Tag Archive | Vandana Shiva

Beyond Fossilized Paradigms: Futureconomics of Food

This is reposted from Common Dreams via GRIID.

The economics of the future is based on people and biodiversity – not fossil fuels, toxic chemicals and monocultures.

New Delhi, India – The economic crisis, the ecological crisis and the food crisis are a reflection of an outmoded and fossilized economic paradigm – a paradigm that grew out of mobilizing resources for the war by creating the category of economic “growth” and is rooted in the age of oil and fossil fuels. It is fossilized both because it is obsolete, and because it is a product of the age of fossil fuels. We need to move beyond this fossilized paradigm if we are to address the economic and ecological crisis.Rice terraces near the Drukgyel Dzong, Paro Valley, Bhutan. (Photo: Blaine Harrington)

Economy and ecology have the same roots “oikos” – meaning home – both our planetary home, the Earth, and our home where we live our everyday lives in family and community.

But economy strayed from ecology, forgot the home and focused on the market. An artificial “production boundary” was created to measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The production boundary defined work and production for sustenance as non-production and non-work – “if you produce what you consume, then you don’t produce”. In one fell swoop, nature’s work in providing goods and services disappeared. The production and work of sustenance economies disappeared, the work of hundreds of millions of women disappeared.

To the false measure of growth is added a false measure of “productivity”. Productivity is output for unit input. In agriculture this should involve all outputs of biodiverse agro-ecosystems – the compost, energy and dairy products from livestock, the fuel and fodder and fruit from agroforestry and farm trees, the diverse outputs of diverse crops. When measured honestly in terms of total output, small biodiverse farms produce more and are more productive.

Bhutan has given up the false categories of GNP and GDP, and replaced them with the category of “gross national happiness” which measures the wellbeing of nature and society.

Inputs should include all inputs – capital, seeds, chemicals, machinery, fossil fuels, labour, land and water. The false measure of productivity selects one output from diverse outputs – the single commodity to be produced for the market, and one input from diverse inputs – labour.

Thus low output, high input chemical, industrial monocultures, which in fact have a negative productivity, are artificially rendered more productive than small, biodiverse, ecological farms. And this is at the root of the false assumption that small farms must be destroyed and replaced by large industrial farms.

This false, fossilized measure of productivity is at the root of the multiple crises we face in food and agriculture.
It is at the root of hunger and malnutrition, because, while commodities grow, food and nutrition have disappeared from the farming system. “Yield” measures the output of a single commodity, not the output of food and nutrition.

This is the root of the agrarian crisis.

When costs of input keep increasing, but are not counted in measuring productivity, small and marginal farmers are pushed into a high cost farming model, which results in debt – and in extreme cases, the epidemic of farmers’ suicides.

It is at the root of the unemployment crisis.

When people are replaced by energy slaves because of a false measure of productivity based on labour inputs alone, the destruction of livelihoods and work is an inevitable result.

It is also at the root of the ecological crisis.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley has recognised that “growing organic” and “growing happiness and wellbeing” go hand in hand.

When natural resource inputs, fossil fuel inputs, and chemical inputs are increased but not counted, more water and land is wasted, more toxic poisons are used, more fossil fuels are needed. In terms of resource productivity, chemical industrial agriculture is highly inefficient. It uses ten units of energy to produce one unit of food. It is responsible for 75 per cent use of water, 75 per cent disappearance of species diversity, 75 per cent land and soil degradation and 40 per cent of all Greenhouse Gas emissions, which are destabilizing the climate.

In food and agriculture, when we transcend the false productivity of a fossilised paradigm, and shift from the narrow focus on monoculture yields as the only output, and human labour as the only input, instead of destroying small farms and farmers we will protect them – because they are more productive in real terms. Instead of destroying biodiversity, we will intensify it, because it gives more food and nutrition.

Futureconomics, the economics of the future, is based on people and biodiversity – not fossil fuels, energy slaves, toxic chemicals and monocultures. The fossilized paradigm of food and agriculture gives us displacement, dispossession, disease and ecological destruction. It has given us the epidemic of farmers suicides and the epidemic of hunger and malnutrition. A paradigm that robs 250,000 farmers of their lives, and millions of their livelihoods; that robs half our future generations of their lives by denying them food and nutrition is clearly dysfunctional.

It has led to the growth of money flow and corporate profits, but it has diminished life and the wellbeing of our people. The new paradigm we are creating on the ground – and in our minds – enriches livelihoods, the health of people and eco-systems and cultures.

On April 2, 2012, the United Nations organised a High Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a new Economic Paradigm to implement resolution 65/309 [PDF], adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in July 2011 – conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal and “recognising that the gross domestic product does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people”.

I was invited to address the conference at the UN. The meeting was hosted by the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Bhutan has given up the false categories of GNP and GDP, and replaced them with the category of “gross national happiness” which measures the wellbeing of nature and society.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley has recognised that “growing organic” and “growing happiness and wellbeing” go hand in hand. That is why he has asked Navdanya and I to help make a transition to a 100 per cent organic Bhutan.

In India, Navdanya is working with the states of Uttarakhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar for an organic transition. We aim for an organic India by 2050, to end the epidemic of farmers suicides and hunger and malnutrition, to stop the erosion of our soil, our biodiversity, our water; to create sustainable livelihoods and end poverty.

