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Vandana Shiva at the PASA conference

Hi, Folks!

I finally manged to gring out my report on Vandana Shiva at the Pennsylvania
Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) winter conference! ;-)  Enjoy
and copy as you wish -- just remember that as no one is paying me for this
(I'm such a sucker for fame! ;-D), I retain the copywrite!


Vandana Shiva and the PASAbilities of Diversity
by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA

For two days and three workshops, Vandana Shiva, director of the Research
Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in New Delhi, India and one
of the world's most respected environmental visionaries, held the over 1,000
participants of this year's Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable
Agriculture (PASA) winter conference (February 4 & 5, 2000, State College,
PA) spellbound.  Whether testifying on behalf of peasant farmers at the
World Trade Organization (WTO) proceedings, explaining the biodiverse
complexities of India's traditional agriculture in a Penn State lecture hall
or chatting with local farmers in a book signing line, Shiva is an
articulate, knowledgeable and supportive advocate for sustainable
agriculture that truly feeds the world.

Shiva began her time in Pennsylvania with an evening lecture at the "Women
in Agriculture" pre-workshop on February 3rd, 2000.  She reminded the
audience that 70% of the world's farmers are women and that 2/3 of those
women, while not "commercial" farmers, grow enough to feed both their own
families and their neighbors through a community based on cooperation rather
than cash.  She sternly reminded all of us that women have traditionally fed
their families along with their other responsibilities and that no matter
where we resided, we should never refer to ourselves as a "hobbyist" in food
production or "just a housewife."  (Afterwards, during the reception, many
of us practiced the words "small-scale agriculturist" to refer to our
gardens, seed-saving and/or modest flocks of livestock!)

A promoter of organic, sustainable agriculture in India, as well as
worldwide, Shiva also shared with us why she believes that Monsanto's latest
advertising campaign to convince Indian farmers to buy herbicides is
especially insidious.   Traditionally, farmers hire poor women to weed their
fields.  Besides being paid to weed the fields, these women sort out the
weeds into those that can feed their families, those that can be used as
fodder and those that can be used for medicine.  A typical organic farm in
India contains over 100 weed species -  of which are used in daily life,
but never cultivated.  A poor woman whose family does not own land can still
gather enough food in a day from these "weeds" to feed not only her family,
but to keep a cow or goat that will bring in additional income for her family.

Monsanto, however, wants to sell herbicides, so has blanketed Indian
villages with posters featuring women's hands bound together.  "End your
slavery to weeds!" the posters read.  "Liberate yourself with herbicides!"
Unfortunately, in the Punjab region, where farmers have used the herbicides,
the useful weeds have disappeared and the true weeds have become herbicide
resistant.  Poor women have lost both their livelihood, their ability to
feed their families and their livestock.  Rather than being freed from the
weeds, they are now slaves to chemical use that force them into less
dignified professions.

Like many current environmental thinkers, Shiva questions whether the "Green
Revolution" with its heavy reliance on chemical inputs (pesticides,
herbicides and chemical fertilizers) did more harm than good and whether
genetically engineered crops are simply another attempt to salvage a flawed
paradigm.  Her keynote address and panel discussions at the PASA Conference
on February 4th looked at agriculture to see what methods will actually feed
the world, rather than simply make profits for multi-national corporations.

In her own India, farmers who joined the "Green Revolution" with its
high-priced chemical inputs have seen their soil fertility go down and their
debts go up as they buy more chemical fertilizer to feed their plants and
more pesticides and herbicides to deal with pest and weed resistance. One of
the main reasons Shiva founded Navdanya, India's native seed bank that also
re-teaches farmers the techniques of traditional, sustainable agriculture,
was that male "Green Revolution" farmers were committing suicide because
they had so much debt that, in one generation, their families could lose the
land they had farmed for hundreds of years. 

Shiva, as a trained scientist, also founded her research foundation to
provide high quality and independent research into agricultural methods.
After 15 years, she believes that she has the empirical evidence to show
that biodiversity is productive and is truly the sustainable agriculture
that will feed the world.

Monoculture-based agricultural looks like it is successful, Shiva states,
because the calculations do not let you see what is being destroyed.  Rather
then measuring the yields (quantity) of one specific crop (such as corn), we
should be measuring the outputs (useable biomass and/or nutrition) on a
farm.  When using an input/output measurement scale, organic farms need only
5 units of input to produce 100 units of output, but monoculture-based farms
require 300 units of input to produce that same 100 units of output!  Which
form of agriculture, then, is truly sustainable?

Likewise, Shiva sees genetically modified (GM) seed as another tool of
multi-national corporations to increase the debt (and misery) of small
farmers. Currently, only 5 "life science" corporations (Monsanto is one)
sell 68% of the seeds used in global agriculture.  Patents on seed protect
the patent-holder's market share - Shiva has found no evidence that such
patents spur any agricultural innovation.  She even disagrees with the
Rockerfeller Foundation's plan to distribute GM Vitamin A rice in India,
because she believes that it is unnecessary.  Even poor women grow native
herbs in pots that are rich in Vitamin A to cook with the rice they serve
their families.  A better use of the Rockerfeller Foundation's resources
would be to offer free, native seeds of both rice and these herbs with
instructions on how to grow them together, rather than convince small
farmers to pay patents to grow a single crop whose seed they are forbidden
to save and so must re-purchase every year.

Naturally, Shiva would rather see diversity, rather than monoculture in the
world economy, also.  Globalization, says Shiva, is based on convincing
small farmers that food security is not food grown in your fields, but money
in your pocket.  The poor in India, Shiva says, do not have pockets and do
not rely upon a cash economy.  By forcing countries such as India to switch
to a monoculture agriculture based on exportable cash crops, the poor become
poorer, the land is depleted and native folkways are destroyed.  Loans from
organizations such at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
encourage farmers to raise shrimp or flowers for export rather than local
foodstuffs.  While these farmers may have more cash initially, they are also
forced to spend more on inputs and on food they would have grown themselves.
These cash outlays enrich the multi-national corporations who sell the
inputs and exports, rather than support the local economy by employing and
feeding the local poor. Similar efforts by multi-national corporations to
sell off India's cattle as beef exports destroys traditional sources of
animal power and forces dependence on expensive, non-native fossil fuels for
transport and agricultural work 

However, Shiva sees hope for the world in organic sustainable agriculture.
Her research shows that it can feed the world. The very plurality and
diversity within the organic movement are its greatest strengths.  "It is up
to us, wherever we are,  for there is no one model for biodiversity.  It is
tolerant of other ways and encourages the use of new models.   It is
decentralized, so no one can see just how large the movement is.  We will
change the world by each of us doing our own part, where we are.  Think of
now, what each of us can do today. . .

Ten years from now, the revolution in agriculture will happen."

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