Established in 1964 by Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation contributes millions of dollars to environmental causes each year. The foundation doesn’t take a public stance on agricultural biotechnology, though some of the foundation’s staff are affiliated with the organic food industry. Juli Chamberlin, an associate with the foundation’s Conservation and Science Program, was previously employed by the Organic Farming Research Foundation, which advocates for “widespread adoption of organic farming systems.” Chris DeCardy, the foundation’s vice president and director of programs, previously served as executive director of Environmental Media Services (EMS), a nonprofit that publicized campaigns against crop biotechnology.
Before it shut its doors, EMS was affiliated with Fenton Communications, a public relations firm that promotes anti-GMO messaging for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety (both Packard grantees) and the organic-industry funded Just Label It campaign. EMS was founded by Arlie Schardt, former executive director of Environmental Defense Fund, another Packard Foundation grantee.
The Packard Foundation says it doesn’t engage in lobbying. However, it acknowledges financial support for political “advocacy activities that grantees may engage in.” These grantees include groups that publicly oppose GMOs. In September 2018, for instance, Packard foundation grantee Friends of the Earth released a report claiming to show that gene-editing technology threatens human health and could wreak “ genetic havoc” when gene-edited plants and animals are released into the natural environment. Most experts embrace gene editing as an important innovation in agriculture and argue the technology poses little risk to human health or the environment.
Between 2000 and 2010 the foundation also gave $78 million to Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other nonprofits to campaign against the introduction of GMO AquAdvantage salmon. These lobbying efforts delayed the introduction of the genetically-modified fish in Canada until the summer of 2017.
Annual Revenue: $7,655,139 (2017)
Major Recipients (total contributions 2012-present)
Tides Center $4,089,000
Environmental Defense Fund $2,750,000
Surfrider Foundation $1,344,000
Natural Resources Defense Council $1,250,000
Rainforest Action Network $1,000,000
Spitfire Strategies $610,000
Friends of the Earth $600,000
Dogwood Alliance $550,000
Environmental Working Group $350,000
Union of Concerned Scientists $300,000