This is futureconomics.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis;Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food SupplyEarth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

The Seed Emergency: The Threat to Food and Democracy

This article by Vandana Shiva is re-posted from ZNet and GRIID.

The seed is the first link in the food chain – and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty – and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty.

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved – and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.

The past twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of the control over seeds by a very small number of giant corporations. In 1995, when the UN organised the Plant Genetic Resources Conference in Leipzig, it was reported that 75 per cent of all agricultural biodiversity had disappeared because of the introduction of “modern” varieties, which are always cultivated as monocultures. Since then, the erosion has accelerated.

The introduction of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation has accelerated the spread of genetically engineered seeds – which can be patented – and for which royalties can be collected. Navdanya was started in response to the introduction of these patents on seeds in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – a forerunner to the WTO – about which a Monsanto representative later stated: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.” Corporations defined a problem – and for them the problem was farmers saving seeds. They offered a solution, and the solution was to make it illegal for farmers to save seed – by introducing patents and intellectual property rights [PDF] on those very seeds. As a result, acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.

Threats to seed sovereignty

Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also undermining seed sovereignty. Across the world, new seed laws are being introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seeds, thus making it impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them into dependency on giant seed corporations. Corporations are also patenting climate resilient seeds evolved by farmers – thus robbing farmers of using their own seeds and knowledge for climate adaptation.

Another threat to seed sovereignty is genetic contamination. India has lost its cotton seeds because of contamination from Bt Cotton – a strain engineered to contain the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium. Canada has lost its canola seed because of contamination from Roundup Ready canola. And Mexico has lost its corn due to contamination from Bt Cotton.

After contamination, biotech seed corporations sue farmers with patent infringement cases, as happened in the case of Percy Schmeiser. That is why more than 80 groups came together and filed a case to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose seed had been contaminated.

As a farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is debt. India, the home of cotton, has lost its cotton seed diversity and cotton seed sovereignty. Some 95 per cent of the country’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto – and the debt trap created by being forced to buy seed every year – with royalty payments – has pushed hundreds of thousands of farmers to suicide; of the 250,000 farmer suicides, the majority are in the cotton belt.

Seeding control

Even as the disappearance of biodiversity and seed sovereignty creates a major crisis for agriculture and food security, corporations are pushing governments to use public money to destroy the public seed supply and replace it with unreliable non-renewable, patented seed – which must be bought each and every year.

In Europe, the 1994 regulation for protection of plant varieties forces farmers to make a “compulsory voluntary contribution” to seed companies. The terms themselves are contradictory. What is compulsory cannot be voluntary.

In France, a law was passed in November 2011, which makes royalty payments compulsory. As Agriculture Minister Bruna Le Marie stated: “Seeds can be longer be royalty free, as is currently the case.” Of the 5,000 or so cultivated plant varieties, 600 are protected by certificate in France, and these account for 99 per cent of the varieties grown by farmers.

The “compulsory voluntary contribution”, in other words a royalty, is justified on grounds that “a fee is paid to certificate holders [seed companies] to sustain funding of research and efforts to improve genetic resources”.

Monsanto pirates biodiversity and genetic resources from farming communities, as it did in the case of a wheat biopiracy case fought by Navdanya with Greenpeace, and climate resilient crops and brinjal (also known as aubergine or eggplant) varieties for Bt Brinjal. As Monsanto states, “it draws from a collection of germ-plasm that is unparalleled in history” and “mines the diversity in this genetic library to develop elite seeds faster than ever before”.

In effect, what is taking place is the enclosure of the genetic commons of our biodiversity and the intellectual commons of public breeding by farming communities and public institutions. And the GMO seeds Monsanto is offering are failing.  This is not “improvement” of genetic resources, but degradation. This is not innovation but piracy.

For example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – being pushed by the Gates Foundation – is a major assault on Africa’s seed sovereignty.

Agribusiness

The 2009 US Global Food Security Act [PDF] also called the Lugar-Casey Act [PDF], “A bill to authorise appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crisis, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and for other purposes”.

The amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act would “include research on bio-technological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology”. The $ 7.7bn that goes with the bill would go to benefit Monsanto to push GM seeds.

An article in Forbes, titled “Why Uncle Sam Supports Franken Foods”, shows how agribusiness is the only sector in which US has a positive trade balance. Hence the push for GMOs – because they bring royalties to the US. However, royalties for Monsanto are based on debt, suicidal farmers and the disappearance of biodiversity worldwide.

Under the US Global Food Security Act, Nepal signed an agreement with USAID and Monsanto. This led to massive protests across the country. India was forced to allow patents on seeds through the first dispute brought by the US against India in the WTO. Since 2004, India has also been trying to introduce a Seed Act which would require farmers to register their own seeds and take licenses. This in effect would force farmers from using their indigenous seed varieties. By creating a Seed Satyagraha – a non-cooperation movement in Gandhi’s footsteps, handing over hundreds of thousands of signatures to the prime minister, and working with parliament – we have so far prevented the Seed Law from being introduced.

India has signed a US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, with Monsanto on the Board. Individual states are also being pressured to sign agreements with Monsanto. One example is the Monsanto-Rajasthan Memorandum of Understanding, under which Monsanto would get intellectual property rights to all genetic resources, and to carry out research on indigenous seeds. It took a campaign by Navdanya and a “Monsanto Quit India” Bija Yatra [“seed pilgrimage”] to force the government of Rajasthan to cancel the MOU.