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Vandana Shiva is one of the most inspiring thinkers and speakers on the subject of food sovereignty, which refers to the right of all people to control their sources of food according to their own social, cultural, and political needs and not according to the requirements of transnational corporations.
This article, an excerpt from Shiva’s 2008 book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, is a great introduction to her thought. The core of it is in this paragraph:
We need an alternative. Biodiverse, organic farms and localized food systems offer us security in times of climate insecurity, while producing more food, producing better food, and creating more livelihoods. The industrialized, globalized food system is based on oil; biodiverse, organic, and local food systems are based on living soil. The industrialized system is based on creating waste and pollution; a living agriculture is based on no waste. The industrialized system is based on monocultures; sustainable systems are based on diversity.
And if you just can’t get enough of Vandana Shiva, here is a talk she gave back in March of 2007, titled “Defending Food Freedom in a Period of Food Fascism”. Unfortunately, the links to the video files appear to be broken, but there is a working link to the audio.
Sometimes the line between humour and reality is a bit too thin for comfort:
PASADENA, CA—Geneticists at the California Institute of Technology announced Monday that they have developed a tomato with a 31 percent larger price tag than a typical specimen of the vine-ripened fruit. “By utilizing an exciting new breakthrough in gene-splicing technology, we’ve been able to manipulate this new tomato with recombinant DNA in such a manner as to make it nearly as pricey as a similarly sized tangelo,” said Dr. Lee Nolan, who headed up the project. “Genetically modified crops such as this will be instrumental in helping average grocers keep pace with unaffordable organic stores such as Whole Foods.” In addition to vastly surpassing similar produce in expense, the new tomato will reportedly wipe out four species of ladybugs.
This story from the Washington Post really tells you a lot about where we’re at these days:
Three companies — BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis — have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report by the Ottawa-based ETC Group, an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers.
The applications say that the new “climate ready” genes will help crops survive drought, flooding, saltwater incursions, high temperatures and increased ultraviolet radiation — all of which are predicted to undermine food security in coming decades.
On the one hand, you have to think that, if you were running a corporation intending to produce profits from food under any circumstances whatever, then it’s only prudent to plan for the possibility of climate and other factors getting in your way. On the other hand, this just sounds like something dreamed up by a misanthropic science-fiction author.
And as long as we can pretend to be finessing our way out of disaster, we don’t have to confront the disaster. I’m sure that the PR flacks for these corporations would respond that they’re not in the business of solving global warming; they’re just trying to make an honest buck. But if this is what “making an honest buck” looks like, then we’re in a bad bad place. It’s hard to believe that anyone can really believe that we’re going to engineer our way out of the problems created in large part by technology… by applying more technology.
The global situation is becoming more frightening on all fronts. Frightened people make bad choices. Decisions based largely on financial outcomes are often short-sighted. Short-sighted decisions have bad consequences.
That’s where we are and that’s where we’re heading, as fast as the ever-toiling machine of industrial capitalism can take us. We have no real say in all of this; we’re just along for the ride. All we can do is try to stay sane and build better solutions in our backyards.