Founded in 1988 by the Walton Family Wal-Mart heirs, the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) works to improve K-12 education, protect rivers and oceans and the foundation’s home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.
WFF takes no clear position on plant biotechnology, and has financed conventional agriculture research. However, the foundation supports environmental groups that campaign against GMO crops, including Environmental Working Group (EWG), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Multiplier and EU-based ClientEarth. The foundation is also supports the food and agriculture policy group AGree, co-founded by Stonyfield Organic CEO Gary Hirshberg. Hirshberg also leads the Just Label it campaign, which argues that GMO crops are regularly “doused in the toxic weed killer” and put “children’s health at risk” as a result.
Since 2012, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has received just under $45 million from WFF. Although EDF no longer opposes crop biotechnology, one of the group’s contributing scientists, Christopher Portier, served as an “invited specialist” at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015. That year the agency determined that the weed killer glyphosate (Bayer’s Roundup) is a “probable carcinogen.” Experts by and large have rejected IARC’s conclusion, and further suggest that Portier’s involvement at IARC created a conflict of interest, since EDF was established to campaign against pesticide use.
WFF maintains ties to other groups that finance anti-GMO advocacy through its environment program director Barry Gold. Before joining the foundation, Gold served as director of marine conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. In 2015, the Moore Foundation donated $760,500 to Multiplier, an anti-GMO advocacy group that has also received over $6 million from the Walton Foundation since 2012. Prior to joining the Betty Moore Foundation, Gold worked for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which provides financial support to anti-GMO groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
Annual Revenue: $820,931,879 (2016)
Total Assets:$3,783,627,318 (2016)
Major Recipients (total contributions 2012-present)
Environmental Defense Fund $44,888,364
Center for Rural Affairs $1,015,807
Environmental Working Group $810,000
Client Earth $740,098
Natural Resources Defense Council $335,000
Ag Innovations $329,825
Tides Center $25,000
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources $25,000
Seed Savers Exchange $15,000