UTTAR PRADESH, India- “The seed, the source of life, the embodiment of our biological and cultural diversity, the link between the past and the future of evolution, the common property of past, present and future generations of farming communities who have been seed breeders, is today being stolen from the farmers and being sold back to us as ‘propriety seed’ owned by corporations like the US-headquartered Monsanto.”
– Vandana Shiva, “Great Seed Robbery”
In an interview recently Vandana Shiva was asked why, given her incredible background, including education in physics and philosophy of the highest degrees, she had decided to focus on saving seeds. A seemingly simple and disconnected path from the promising one her academic background would have projected.
In response she said, ‘The seed in its essence is all of the past evolution of the Earth, the evolution of human history, and the potential for future evolution,’ noting ‘That is a convergence of human intelligence and nature’s intelligence. It is the ultimate expression of life.’
In the late 1960’s, food supply had become an issue on everyone’s mind, exemplified by Malthus’ famous equation, stating the exponential growth of population would inevitably vastly surpass the linear growth by which Earth’s food supply is bound. The Green Revolution was one of the global responses to this, and India, Vandana’s native nation, was one of the first and most heavily indoctrinated into this program.
Today, it can be summarized by a strategy of using high-yield grain varieties, using mono-culture techniques to maximize output per acre. Simultaneously using vast array of pesticides and fertilizers to ensure the strains would produce, in an environment where naturally they would not survive.
The other aspect of the ‘Green revolution’ were the conditions attached to the A.I.D. that would be provided. Import-Export deals that gave exclusive rights to international corporations to sell the products needed for the transition were put in place. Leading eventually to the monopolization of corporations like Monsanto of the newly created market.
Whether the outcomes, that have now been well documented and reported on over 40 years since these strategies took place, were intended, or whether the ‘green revolution’ was indeed well intended is a hotly debated issue. What cannot be debated is that the heavy use of chemicals those (HYV’s) call for has had terrible effects on environmental and human health.
Yet perhaps even more damaging to our future, Vandana Shiva would argue, has been the monopolization of the seed supply by corporations. By using GMO seeds, corporations like Monsanto can legally patent them, and sell them as proprietary products.
By genetically modifying the seeds traits, Monsanto creates seeds that with plants that do not create fertile seeds of their own. Ensuring farmers will have to buy a new crop of seeds from Monsanto every year. This dynamic has been one of the root causes of the widely reported Indian Farmer suicide epidemic.
In a letter to seed banks and agricultural activist organizations all over the world Vandana recently wrote, “These trends demonstrate a total control over the seed supply and a destruction of the very foundation of agriculture. We are witnessing a seed emergency at a global level.”
Her life long fight against this truly began in 1982, when she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. This later led to the creation of Navdanya in 1991, her current flagship organization for seed saving and member of ‘The Global Alliance for Seed Freedom’. It began as a national movement in India to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, in particular native and heirloom seed.
This mission statement and life’s work was in direct response to the expansion of proprietary GMO seeds and the fundamental danger they pose. The strategies of Navdanya and many organizations all over the world just like it include the promotion of organic farming and fair trade practices as a key component.
Navdanya’s efforts in particular have resulted in conservation of more than 2,000 rice varieties from all over and have established 34 seed banks in 13 states across India. More than 70,000 farmers are primary members of Navdanya, and an immeasurable amount of farmers and organizations across the world have sprouted from her lead.
In a global society that is still evolving from its patriarchal and deep racial power divisions of the past. Vandana Shiva, a daughter of working class Indian citizens, with all she has accomplished, stands as a glowing inspiration to all who wish to ‘fight the good fight.’
– Tyler Shafsky