Writing for Guardian Professional (a specific portion of The Guardian’s website), Vandana Shiva returns to write about the dangers of monoculture and corporate-controlled seeds and farming. She explains the differences between natural seeds and developed seeds. Natural seeds are renewable, fit in to the natural order, and promote biodiversity. Genetically-engineered seeds are not renewable, and are filled with special pesticides and genes that don’t cross-pollinate. These seeds don’t diversify themselves like normal organisms. Shiva then brings up the current bee crisis, and how pesticides are to blame for much of the damage caused by Colony Collapse Disorder. This connection leads Shiva to her main point: that organic food and growing techniques are not only good for us, they are actually critical for life all over the planet.
In her next section, Shiva describes the rise of monocultures, at least in India. She posits (again, in a different article) that well over 250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves since the seed monopolies formed in India. Shiva describes that when only one seed type is dominant, a monoculture is formed, and biodiversity suffers. She follows this by focusing on the concepts of greed over care, in how greed is the driving force in the rise of these monocultures. Parts of India once had thousands of strains of rice that grew in different areas and climates. Now there are only a few types left. Shiva writes that greed begets a desire for control, which then begets a lack of diversification.
Finally, Globalization is brought up. Shiva explains that the continued unification of the world is also increasing the lack of biodiversity. Things like Heinz Ketchup need special tomatoes with more pulp than juice, which means they, like many other global food products, need to be made the same way, with the same products. Also noted is how fruits now are grown to be tough and hard for transcontinental travel, whereas before they would be fresh and soft. Globalization is indeed changing the way we eat.
This piece of Vandana Shiva’s is less vitriolic than her others, but she still was able to squeeze in some dead farmers. This editorial does the same kind of thing that many editorials have done when covering either side of the GMO debate: describe a bunch of problems, but not list any good solutions. Other than “let’s do something about this!”
Which really doesn’t do much.
This is Vandana Shiva’s essay describing her story of Indian farmers committing suicide due to the financial effects of having to use GMO crops. Shiva states that 200,000 farmers in India have killed themselves since 1997. She places the blame on what she calls the “rapid indebtedness” that is taking its toll of the Indian peasant class. Two factors are involved here: one, that it is getting more expensive to produce food, and two, that food prices are falling. After the introduction of corporate-owned GM-seeds, farmers were unable to save their previous seeds, and the new designed seeds require chemicals and pesticides that are prohibitively expensive. Because the farmers have to essentially upgrade their seeds season after season, the extra expense of those purchases has begun to add up.
Shiva also mentions the dangers of monocultural farming, and how they have much higher failure rates than a more diverse system. She also relates that due to the World Trade Organization’s new free trade policies, food prices around the world have dropped, and these farmers simply can’t make enough to make up for it.
Vandana Shiva is described on her Huffington Post biography as a “Physicist, environmentalist, feminist writer, and science policy advocate.” She, for the intents of this essay, appears to be well-credentialed. Her essay describes a serious problem, but her connections to Monsanto and GMO in general have had many holes poked in them since. While she may be doing good spreading word of the plight of these farmers, to place the blame squarely on Monsanto is a little dangerous, and smacks of sensationalism for page views and speaking engagements.
This editorial from Discover discusses certain individuals that are considered to be major boosters to the anti-GMO cause and how they are using lies and pseudoscience to push the discussion in their direction. The author cites a Vandana Shiva and Dr. Oz specifically. Shiva has apparently been going around the world telling a “lie” that farmers in India are committing suicide from the monopolistic business practices that seem to be inherent with GMOs. Vandana Shiva is well-respected in the anti-GMO sphere, and her words have carried a lot of weight. She is able to write for the Guardian, and her story about suicidal farmers was also the source for a documentary called “Bitter Seeds”.
Dr. Oz is also mentioned, as he holds a degree of influence in the health nut world. His own willingness to allow for the more firebrand-oriented anti-GMO evangelists has been shown on his website and on his show.
This editorial brings up an interesting point in the discussion of GMO. Both sides are very passionate about their positions, and this article shows that even the anti-GMO side is guilty of skewing facts and figures just as much as the corporate interests at play in the GMO corner. It also suggests that the debate is much more murky than either side would probably care to admit. Not only that, but fiery, vitriolic language can be a turn off for those individuals simply looking for the truth of the matter. It would probably be safe to assume that the kinds of language that Michael Pollan or Vandana Shiva use is specifically targeted at anti-GMO folk already, perhaps in an effort to shore up their base, and get them to evangelize their movement for them.