Words from the Food Revolution Summit: "She spoke of the tragic irony that in the land where Gandhi spun freedom through cotton and the pinning wheel, 95% of the cotton is now controlled by Monsanto."
More than 250,000 farmers in India have committed suicide since Monsanto began to take control of the cotton industry.“Patents on seed mean genocide, and patents on seed mean ecocide,”she told us.“I’m working with 500,000 farmers, mobilizing millions, creating 66 seed banks, training farmers every month, to be fighting for food sovereignty. This isn’t what I wanted for my life, but too much is at stake. Everything’s at stake.”
Ocean Robbins: Welcome to The Food Revolution Summit where we explore how you can heal your body and your world with food. This is Ocean Robbins and I am joined by my dad, John Robbins in welcoming our guest who is on the line with us from India, Dr. Vandana Shiva. Dr. Shiva is a world-renowned environmental leader and thinker. She is Director of The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology which she founded in her mother’s cow shed in India. Dr. Shiva is the author of many bestselling books including Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis. She is the founder of Navdanya or Nine Seeds which is a movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds. Vandana is a recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize. In 2011 Forbes Magazine named her one of the seven most influential women. So now, Dr. Shiva, my dad and I are just so grateful to have this time with you and here to welcome you on to this call and to interview you is my dad, John Robbins.
John Robbins: Well, thank you Ocean and yes Vandana, we are really pleased to have you. I want to ask you, there are corporations who are seeking to profit from and control every aspect of the food supply chain, from seeds to land to water. You’ve spoken about this eloquently and passionately and forcefully. What is at risk and what is being threatened by the efforts of Monsanto and other biotech companies to patent the seeds we depend on for our food?
Dr. Vandana Shiva: I think the very future of life is at risk with patenting and the control over seed in a handful of corporations. Firstly, corporations with their centralized control cannot deal with the diversity that the planet has. That diversity has been nourished by caring farmers at a small scale level. For example India evolved 200,000 varieties of rice. Small farms can have 25 to 30 varieties of rice. Navdanya, on its farm in Bera Doon grows about 700 varieties of rice but you can only do that with the factor of love and care which is only possible at the small scale. We have had Monsanto around for the last fifteen years commercializing GM crops. What have they given us? Four crops; Roundup Ready canola, Roundup Ready soya, Roundup Ready corn and Bt corn and Bt cotton, four crops with two traits; more spraying of herbicides which are causing super-pests and more toxins in the plants. The Bt crops, which are creating super-pests, so super-weeds and super-pests instead of controlling weeds and controlling pests and disappearance of diversity.
Secondly, when a company takes a patent, I believe a patent on life is eroding the very ethical fabric of our existence on this planet. We are part of the earth family; we are one among many species. If some of that species, a handful of corporations, now claim to be creators and inventors of life on earth; that is totally going to dispute our thinking and our relationship with the earth in disarray. In addition, the only reason corporations like Monsanto take a patent, on very false grounds of having invented seeds which they haven’t, they poison the seeds and they should be treated as polluters and fined, not rewarded with a monopoly. But a patent monopoly means they have the right to extract super profits in terms of royalties.
When the British colonized the Third World, they took over the land and revenues from the land are what dispossessed our people. That is what created the hunger and famines and landlessness in India, or in Africa, or in Latin America where it was more the Spanish and the Portuguese colonizers. Today the colonization is of the seeds themselves. The small persons who are given the seed, who are the source of the seed have never ever had to buy seed before. They don’t have money and when the companies’ agents come they say “Oh, oh, you are going to be a millionaire, they are going to give you 1,500 kilograms of cotton per acre, take it, sign on this little piece of paper.” The signing on the piece of paper is a mortgage on the land.