A Public Resource Compiled by the

Foundation for the Carolinas

220 N. Tryon Street Charlotte, NC 28202
501c3 nonprofit

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

Key People

  • Michael Marsicano, PH.D. President & CEO
  • Brian Collier, Executive Vice President
  • Holly Welch Stubbing, J.D. Executive Vice President & In-house Counsel
  • Todd Mansfield, Chair Board of Directors

Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC) describes itself as “the fastest-growing among 800 community foundations in the United States.” The foundation donates hundreds of millions of dollars, over $150 million in 2016 alone, to prominent environmental nonprofits. These donations, FFTC says, may “benefit the environment as a whole or emphasize one aspect of improving the environment such as water quality.”

FFTC hasn’t taken a public stance on crop biotechnology. However, several of the groups that receive donations from the foundation–including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environmental Working Group (EWG), Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace–are vocal critics of crop biotechnology. Greenpeace has gone as far as destroying field trials of GMO crops, calling them a “threat to human and environmental health.” The group also opposes newer gene-editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas9. Though this is a different technology than traditional genetic engineering (GMOs), Greenpeace says gene editing is just the biotech industry’s latest attempt to sneak GMOs “through the back door.”

NRDC similarly argues that Monsanto has covered up the dangers of its popular herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), though most experts say the weed killer and crops engineered to tolerate it are safe. NRDC senior scientist Jennifer Sass claimed in 2017 this consensus is “…. largely sponsored and coordinated by the agrochemical industry.” The Environmental Working Group likewise alleges that traces of glyphosate in food are harmful, claiming in an August 2018 report that Americans eat breakfast with “a dose of weed-killing poison.”

The Climate Change activist nonprofit 350.org is equally critical of crop biotechnology, and has received $3 million from FFTC. In March 2018, the group argued that “use of chemicals in GMO crops” is a challenge on par with “corruption, discrimination, disregard of indigenous rights [and] land struggle …. ” 350.org claims its opposition to crop biotechnology is part of its effort to achieve “climate justice.” In 2015, the group endorsed the view of the climate activist movement Via Campesina that crop biotechnology is part of “a new mask to hide increasing levels of corporate greed and food imperialism …. a brutal means to wash the face of capitalism ….” In total, these environmental groups have received more than $100 million from FFTC since 2012.


Financial Data


Annual Revenue: 571,243,680 (2016)

Major Recipients (total contributions 2012-present)

EarthJustice $48,430,000

Natural Resources Defense Council $38,140,500

Sierra Club Foundation $19,509,000

Friends of the Earth $8,100,000

Environmental Working Group $4,600,000

Center for Biological Diversity $3,005,000

Greenpeace $3,000,000

350.org  $3,000,000

Share via

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

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

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
Send this to a friend