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Forum Post: Vandana Shiva on Resisting GMOs: "Saving Seeds Is a Political Act"

Posted 10 months ago on Nov. 20, 2013, 8 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5784)
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Vandana Shiva on Resisting GMOs: "Saving Seeds Is a Political Act"

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 10:25 By Sarah van Gelder, Yes! Magazine | Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/20149-vandana-shiva-on-resisting-gmos-saving-seeds-is-a-political-act

Trained in physics and philosophy, Vandana Shiva is renowned for her activism against GMOs, globalization, and patents on seeds and traditional foods. She co-founded Navdanya, which promotes seed saving and organic farming and has more than 70,000 farmer-members.


Sarah van Gelder: The seed has been a major part of your work. Could you say a little about what a seed is at its essence?

Vandana Shiva: 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. The seed is the embodiment of culture because culture shaped the seed with careful selection—women picked the best, diversified. So from one grass you get 200,000 rices. That is a convergence of human intelligence and nature’s intelligence. It is the ultimate expression of life, and in our language, it means “that from which life arises on its own, forever and ever and ever.”

van Gelder: So what is it worth?

Shiva: It’s priceless. There is no price to seed, which is why the commodification of seed is such an outrage. Every culture that I’ve come across believes that destroying seed is the ultimate sin. Communities have starved to death rather than eat the seed grain.

van Gelder: The prevailing worldview separates humans from the natural world, and it has had terrible effects. How are people healing this separation, and how are seeds part of that work?

Shiva: No matter what problem you look at, every ecological problem comes from this illusion that we are separate from nature. I believe overcoming the separation is a longing much deeper than the recent rise of ecological awareness. The healing is coming from reclaiming our oneness with the web of life, with the universe itself. Some people do it through meditation and yoga, but a lot more are doing it by just planting a seed and growing a garden. In planting a seed you are one with the cycles and regenerative capacity of life. We hear the same thing again and again from children we work with sowing gardens of hope with seeds of freedom. When you ask, “So what did you learn?” they always talk about the miracle of life—that a tiny seed bursts into a plant and gives an abundance, and they can harvest a seed from it. A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth. That this body of ours is the panchabhuta—the five elements that make the universe and make our bodies. The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory—this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe. There’s nothing that gives me deeper joy than the work of protecting the diversity and the freedom of the seed. Every expression of diversity is an expression of freedom, and every expression of monoculture is an expression of coercion.

van Gelder: Can you say more about that? What is the relationship of freedom to biodiversity?

Shiva: Life is self-organized. Self-organized systems evolve in diversity. You are not identical to me, because each of us has evolved in freedom. The self-organizing capacity of life is expressed in diversity. Diversity of culture, diversity of humans, diversity of seeds. Uniformity is constructed from the outside. It is coercive. So a farm of only Roundup Ready soya is actually a battlefield. Chemical warfare is going on—spraying of Roundup to kill everything green, to kill the soil organisms, to kill the diversity, but also to kill the potential of the crop to manage itself and diseases. Monocultures can only be held together through external control, and uniformity and external control and concentration go hand in hand.

van Gelder: How do we, the people, get strong enough to counter the enormous power of Monsanto and the like?

Shiva: We are dealing with life itself, so the first place we get power is by aligning ourselves with the forces of life. That is why the act of seed saving is such an important political act in this time. And that is the part that is linked to self-organizing—organizing yourself to save the seeds, have a community garden, create an exchange, do everything that it takes to protect and rejuvenate the seed. But at this point, industry is hungry to have absolute control. They will not tolerate a single farmer who has freedom in his seed supply. They will not stand a single seed that grows on its own terms.

van Gelder: If anything, things have gotten more dire since the last time we talked. How do you get energized and keep your own spirits up?

