Vandana Shiva's talk September 2 at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley, California presented by the International Forum on Globalization was an enlightening and infuriating ride through the current global food and agricultural system. The Indian quantum physicist turned environmentalist and agricultural activist addressed global problems of climate change and food insecurity as created by industrial and centralized agriculture and its remedy being the re-localization of food production.
Peppered as it was with magnanimous humour and as jovial as can be throughout, the overwhelming tone in the hall was the painful fact that something has gone terribly wrong with our global food supply, it cannot be denied further, and immediate paradigm shifts must occur for the health of our bodies and the planet.
Some of what I took away from the evening and previous research on the issue:
That five corporations control almost all food production on this planet, that these corporations create laws within countries to determine what is farmed and where and how and for what global markets, that farmers often cannot eat the food they sow because it is to be exported to foreign markets or used for biofuels, that farmers the world over are required by laws to plant certain crops and to purchase certain patented seeds, that said patented seeds are genetically modified to NOT re-germinate and therefore must be purchased annually, that said patented seeds require the application of specific patented chemical nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides in order to grow, that said patented chemical nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides eventually desertify the soil, that said seed and fertilizer manufacturers go to the lengths of hunting down and having farmers who defy the laws imprisoned, that farmers whose only will to power is their now un-tillable land kill themselves, that some people on our planet still cannot get access to food despite that there is - and always has been- abundance, that capital made off market speculation created by this blind, greedy system of maximum exploitation of resources and labor get reintroduced back into said system, locking up capital in the hands of so few...
...is absolutely inexcusable.
This is not just happening in India, this is happening in Illinois, in California, in France, in Bolivia. We are one world because of this globalized economy and thusly, we are all complicit.
Of special mention and worthy of further investigation, Shiva is highly critical of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Africa initiative Alliance for a Green Africa, as it is based enirely in this current, flawed model of industrial, genetically modified agriculture. Specifically, from that organization's website, the exact reductionist strategy that sustains the system (emphasis mine):
"The Agro-Dealer Development Program (ADP) provides training, capital and credit to establish certified agro-dealers who are a primary conduit of seeds, fertilisers and knowledge to smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and incomes."These "certified dealers" will most likely be enforced by new legal suppositions and not simply be "a primary conduit of seeds, fertilisers, and knowledge," but rather the only conduit (legal, that is). In my opinion, all of this will lead to "illegal seed trafficking" and the criminalization of "illegal seed use," functioning exactly as the current illegal drug industry works, not only in Africa, but worldwide as the industrialized mode of food production implodes on itself.
She also addressed a question from an audience member about commons law and how the manipulation of patents and the patent legal system and its inherent capital-generating greed is at the heart of this destructive dynamic. We must restore the commons.
The disappearance of bees was also touched upon. Might they be disappearing because of genetically modified organisms? It's very possible. Is there a way to prove this?
Some quotes from Shiva:
"Shrimp should remain a luxury. Who needs to eat shrimp every day? People should not be forced [by this system and some laws] to farm shrimp to satisfy the palettes of foreign markets. "In response to an audience question "What role should women play in all of this?":
"That question should be: 'What role DO women play in all of this?' They are the majority of the world's farmers! Things would be lot more different if they were not subjugated and they would do things like women do....like share."