Robert B. Horsch

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Robert B. Horsch is one of the pioneers of genetic engineering, along with Robert T. Fraley and Stephen G. Rogers. He is a senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a position he took in 2006. There, he works to apply genetic engineering "toward improving crop yields in regions including sub-Saharan Africa, where the foundation recently launched a major drive with the Rockefeller Foundation."[1] Prior to that he was the Vice President of Product and Technology Cooperation at Monsanto "with responsibility for public-private partnerships to help smallholder farmers in developing countries gain access to better agricultural products and technologies."[2]

Promoting GMOs in Africa

Work With Monsanto

According to a 2005 report by GRAIN:[3]

"In 1990, two Monsanto executives [Horsch and his colleague Earnest Jaworski] got in touch with Joel Cohen, the Senior Biotechnology Specialist for USAID (the US Agency for International Development). Monsanto wanted USAID to help develop a GM crop for Africa that would give GMOs a good name. Cohen, who had come to the agency from the US seed industry, turned to USAID’s most trusted research institute in Africa-- the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). The three men set up a meeting with KARI and began to put their plan into action.
"They decided to work on sweet potato, a crop neglected by seed companies and scientists but for which there were some promising GM applications being developed in the US. KARI had the perfect person for Monsanto to collaborate with - Florence Wambugu, a KARI scientist who had just completed a PhD programme on sweet potatoes. Monsanto immediately hired Wambugu to work in the United States on a GM sweet potato resistant to the sweet potato feathery mottle virus. Fourteen years later, it is pretty clear that Wambugu’s sweet potatoes are far from ready for the fields of Kenya’s farmers; in recent field studies the GM crop failed to resist the virus and underperformed compared to non- GM local varieties.
"But getting the GM sweet potato out to farmers was not the real intention anyway. The overriding goal was to open doors to GM, and in this it was a great success... Most importantly, the project served as a vehicle for driving forward a regulatory framework conducive to GM crops. And this is where USAID is making it’s mark - getting Southern countries to set up the regulatory frameworks and the technical capacity that US corporations require to build-up global markets for their GM crops."

Education and Experience

Horsch earned his PhD in Genetics at the University of California, Riverside, in 1979. Following that, he did his postdoctoral work in plant physiology at the University of Saskatchewan. He was hired by Monsanto in 1981, where he "led the company's plant tissue culture and transformation efforts until 1995. In 1996 he became Vice President and General Manager of the Agracetus Campus of Monsanto Company's Agricultural Sector in Middleton, Wisconsin, serving in that capacity until the end of 1999. Dr. Horsch has served on the editorial boards of several leading journals in the plant sciences and also as an advisor to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. He has published more than 50 articles on plant biology and plant biotechnology and is a frequent speaker on these subjects, including Congresssional testimony. In 1999 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton for contributions to the development of agricultural biotechnology. He is currently a member of the CGIAR Private Sector Committee and the United Nations Millennium Goal Task Force on Hunger."[2][4] By 2001, Horsch had already "led several outreach programs to transfer and apply [genetic engineering] to developing countries, serving as principal investigator or principal advisor for grants from Monsanto, USAID, the Rockefeller Foundation and other sources."[5]


  • 1986: Thomas & Hochwalt Award, Monsanto Company.[5]
  • 1998: The National Medal of Technology and Innovation[6]
  • 2001: Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of California-Riverside.[5]

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. Kristi Helm, "Want to work for the Gates Foundation?," Seattle Times, October 17, 2006, Accessed October 14, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Horsch, The Critical Role of International Agricultural Development in the Fight Against Undernutrition and HIV/AIDS, Capitol Hill Forum 2004, January 27, 2004, Accessed October 14, 2011.
  3. USAID: Making the world hungry for GM crops, GRAIN, April 25, 2005, Accessed October 14, 2011.
  4. Robert B. Horsch, UN Millennium Project, Accessed October 14, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Robert B. Horsch, Distinguished Alumnus Award, Accessed October 14, 2011.
  6. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation Recipients, Accessed October 14, 2011.

External Resources

External Articles