Dr Vandana Shiva at Cambridge Department of Engineering

Cambridge Sustainability Lectures – Dr Vandana Shiva

7th March 2012
Making peace with the Earth
Dr Vandana Shiva (Navdanya International, India; International Forum on Globalisation)

Dr Shiva’s lecture won’t leave me anytime soon. I truly feel privileged to have been able to hear this amazing physicist, philosopher, ecologist, feminist, humanist….(add all the ists you like) speak. Although she probably had most of the audience close to tears with the horrendous statistics on Indian farmer suicides (at an unfathomable quarter million! truly a genocide) after the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds (especially bt cotton, now apparently in its third incarnation because the first two forms have killed the good insects while breeding resistance in the pests they were supposed to control).  The agricultural policy that sanctioned the introduction of Monsanto seeds and chemicals, along with monocultural cash crop farming, which demands big upfront investments as well as more water than available, has left farmers unable to feed their own families while spiralling into such debt that death seems the only way out. Death of farmers, death of the land, death of biodiversity and the eco system that sustains life, because a large corporation is monetising the food supply.  This has been going on for 16 years and I am truly ashamed of my ignorance. Where have we been?  What have we done about it? Here’s are just some of many articles and links:

Of course demonising a single company isn’t enough. Political decisions are made all over the world to support such schemes, out of desperation, greed and ignorance, and the misinterpretation of silo science. We’ve all been led to believe that “GM crops are required to feed the world”, when in fact the opposite seems to be true. Dr. Shiva quoted some hugely impressive results from the research at Navdanya International, showing that both the crop yield and nutritional content of foods grown on small, biodiverse, organic farms is miles ahead of the industrial monocultural output. My farming knowledge is limited, but I’ve been learning every day from the experiences shared by the organic farmers who provide my veg boxes, and from scientists who study and debunk the conventional wisdom on large-scale industrial farming.

The scale of the shift in paradigm that’s needed is depressing, but there is hope. Through the blogosphere and social networking (which I’ve always regarded with some trepidation and only joined reluctantly) I can now see that the ability to inform, form communities and action groups almost instantly gives a real voice to people who’ve had no say, and who can react much quicker than the glacial movements of large corporations.

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