Established in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, the William Penn Foundation (WPF) aims to “improve the quality of life” in the Greater Philadelphia region with investments in arts, culture and the environment. The foundation endorses “regenerative organic farming,” which it argues can replenish “natural resources like soil and water, rather than depleting or degrading them.” WPF further claims that organic food “presents a compelling case study of how market forces hold potential to drive environmental benefit.”
WPF has contributed substantial sums to several high-profile activist groups that campaign against GMOs and promote organic agriculture. The foundation is a major donor to the Rodale Institute, which bills itself as the “birthplace of American organic agriculture.” In 2017 WPF donated almost $6 million to the Rodale Institute, which helped support the institute’s ongoing study comparing organic and conventional farming systems, the only research to consistently find that organic agriculture can outperform its conventional counterpart.
In 2018, WPF awarded a $5,995,000 grant to the Rodale institute to combat agriculture runoff from conventional farms, which can “pollute streams, posing public health risks, killing aquatic life, and increasing drinking water treatment costs,” the foundation warns.
The William Penn Foundation also supported openly anti-GMO groups including the Sierra Club ($300,000) and Natural Resources Defense Council (16,000) in 2017. The Sierra Club supports “a ban on the planting of all genetically engineered crops and the release of all [genetically engineered organisms] into the environment.” The NRDC has similarly argued that the EPA’s failure to regulate GMO herbicide-tolerant crops has fueled the growth of “superweeds,” as well as the use of “cancer-causing chemicals.”
Annual Revenue: $433,086,905 (2017)
Total Assets: $2,514,579,177 (2017)
Major recipients (total contributions 2012-present)
Rodale Institute $11,989,500
Sierra Club Foundation $300,000
Center for Rural Affairs $150,000
Natural Resources Defense Council $16,000