When I first heard Dr. Vandana Shiva give one of the most compelling and articulated speeches I’d ever heard, on the issue of the biotechnology industry’s privatization of agriculture and genetic modification of all seeds in the world, I was shocked with sentiment and concern about how such a huge geo-political problem was rapidly growing out of control, due to the continuation of capitalism and the commodification of the most valuable resource on the planet, being the seed. From the perspective of an economist, I immediately thought of the most basic concept that is taught in any economics course, which is that all firms seek to maximize their profits by directly competing with its competitors in their particular market. This notion of firms seeking to achieve maximum utility means that all moral and ethical standards are in absence when corporations create regulations and restrictions to make entry into the market impossibly difficult; thus creating monopolies, and often oligopolies, that forcefully dominate the market, with little consideration for the laborers and their opinions.
So, how does this relate to her worldwide Seed Movement and campaigns that targets the end of capitalism’s transformation of Earth’s resources into non-renewable commodities? Dr. Shiva claims that major agricultural corporations, such as Cargill and Monsanto, are rapidly buying out biotechnology organizations, in order to patent, regulate, and privatize the agricultural market, so that they can obtain complete control over all food production worldwide. This was done skillfully and secretly by multi-national corporations, and was marketed to appear to the public as new innovative agricultural technology that is ‘genetically modified’ to enhance food production. This misleading marketing strategy is implemented by these firms in hopes that people will change their perceptions of what is termed, ‘organic’ from ‘genetically altered’ food. She has spent her life dedicated to resolving the current crisis of our agriculture’s future if capitalistic firms continue to enhance and genetically modify seeds, in order to gain royalties from farmers.
She describes herself as an ecologist, nature lover, scientist, and activist in the sense that there is a basic obligation to, “do the right thing regardless if you win or lose;” she derives this principle from her religious belief in Krishna that “you do not measure the fruit of our action, you have to measure your obligation of action,” which essentially means that it is the duty of every conscious being to positively contribute to the bettering of society by making it a moral habit to do the right thing. Therefore, a peacemaker is only one name that can be given to such a visionary and role model who has made it her life’s mission to spread awareness of her seed protection movement, which she has been fighting for in hopes to restore peace and tranquility to nature, and for our agricultural sectors throughout the world. Vandana Shiva is known as a world famous and acclaimed eco-feminist, physicist, author, environmental activist, and advocate; she sits on the board of the International Forum of Globalization, the World Future Council, and Slow Food International and has been battling to create a new paradigm of agricultural significance in the centrality of future human developments. Also, she has written several books, such as Earth Democracy, Water Wars, Soil not Oil, and Making Peace With The Earth.
Dr. Vandana has accomplished during her life’s journey many amazing and inspirational accomplishments that were made possible by her breakthroughs in scientific research, which began with her specialization and interest in quantum physics and resulted in her becoming a proclaimed ‘rock star’ from her well-established genetic seed modification research institutions that stand proudly today as the main advocate that opposes agricultural privatization. However, during her early career she wasn’t an advocate for agriculture or an eco-feminist activist, instead she was working toward her Ph.D. and specializing her studies in quantum theory, which was fueled by her need to understand what makes the world function so coherently and strategically as a whole. This burning desire to understand the most complex concepts in the scientific theory of life, led her to publish a dissertation on the topic of, “Hidden Variables and Non-Locality in Quantum Theory,” which may seem like a mouthful, but basically means that everything is inter-connected down to the tiniest molecule, such as the, “soil, the plants, the pollinators, the food that’s produced,” are all part of a system that nature has created. This system is how life has flourished so abundantly on Earth and left the rest of the vast universe a cold, desolate, and lifeless place. Dr. Vandana discusses her epiphany moment of realization that all things are inter-connected; from the atom to the cell and the seed to the plant, life has a purpose and a very distinct blueprint, which allows nature to function and reproduce at will.
Peacemakers have one common goal, which is to promote justice, equality, and non-violence for any just situation, hence the importance for peacemakers of all diversities to emerge and implement principles that famous peacemakers today are promoting awareness for. Thus, the rise in people that have felt inspired by Dr. Vandana’s movement is growing rapidly by many people that find her charismatic and articulate forms of speaking accurately addressing the various sectors of society that can relate and find collectiveness and unity, which has opened countless dialogues on the issues of environmental policy making, which she hopes to expand as a diverse and responsive effort by society to change the paradigms of agriculture and food entirely, for the sake of the planet’s future.
Conversely, privatization of the seed is the one force that has devastated our society by making it law to grow food that is no longer organic and natural, but instead altered with chemicals to produce a ‘bigger, better, and more innovative product,’ which is how monopolistic firms in this industry are saying as they progress towards a complete dominance of the most essential ingredient of life, the natural seed. I found it enlightening to learn the history and prominence of how the seed plays the most crucial role in the circle of life, because of its inter-connection to nature, food, and all the components that comprise how natural renewable agriculture has been for thousands of years prior to the rise of technology and capitalism. Her movement has caused so much awareness and media attention that people call her the ‘rock star’ of environmental activism and respect her as a key figure in the battle of genetic modified agriculture, which Bill Moyer’s proclaimed on his program Moyers and Company during their wonderful dialogue on this issue.
