Vandana Shiva Speaks on Food Security and GMOs

Last month author Vandana Shiva gave a talk on seed freedom at Marder’s in Bridgehampton. Shiva is an international activist against genetically modified crops. Edible asked attendees for their impressions.

Read a report on Shiva’s talk.

“I loved when Vandana spoke about how GMOs should be known as God Move Over. And I’m going to start opening my mouth in restaurants more about where their food is coming from. I’m great in my own kitchen, but I get lazy when I go out.” — Paige Patterson, manager at Marders

“It was wonderful to see how the magnetism of Vandana Shiva drew us all together, and I am grateful to the Marder’s for making it happen: It was such an honor to be in the same room as Vandana Shiva, and to hear her emphasis on the importance of seed diversity and soil health. It was good to hear her opposition to the 1981 case of Diamond vs. Chakrabarty that established the patentability of life forms. Dr. Shiva’s war against the biotech companies and their chemical poisons has shown that profit is their sole concern, despite the known harm to human, animal and soil health. I feel optimistic that the tide has turned in our favor, and that the agricultural industry has seen the writing on the wall.” — Peter Garnham, farmer and garden writer

“My take-away was pretty huge.  I came away with several resonating ideas but the one that stuck the most was: “Democracy begins with what we eat… as we are what we eat.”  We definitely need to take back our freedom and make sure there are no patents on life. And, we need to preserve biodiverstiy. As a result of this talk and an introduction to  Steph from Invincible Summer Farms, we are going to propose that the Edible School Gardens of the East End all plant Long Island Cheese Pumpkins next season to highlight and preserve this native plant.  Great talk. Great community.” — Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, governor of Slow Food New York, co-founder Edible School Gardens

“There was something mysterious and urgent at work at Vandana Shiva’s talk, ‘We are seeds.’ We had balcony seats and I imagined each person as a seed metamorphosing into a plant. The urgency of challenging centralized top down corporate systems of farm management are making a presence like — ‘Plant seeds now! ‘ Red tag sale on aisle six! Stay plugged in follow our rules and you will have a bounty!’ Farmers are driven to protest and  suicide because they can’t survive the seed restraints and price control of there crop. Shiva’s talk reaffirmed my conviction to continue to question authority, share seeds, spread her message and witness with gratitude what grows.” — Jeremy Grosvnor, surfer

“A number of us were lucky enough to bask in the presence of Vandana Shiva at Marder’s in Bridgehampton. ‘The first time I have spoken at a garden center,’ Vandana revealed. Trained as a physicist, she has devoted 30 years of her life as an environmental activist promoting seed freedom. ‘Food is our most basic need, the very stuff of life,’ Vandana writes to begin her seminal book, Stolen Harvest. I have followed, and read her work for 25 years now, and in my recent book, Seedtime, I honor her passion, her courage, and her voice: ‘Who will listen, one wonders, or act to change a system that is injurious to itself?’ Vandana Shiva, a tireless traveler and spokesperson for the sanctity of the commons, has an answer that draws on her native country’s legacy of activism. At an international biotech meeting in 1987, an industry executive claimed that five corporations would soon control the world’s health and food networks, and a journalist then asked Shiva how she would ‘respond to this kind of power and influence.’ Shiva replied: ‘There was another moment in history when 85 percent of the planet was controlled by one island nation. When an old man pulled out a spinning wheel, people said, how can you defeat the British Empire with this spinning wheel? And he said, it’s precisely because it looks so small, because it can be in the hands of everyone, that it is a powerful instrument.’

In the Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seed, Shiva’s voice — as a major contributor — is very clear: food is a basic human right, and there are multiple solutions to be found in agroecological practices to counter the failures of industrial agriculture; the free exchange of seed (a legacy of centuries) is the surest way to maintain biodiversity and the health of soils, plants, and people. Vandana spoke of Sir Albert Howard, who was dispatched to India early in the 20th century as a colonial scientist, only to discover the wisdom and practicality of indigenous farming methods (he is now recognized as the father of modern organic agriculture). Howard wrote of ‘the wheel of life’ that must turn continuously in place for fertility to be ensured, and in order to ensure overall community health. Vandana reminds us that soil and seed are indeed a gift of nature, not the property of global corporations, and that ‘diversity is our highest form of security’ (for food and community).

Prince Charles invoked some words of Ghandi that resonate with the teachings of Vandana Shiva and of the farm-school she founded, Navdanya: ‘We may utilize the gifts of Nature just as we choose, but in her books the debts are always equal to the credits.’ ” — Scott Chaskey, Quail Hill Farm/Peconic Land Trust