Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs
Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs
By Vandana Shiva / commondreams.org

Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women's hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.

The two great ecological challenges of our times are biodiversity erosion and climate change. And both are interconnected, in their causes and their solutions.

Industrial agiculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion as well as to climate change. According to the United Nations, 93% of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years.

Monocultures based on chemical inputs do not merely destroy plant biodiversity, they have destroyed soil biodiversity, which leads to the emergence of pathogens, new diseases, and more chemical use.

Our study of soils in the Bt cotton regions of Vidharba showed a dramatic decline in beneficial soil organisms. In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing. There are no pollinators on Bt cotton plants, whereas the population of pollinators in Navdanya’s biodiversity conservation farm in Doon Valley is six times more than in the neighbouring forest. The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually. Industrial agriculture also kills aquatic and marine life by creating dead zones due to fertilizer run off. Pesticides are also killing or damaging aquatic life .

"Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles."

Besides the harm to biodiversity and the climate, industrial agriculture actually undermines food and nutrition security. Firstly, industrial agriculture grows commodities for profits of the agrichemical (now also Biotech) and agribusiness corporations. Only 10 percent of the annual GMO corn and soya crop goes to feed people. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel. This is clearly not a food system that feeds the world.

Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the "bathua," and the mixed cropping that produces more "Nutrition per Acre" than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).

Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.

Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.

On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.

Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide.

Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.

In addition to destroying biodiversity, industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos. As I have written in my book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 40% of all GHGs—including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane—come from industrialised globalized agriculture. And chemical monocultures are also more vulnerable to climate change as we have witnessed in the unseasonal rains at harvest time in 2015.

On the other hand, organic farming reduces emissions, and also makes agriculture more resilient to climate change. Because organic farming is based on returning organic matter to the soil, it is the most effective means to remove excess carbon in the air, where it does not belong, and putting it in the soil, where it belongs. Navdanya’s research has shown that organic farming has increased carbon absorption by 55%. International studies show that with 2 tons of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) per hectare, we can remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon back down to pre-industrial levels of 350 ppm.

In addition, organic matter in the soil also increases water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters. This is our insurance against climate change, both when there is drought and too little rain, and when there are floods and excess rain. On the other hand, cement and concrete increases runoff of water, aggravating floods and drought. We witnessed this in the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 and in the Kashmir disaster in 2014.

At harvest time of spring 2015 India had unseasonal rains which destroyed the crops. More than a 100 farmers committed suicide. The unseasonal rains due to climate instability added to the burden of debt the farmers are already carrying due to rising costs of production and falling prices. Both the crisis of debt leading to climate change and the climate crisis have a common solution – a shift to biodiverse ecological agriculture which is free of high cost chemical inputs and dependence on corporate seeds, hence of debt, and also has climate resilience built into it through biodiversity and organic soils.

4000 years ago our ancient Vedas had guided us, "Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it."

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 CrisisStolen 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.

3.8 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 8,869 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 8,052 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 7,542 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 7,359 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 7,169 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 5,837 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 4,375 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 4,350 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 4,329 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 4,289 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
Forest Man
16 min · 3,986 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 3,950 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 3,859 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,806 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 2,517 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 2,308 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 1,986 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 1,890 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
A City Open to Migration and Diversity?
2 min · 1,648 views today · We speak to Thomas Jézéquel of Eurocities about what the city of Gdańsk can teach us.
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 1,626 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs