A Public Resource Compiled by the

NoVo Foundation

535 Fifth Avenue 33rd Floor
New York, NY 10017
501c3 nonprofit
NovoFoundation.org/

Donor to anti-GMO organizations as part of a broader philanthropic strategy

Key People

  • Peter Buffett, Co-President
  • Jennifer Buffett, Co-President
  • Gary D. Schwartz, Senior Director
  • Wendy Cheung, Grants Manager

NoVo Foundation

Established by Warren Buffett’s son Peter in 2006 with a donation of 350,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock, the NoVo Foundation “is dedicated to catalyzing a transformation in global society.” The nonprofit primarily focuses on women’s rights issues, but maintains ties to several organizations who lobby against crop biotechnology.

NoVo Foundation senior director Gary D. Schwartz was employed by the Tides Foundation for 15 years. Tides is a progressive political nonprofit that takes a hardline stance against agricultural biotechnology, and has received $57 million from NoVo since 2014. Tides wrote in a 2015 report, for instance, that “corporate land grabs, patented seeds, and pro-GMO policies” represent “threats” to rural agriculture in the developing world. Tides has also invested in several high-profile anti-GMO advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Sierra Club lobbies for a complete ban on crop biotechnology, arguing that recent innovations like gene-edited crops are “weapons of mass destruction.” NRDC believes the biotech firm Bayer is “the worst” and asserts the company “follows the playbook of the tobacco industry” in denying the alleged health effects of its herbicide-resistant GMO seeds. In August 2018, Greenpeace similarly urged governments “to ban toxic pesticides” including Bayer’s herbicide glyphosate. Such a move would “strike the company where it really hurts: its profits,” Greenpeace claims. Unlike cigarettes, most experts believe Bayer’s agricultural products are safe when used as directed by regulators like the EPA.

The NoVo Foundation purchased the 1255-acre Hudson Valley Farm Hub in New York for $13 million in 2013, and committed another $20 million to turn the property into an independent nonprofit. Farm Hub director Anu Rangarajan made it clear that there would be “no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the crops at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.”

 

Financial Data

 

Annual Revenue: $256,713,414 (2016)

Major Recipients (total contributions 2014-present)

The Tides Foundation $57,407,685

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Note that there are three “levels” of both donors and recipients.

Donors
Donations to advocacy groups are sometimes designated to support a specific cause, such as organic agriculture or mitigating climate change. There is no way for us to know from publicly-available documents on what the money will be spent, as we can only see the total amount donated. When we assign the levels below to donors and recipients, we assume that all donations are available to the recipient for all advocacy, including anti-GMO advocacy.

  • Level 1: Donates primarily to dedicated anti-GMO organizations
  • Level 2: A large portion of donations go to anti-GMO organizations; some donations go to organizations without a position on GMOs
  • Level 3: A small portion of donations go to anti-GMO organizations
    * Most donations go to organizations without a formal position on GMOs but which have aligned themselves with anti-GMO activists

Recipients
For Level 1 recipients, all donations are used for anti-GMO advocacy. For Level 2 and 3 recipients, we don’t know how much of each donation is used for anti-GMO advocacy.

  • Level 1: Dedicated to anti-GMO advocacy
  • Level 2: Involved in anti-GMO advocacy along with other causes
  • Level 3: No specific anti-GMO advocacy, but general support
    * Organizations without a formal position on GMOs but which have aligned themselves with anti-GMO activists
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