Hawaii was blessed last week with the appearance of internationally recognized seed-saving and anti-GMO activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. Dr. Shiva, trained as a physicist, has become the world’s most outspoken critic of the corporate takeover of our food system. She has worked for decades promoting biodiversity, organic agriculture, and global seed saving as the means to food freedom- encouraging everyone to take back our food security from the chemical companies and put it back in the hands of the population.
In the past decades, political maneuvering has allowed companies to patent life- bacteria, plants, and animals. This patenting of life- and the patenting of seed- is conducted most often by the largest chemical companies in the world: Monsanto. Dow. DuPont. BASF. And more. But why would chemical companies want to patent life? After World War I and World War II, the chemical manufacturers didn’t want to surrender their high profit margins, and set about finding alternative uses for their chemicals that had previously been used for warfare. These chemicals have become the herbicides and pesticides used on farms across the globe.
Simultaneously these companies set about changing the genetic makeup of staple crops in order to withstand increasingly large doses of their chemicals- and today we are faced with a surplus of genetically modified (GMO or GE) ‘food’ that is unregulated and unlabeled. Monsanto and the other chemical companies claim that their goal is to feed the world- and that genetic engineering of crops is the way to do so. But this is what is actually happening:
- The crops created by the chemical companies are water, chemical, and fuel intensive. This means that they use an excess of water for irrigation because of the monocropping (all the same crops in the same area); they are continually increasing the amount of chemicals needed to deal with the superweeds and superbugs they are creating; and they use an excess of fuel for the mechanized farming necessary for these types of monocropped fields.
- Despite their claims that they are going to end hunger, only 2% of the soy grown in the US is actually eaten by humans. Most is used as ‘animal torture devices’ as Andrew Kimbrell said (look for a follow up post about this great guy!), or for biofuels.
- Most of the corn grown in the US is not actually edible. It’s used as starches, gums, syrups, flour, and mono- and diglycerides which are the foundation of our processed food diet.
As Dr. Shiva is famous for saying, “Seed freedom is food freedom,” and in order to maintain our freedom from processed, chemical, and non-nourishing foods, we need to play an active role in cultivation, production, and making positive choices for our families and communities. Her talk was inspiring and endearing- for more of her work check out the video below and look for her on the web, in YES! Magazine this month, and at her work at Navdanya. She advises us all to spend the year of 2013 planting seeds of freedom and growing gardens of hope.