost pesticide use and “endanger human health or damage ecosystems.”
Besides giving grants to individual organizations, the Clif Bar Family Foundation runs a “special initiatives” program. The foundation launched the program in 2009, providing $1 million to establish Seed Matters. The organization promotes organic seed research because “[t]he last several decades of industrial agriculture have developed seed that is suited to intensive chemical agriculture. While this approach has increased crop yields, Seed Matters acknowledges, it has led to unintended consequences including “air and water pollution, increased pesticide use, [and] increased exposure to toxins in farm workers ….”
The Seed Matters initiative is run by Matthew Dillon, an organic farming advocate and founding Director of the Organic Seed Alliance, the Clif Bar Family Foundation’s biggest grant recipient from 2012-2016. Dillon also helped the Clif Bar Foundation produce a 2016 animated short film called Mr. Seed. The four-minute short follows an animated organic seed who says, “we can feed the world without ruining it. But we do have dirty mouths, mother [expletive]!”
According to its tax filings, The Clif Bar Company funds the majority of the foundation’s work, contributing $3,750,000 in 2016 out of a total $4,027,174 in revenue.
Annual Revenue: $4,027,174 (2016)
Total Assets $191,188 (2016)
Major Recipients (total contributions 2012-present)
Organic Seed Alliance $155,000
Rural Advancement Foundation International $145,000
Seed Savers Exchange $84,928
Organic Center $50,000
Union of Concerned Scientists $40,000
Pesticide Action Network $30,000
Earth Island Institute $27,800
Organic Farming Research Foundation $25,000
Ecology Center $10,000