Dr. Vandana discusses an in-depth analyses of how these dominant multi-national firms, government institutions, and environmental policies are aimed at completely monopolizing, globalizing, and privatizing the entire agriculture industry; thru, merging it with the chemical industry to make it legal to claim seeds as intellectual property, so that these economic capitalists can regulate the market, internally and externally. Her grasp on these vital issues is as relevant in the fight for human security, as it is regarding problems such as, women’s rights, non-violence awareness, poverty, and also war devastation. In defining the characteristics of a peacemaker, we often assume a human rights activist, or a Nobel Prize winner, or a non-profit organization aimed at eliminating violence and poverty; however, peacemakers are more readily appearing in the public as individuals that took a stand against what is wrong and fight for what is right for the human race. Dr. Vandana’s discussions about the future of humanity if we don’t acknowledge this problem portrays the logical outcome of the long-term effects of genetic seed modifications; which she states will surely lead to a decline in growth, economically, agriculturally, and environmentally as these corporations, “make every effort to turn the seed into a non-renewable resource.” She says by regulating seeds with genetically altered ‘superior’ replicates; the farmers are growing plants that are pre-programmed to not produce pollen. By not producing pollen a direct effect causes the bees to not pollenate and create new plants; which deliberately done to restrict how much farmers can produce to ensure that prices remain high and profits remain maximized.
Therefore, Vandana Shiva’s statement that “during war and famine people died of starvation,” is a prime example of negative effects that genetic seed production will induce on future populations. With this fear in mind she created the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology in 1982, which was established as a high quality research institution that aimed to study the most impactful ecological and social issues of the world; also, the institute remains in a committed partnership with local grassroots and community organizations. Soon after she founded the Navdanya national movement, which is intended to protect the diversity of resources and promote organic farming and fair trade regulations. Her movement has reached out to over 5,000,000 men and women farmers worldwide, protected over 3,000 different rice strains, and implemented over 60 seed banks throughout 16 states in the United States. In addition to these achievements she has been the leading voice in fields regarding intellectual property rights legislation. Yet that’s not nearly enough to describe the level of involvement Dr. Vandana performs, she has assisted and campaigned internationally and launched a global citizens campaign on the WTO’s dispute between trade tariffs and quotas in the U.S. and European GMOs. Aside from ecology support she also has aided and altered perceptions of gender issues that caught the attention of the Farmers of America Organization (FAO), which acknowledged her report called, “Most Women are Farmers” because of its strength and power that praises the woman for her importance and value that is often underappreciated by modern societies.
Thus, she continued on and founded the gender unit at the International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Not only did she feel empowered to support women’s causes worldwide, but she also established the Women Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), which she presently sits as the founding board member and highest authority in the women’s food and agriculture movement that was also arising side-by-side the seed movement. More significant accomplishments include the launch of the Diverse Women for Diversity movement in 1998, which aimed to secure women’s positions in the agriculture and patent sectors. She is on the National Board of Organic Standards of India and continues to work with different countries to promote organic farming methods. Uniquely, she also functions on Prince Charles’s expert Sustainable Agriculture group. However, even with these enormous achievements she won the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1993, the global 500 award, the Golden Ark, the Lennon ONO grant for peace in 2009, and the Calgary Peace Prize in 2011. It’s clear to see that she hasn’t left any stone unturned in her mission to achieve peace and equality in the production of the most precious resources of the world, the seed that becomes the food. I found Dr. Vandana to be an inspirational role model for women everywhere, because she gives positive hope that with education, knowledge, and hard work any individual can achieve greatness. Greatness to her isn’t money or greed, in fact she discusses the trend that people are following of corporate globalization and economic globalization completing conflicting with humanity and the, “collapse of global consciousness” entirely.
(1)Vandana Shiva. (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/541204/Vandana-Shiva
(2)Moyers, Bill. 13 July 2012. Interview with Vandana Shiva on the Problem with Genetically Modified Seeds. Moyers and Company. Retrieved From http://billmoyers.com/segment/vandana-shiva-on-the-problem-with-genetically-modified-seeds/
(3)Barsamian, David. Vandana Shiva. Sept 1997 Issue. The Progressive Magaizine. Retrieved From http://progressive.org/vandana_shiva_interview.html
(4)(Youtube) Vandana Shiva: The Future of Food and Seed. Presentation of the Keynote Address at the 2009 Organicology Conference. Portland, Oregon. 28 Feb, 2009. Retrieved From http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYwOTLopWIw
(5)EcoWatch. Dr. Vandana Shiva. 2013. Retrieved Fromhttp://ecowatch.com/vshiva-articles/Read more "Genetically Modified Seed Wars & the Death of the Planet"