INDIA: Women farmers want non-GM heirloom seeds for food security India

Vandana Shiva – WNN Opinion

Women farmers from India hold up heirloom food crop seeds
Women farmers from northern India hold up heirloom, open pollinated seeds donated by The Living Seed Company for food crop use. The seeds were distributed during the 2011 North India Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training Program that was designed and coordinated by Women’s Earth Alliance partner, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group. Image: Living Seed Company

(WNN) Delhi, INDIA: Industrial agriculture is pushing species to extinction through the use of toxic chemicals that kill our bees and butterflies, our earthworms and soil organisms that create soil fertility. Plant and animal varieties are disappearing as monocultures displace biodiversity.

Industrial, globalized agriculture is responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gases, which then destabilize agriculture by causing climate chaos, creating new threats to food security.

But the biggest threat we face is the control of seed and food moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands.

The Massive Suicide of Farmers

Monopoly control of cottonseed and the introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has already given rise to an epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India.

A quarter-million farmers have taken their lives because of debt induced by the high costs of nonrenewable seed, which spins billions of dollars of royalty for firms like Monsanto.

I started Navdanya in 1987 to address the challenge of GM seeds, seed patents and seed monopolies.

We have been successful in reclaiming seed sovereignty and creating sixty community seed banks to reclaim seed as a commons. We have proven that biodiverse ecological agriculture produces more food and nutrition per acre than monocultures, while reducing costs to the planet and to farmers.

Little Lamp in a Dark Room

But our efforts are like a little lamp in a very dark room. We keep the lamp of possibilities and alternatives burning. The food emergency, however, calls for a much wider response.

The food movement must become more integrated, from seed to table, from village to city, from South to North.

We need to be stronger in challenging the corporate control of our food system and the role of governments in increasing, rather than stopping, the corporate abuse of our seeds and soils, our bodies and our health.

Michelle Obama and the White House Garden

Michelle Obama has an organic garden at the White House, but the Obama administration is embracing GMOs in the United States and around the world.

Food Democracy versus Food Dictatorship

The US-India agriculture agreement—signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh in 2005, at the same time as the signing of the US-India nuclear deal — has on its board representatives from Monsanto, ADM and Walmart. The hijacking of our food systems is the hijacking of our democracy.

That is why we have to make food democracy the core of the defense of our freedom and survival.

We will either have food dictatorship for a while and then a collapse of our food systems and our societies, or we will succeed in building robust food democracies, resting on resilient ecosystems and resilient communities. There is still a chance for the second alternative.

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Professor Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993.

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