La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA: “India has emerged as the capital of hunger, because 70 percent of Indian children are severely malnourished. Organic farming is the solution to this hunger,” Dr. Vandana Shiva, an Indian expert of world repute on issues of the environment, women’s rights and international affairs, said. She was the keynote speaker at the largest organic farming conference held here on February 27.
Dr. Vandana Shiva — a Time magazine environmental hero — flew from Delhi to La Crosse, Wisconsin, on February 27 to present the keynote presentation — “Agriculture for Life” — at the United State’s largest organic farming conference, hosted by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Approximately 2,750 organic farmers attended.
Audrey Arner, president of MOSES Board, who introduced Dr. Shiva at the conference, Said: “I find that when I’m trying to get a little more intellect and verbiage wrapped around an idea I’m trying to express, I learn that Dr. Vandana Shiva has written a book about that very thing. She affirms what we know in our guts but maybe haven’t been able to express well. Because of this, we become more empowered.”
Considered as the pioneer of India’s organic movement, Dr. Vandana Shiva started Nav-danya in 1987. She chose the name for its double meaning — both “nine seeds” and “new gift.”
Navdanya formed after Dr. Shiva learned that corporations were working to create a global agriculture scheme that wanted to patent crops, seeds and life forms around the globe. In 1987, the agriculture industry said that by the year 2000, only genetically modified crops would be planted and every seed in the world would be patented. This is when she began saving seeds.
Navdanya currently has 51 community seed banks all over India that store native, indigenous seeds that otherwise could become extinct. These seeds are climate resilient, meaning they can withstand severe drought, floods, or cyclones. Some can also grow in salt water.
Through training more than 400,000 farmers to go organic and serving more than two million women and men farmers, Navdanya’s goal is to protect biodiversity, defend farmers’ rights and promote organic farming. Dr. Shiva is proud of her organization for showing an alternative that really delivers.
Dr. Shiva deems industrial agriculture an “Agriculture of Death,” because it “puts species to extinction.” According to Dr. Shiva, India used to be the home for rice diversity, growing hundreds of thousands of rice varieties.
Since industrial agriculture came to India in the 1960s, that number is reduced to eight. Dr. Shiva blames genetically modified crops for India’s extreme hunger issues, be-cause the seeds must be bought on credit. Farmers get into such great debt that they must sell every grain they have grown in order to pay back the credit.
“They grow food and starve. For the first time in history, the people who are hungry are the rural people who are producing food. Industrial farming has created indebtedness-creating hunger while food is there,” Dr. Shiva said.
Dr. Shiva says that farmers are pushed so far into debt by industrial agriculture companies that they cannot see an escape. This has created another social problem over the last 20 years. The rates of suicide for India’s rural farmers has drastically increased —200,000 over the last decade.
Converting to organic agriculture means that India’s poor begin to eat organically grown food, providing more nutrition and health benefits. Some farmers have surplus crops and are able to sell goods at markets. Navdanya recently completed a study finding that organic farmers are earning 10 times more than farmers of Bt cotton, a product brought to India by large agriculture corporations.
To Dr. Shiva, organic farmers are not just farmers, they are doing the most important work that people can do in the 21st century. Organic farmers are protectors of the soil, conservers of biodiversity and the biggest climate protectors.
[ agriculture ]
[ india ]
Dr. Vandana Shiva is a trained physicist and has her Ph.D. in quantum theory. She was called one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia by Asia Week. She has authored many books including Soil Not Oil, Earth Democracy, Stolen Harvest, Staying Alive, Water Wars and Biopiracy. Among her many awards is the Alternative Nobel Prize, the Right Livelihood Award, in 1993.