Shiva: You know it is true that on the one hand, the concentration of power is more than ever before. But I think the awareness about the illegitimacy of this power is also more than ever before. If you take into account the number of movements, the number of protests taking place, and the number of people building alternatives, it’s huge. The first place where I get joy as well as the energy to continue is the positive work of seed saving, promoting a peaceful agriculture, working with farmers, and now increasingly working with non-farmers. In the course we are running on the farm right now, we have 55 young people—someone from a banking system, someone from a software firm, three filmmakers. No matter where in the world you are, people are realizing food is important. They are realizing food begins with seed, and everyone wants to learn. When I see those processes get unleashed, when I see how rapidly gardening has become such an important way of healing violence—I just met a young man who’s working with ex-convicts to spread gardens. That’s his work! He’s created a firm, and they are the owners, and the board members—how can you not be charged with energy?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5784) 10 months ago

On the Front Lines of Hawaii's GMO War

Thursday, 21 November 2013 11:14 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | News

http://truth-out.org/news/item/20170-on-the-front-lines-of-hawaiis-gmo-war

(This is part one of an in-depth series on resistance to pesticides and GMO farming on The Garden Island.)

Malia Chun lives just blocks away from the beach on the western shores of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. On a sunny November morning, local activist Josh Mori drives Chun and I down the beach in his truck. Children are surfing and swimming in the waves as fisherman wait for a tug on their lines. Hawaiian beaches are known for their sparking blue waters, but Chun worries that the water lapping on the beach in her small town of Kekaha is polluted.

The nearby residential neighborhood is a "homestead" area that is reserved for people of native Hawaiian heritage and boasts one of the highest numbers of native speakers of any neighborhood in the state. Chun calls the homestead "a gem." She runs a cultural enrichment program for native Hawaiian students at a local community college, and she moved with her two daughters, ages 7 and 11, to the homestead community six years ago. As we ride past the men and their fishing poles, Chun explains that some locals are subsistence fishermen and their families rely on what they catch. Chun says there are rumors among fisherman that the offshore reef, a crucial habitat for fish, is dying.

Mori stops the truck near two chain link fences separating the beach from sandy lots full of equipment and storage containers. Facilities operated by the international agrichemical firms Syngenta and DuPont-Pioneer run right up to the beach, where the stretch of sand occupied by the swimmers and fisherman is split by an irrigation ditch that stretches back toward the agricultural fields near Chun's neighborhood. The biotech giants BASF and Dow also operate in the area, and Monsanto has facilities elsewhere in the state. On Kauai, the four companies take advantage of The Garden Island's three growing seasons to develop and produce varieties of seeds that are bred or genetically engineered to resist pests and pesticides and increase yields.

Stands of genetically engineered corn are not what you would expect to see on a tropical island that once hosted sugar cane plantations and has kept its population happy for generations with coconuts, breadfruit, taro and papaya. But high demand on the mainland has made biotech corn and other seeds one of Hawaii's top agricultural commodities. Hawaii is the world's leading producer of corn seed, which accounts for 96 percent of the state's $247 million biotech agriculture industry, according to the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents biotech companies. Virtually every genetically engineered seed variety has spent some time in development on a Hawaiian island.

The transgenic seed varieties, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are at the heart of a global controversy over the future of agriculture. Hawaii has become a flashpoint for the debate and a center of anti-GMO activism. In September, thousands of people marched in Lihue, the county seat of Kauai, to protest GMO agriculture and support a local initiative to regulate pesticide use. On November 19, the Hawaii County Council passed a controversial bill banning new GMO operations on Oahu, Hawaii's big island. All new GMO crop varieties except papaya, which was genetically engineered to resist a virus in the 1990s, would be illegal under the ban if the island's mayor gives it his approval.

But in communities on the west side of Kauai, the most immediate controversy is not over genetic engineering, but the considerable amount of chemicals sprayed on the GMO development plots. The GMO seeds produced on Kauai are not considered food items, so the agrichemical companies are allowed to use more pesticides than traditional farmers. Together, the four biotech and agrichemical companies use an estimated 18 tons of "restricted use" pesticides on their plots each year, and local doctors and activists worry about the chemicals drifting in the air and water. Some of the 22 restricted-use pesticides in use on Kauai, such as atrazine, are linked to serious health problems and are banned in European countries, and federal law requires that they be applied by or under supervision of workers with special training. Sometimes the pesticides are combined, or "stacked," with general-use pesticides in cocktails that have never been tested officially for safety.

A seed test plot is visible from Chun's home in the homestead neighborhood. The only thing separating the plot from her neighbors' backyard is some bare land and a drainage ditch. "There is no testing," says Mori, looking out toward the biotech seed plot. "We are the lab rats."

http://truth-out.org/news/item/20170-on-the-front-lines-of-hawaiis-gmo-war