Founded in 1996, the Solidago Foundation supports a wide variety of progressive political causes, with special emphasis on climate justice, workers’ rights and wealth inequality. Although the foundation doesn’t take an official stance on crop biotechnology, it has partnered with organizations throughout its history that lobby against GMO crops and campaign to make organic agriculture a bigger contributor to global food production.
In December 2015, the foundation lent its support to anti-biotech activism when chief financial officer Jeff Rosen served on the steering committee of a conference to promote an “inclusive food system.” The event was sponsored by donors including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Fund, both major contributors to anti-GMO causes since 2012, and featured speakers such as economist Charles Benbrook (p 5). Benbrook is well known for his industry-funded research promoting the benefits of organic food and warning about the dangers of the widely used weed killer glyphosate, frequently targeted by anti-pesticide groups as a cause of cancer.
The conference also included a panel dedicated to protecting (p 3) GMO labeling and transgenic crop bans from free-trade agreements, which could have “devastating impacts” on efforts to develop sustainable food systems, the organizers claimed.
A year earlier, Solidago’s environmental justice program director Sarah Christiansen participated in a “social change philanthropy” event, which promoted “efforts to stop GMOs and ‘Monsanto laws’ using case studies from Africa and Latin America.” Christiansen was also part of a related 2013 conference dedicated to advancing “social and ecological transformation.” The agenda included developing “defensive strategies” against GMOs, industrial agriculture and promoting agroecology as an alternative farming system. (p 12)
These activities are consistent with Solidago’s priorities going back to the mid 2000s. A 2012 study from the Environmental Grantmakers Association listed the Salidago Foundation as a donor to activism for “sustainable agriculture and food systems” as early as 2007. This included support for efforts to promote “organic and other forms of sustainable farming [and] …. opposition to the use of genetically modified crops and food irradiation ….” (p 29)
The Solidago Foundation is funded heavily by the Frances Fund, a wealthy nonprofit that finances progressive political activism. Solidago has received more than $25 million from the Frances Fund since 2012. Besides it support for Solidago, The fund has partnered with the Tides Foundation, a major contributor to anti-biotech groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace. In 2012, Tides and the Frances Fund supported a project aimed at “mitigating climate change, restoring biodiversity and bringing back local food economies.”
Annual Revenue: $8,010, 026 (2017)
Total Assets:$ 7,002,709 (2017)
Major Donors (total contributions 2012-present)
The Frances Fund $ 25,610,000