Dr. Vandana Shiva, author and activist, has courageously spent the last decade working on soil solutions to climate change, steadfast in her belief that if governments can’t make the shift, people can.
In her recent talk at Pacifica’s “Climates of Change and a Therapy of Ideas” conference, she focused on the dangers of genetically modified crops and the big business that seeks to capitalize on it. Monopoly rights on seeds and plants are increasingly being imposed through global patents, she notes, by which certain corporations develop proprietary processes for breeding plants and animals, thereby allowing corporations to claim the resulting seeds and animals are their own inventions.
The genetic modification of organisms (GMO) is leading to privatization of what should be common, Shiva insists, presenting great danger to the future of food. The scientists who have the genetic capability to transfer genes from one species to another don’t have the capacity to understand what it means, she noted, offering number of examples of challenges—even tragedies—stemming from the imbalance of power held by large corporations seeking to turn a profit.
Examples run from everything from the mass numbers of plants and animals that are born deformed due to the scientific testing (Dolly the sheep, the first professed “success” of genetic modification or cloning in animals, for instance, was the only one of 273 “Dollys” born that was not deformed) to three hundred thousand farmers in India who have committed suicide[i] since record keeping began in 1995, due to untenable changes to farmers’ livelihoods instigated by big businesses.
In rural areas of India and elsewhere, World Bank is known to give loans for farming, but the loans require that chemicals to be utilized by the farmer in order to get the loan. Up to sixty percent of soil organisms are dead on farms in certain areas, and not a single pollinator can be found, Shiva notes. Other conditions sometimes require farmers to dig deeper wells and to grow certain crops like sugar cane, which requires 20 times more water than traditional crops may have required, depleting water tables in the area.
Sometimes the bank offers to dig these new wells “free of charge” in return for owning rights to the land, ultimately resulting in dispossession and displacement. In some parts of India, 80% of people had to move because of drought. Eighty-four percent of those documented farmer suicides took place in an area where... (Click here to read the full report)