By Donna Gordon Blankinship
The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — The director of the agriculture program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been nominated by President Obama to be an undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A White House news release says Rajiv Shah has been tapped to be undersecretary for research, education and economics, and the USDA’s chief scientist. His work would include food safety issues, energy and climate, agricultural productivity, and global food security.
Before starting at the foundation in 2001, he was the health care policy adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. He has also worked for the World Health Organization.
In an interview in early 2008, when announcing the foundation’s first agriculture development grants, Shah said his family was an Indian farm family several generations back.
“We’ve moved out of agriculture in most of the industrialized world, and that’s probably one of the reasons why we neglect and don’t recognize and don’t spend a lot of time and money on agriculture development in Africa and Asia,” he said.
Shah said of all the world economic development money from all sources, only 4 percent is spent on agriculture.
“Agriculture is the main source of livelihood of 75 percent of the poorest billion people in the world. So it’s this tremendous mismatch,” he said.
Originally from Detroit, Mich., Shah earned his doctorate in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and a Master of Science degree in health economics at the Wharton School of Business. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the London School of Economics.
In 2007, he was named a young global leader by the World Economic Forum.
In 1995, Shah co-founded Project IMPACT, a nonprofit organization that strives to encourage South Asian Americans to get more involved in community service and political activism.
Shah currently serves on the boards of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Seattle Community College District, and the Seattle Public Library. (end)
Photo provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation