If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

Vandana Shiva, Ph.D. on threats to sustainable farming and fighting corporate globalization


Growing one’s own food using organic methods is ideal.

Growing one’s own food using organic methods is ideal.

In this program, Dr. Caldicott interviews pre-eminent eco-feminist scholar, physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva. Ph.D. on the political, economic and environmental impacts of India’s Green Revolution, and present-day global corporate agriculture models. Dr. Shiva was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1993. Books she has written include Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, and other books. As members of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, Dr. Caldicott and Dr. Shiva attended a conference in July, 2009 gathering the world’s leading environmental and economic thinkers to advise the Spanish government on sustainable ecological practices. This conversation was recorded in Madrid, Spain. As background, read the January 6, 2010 article Activist: Farmer Suicides in India Linked to Debt, Globalization which quotes Dr. Shiva.

Dr. Caldicott starts the interview by praising Dr. Shiva for her stance against corporations like Monsanto which are patenting and genetically modifying seeds and preventing farmers in India from planting traditional crops.
Dr. Shiva describes the beginnings of her activism in 1984 when parts of India saw violence in opposition to chemical companies forcing local farmers to use toxic pesticides and fertilizers. She debunks myths about the “Green Revolution” which she says has had a markedly destructive effect on farmers and food safety, and refers to the Bhopal gas explosion in India which has killed over 33,000 people since 1984. She mentions her book The Violence of the Green Revolution. Read Dr. Shiva’s 1991 article, The Green Revolution in the Punjab, which is extracted from this book.

Vandana Shiva, Ph.D.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Caldicott and Dr. Shiva look at how war production in World War II laid the basis for pesticide companies. They address the rise in genetically modified organizations (GMOs) and the reduction of biodiversity into monocultures. Dr. Shiva talks about the propaganda that use of chemicals to grow crops will generate more food, when in fact the reverse is true. She points to the groundbreaking research in the field of organic, chemical-free farming by Sir Albert Howard, who wrote the book The Agricultural Testament [read it here]. The interview also examines the topic of food miles – the enormous carbon footprint of most food that is now shipped great distances – and how land is being “grabbed” all over the world to grow food and export it, and how increasing urbanization is encroaching on traditional agriculture. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s September 14, 2009 interview with land-grab expert Alexandra Spieldoch of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. See the articles Eating local means figuring out your “food miles” and Do Food Miles Matter? Reducing Meat & Dairy Consumption May Be Even More Important.

Dr. Caldicott asks how Indian farmers were made to use products from chemical and pesticide companies on their land. Dr. Shiva provides background starting with the 1960s, and points to the role of the U.S. corporations and foundations in promoting agrichemicals during the Green Revolution. She says the same players are now patenting seeds and creating genetically-engineered foods. She describes the World Trade Organization (WTO) and how its rules totally favor large corporations and punish small farmers. Dr. Shiva’s organization Navdanya focuses on keeping ancient and non GMO-seeds in farmer’s hands. Dr. Caldicott asks Dr. Shiva about non-toxic methods of fertilization used in India, and Dr. Shiva explains various natural fertilizers that renew soil fertility and achieve pest control.
The conversation moves to “terminator” seeds created by companies like Monsanto, and Dr. Shiva explains in depth the two kinds of man-made seeds that are non-renewable, both of which represent what she calls “an assault on life” and “biowarfare.” Dr. Caldicott asks which companies are profiting from this technology, and Dr. Shiva names the major players such as Monsanto, which produces 90% of the genetically engineered seeds. She says the WTO only exists to enable corporations to increase their profits and their market share. Dr. Shiva says the same corporations taking over rights to seeds and altering seeds are the ones working to change food safety laws. She explains the toxicity of bacillus thuringiensis (BT) used in rice, cotton and other crops, and how it destroys the soil. Read her 2009 article A plate full of toxins and her 1998 article Who Is Afraid Of Biosafety? And see the February 2, 2010 article Wide and vociferous protests against this genetically modified Bt brinjal.

At one point, Dr. Caldicott mentions her book If You Love This Planet (2009) which looks at the problem of pesticides in the chapter on toxic pollution. Dr. Caldicott asks about bees, and Dr. Shiva comments on the role of GMOs in colony collapse disorder. Dr. Shiva says the role of BT cotton, pesticides and GMOs in the decline of honeybees has not been studied much. She explains how pesticide manufacturers aim to sell more chemicals, not reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. Dr. Caldicott then shifts the discussion to biofuels. Dr. Shiva says big corporations are moving into biofuels despite their negative impact on climate change, and corn that should be a food source is used by cars. She says that the race to grow crops for biofuels is also a race to grab land for big agribusiness around the world. Read the article One Quarter of US Grain Crops Fed to Cars - Not People, New Figures Show. Dr. Shiva notes the enormous number of farmer suicides in India in the last decade. Read the January 6, 2010 CNN article Vandana Shiva: Farmer Suicides in India Linked to Debt, Globalization. In the conclusion of the program, Dr. Shiva reviews solutions to the problems presented earlier in the program, solutions which involve returning food sovereignty to local communities and away from polluting corporations. Dr. Caldicott asks about the peak oil problem, and how agriculture will be impacted when the world runs out of oil. Dr. Shiva provides a hopeful model of a sustainable food system that would be able to withstand the lack of petroleum, and emphasizes how important it will be (and how satisfying) for many more people to grow their own food. Listen to
Dr. Caldicott’s October 6, 2008 interview with peak-oil expert Richard Heinberg.

For more information on some of the topics addressed in this episode, visit the website of Dr. Shiva’s organization Navdanya: Research Foundation for Science,Technology and Ecology. Read the article EU Farmers Face Genetic Contamination of Seeds. Watch the 2008 French documentary (with English translation) The World According to Monsanto. Listen to the two-part program about the rise of corporate power in the 20th Century, Alex Carey: Corporations and Propaganda. Visit the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology page of the Organic Consumers Association Web site. Also read about the International Forum on Globalization. See the Greenpeace page, Say No to Genetic Engineering. Read the 2009 Greenpeace report Agriculture at a Crossroads: Food for Survival. Read the Earth Island Journal article The Plight of the Honeybee. Read about How to Start a Community Seed Bank and Creating a backyard vegetable garden. Also check out the 9-minute video Eat the Suburbs: Gardening for the End of the Oil Age.

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