Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Crusader's fiery opposition to modern agricultural system

Given below is a reference to the campaign by a fiery activist in India against modern input intensive agriculture and the fast spreading use of GMO technology for producing food for the world. While reading the report one cannot help getting a feeling that though she has many strong points in repudiating the current system, there are lot more issues that need careful consideration and analysis before out right condemnation.  It is not necessary for the reader to agree with whatever she says but one can get a right perspective on the changing agricultural landscape in the world in response to an expanding population that is predicted to reach 10 billion by the end of this century. 

"Shiva's fiery opposition to globalization and to the use of genetically modified crops has made her a hero to anti-G.M.O. activists everywhere. The purpose of the trip through Europe, she had told me a few weeks earlier, was to focus attention there on "the voices of those who want their agriculture to be free of poison and G.M.O.s." At each stop, Shiva delivered a message that she has honed for nearly three decades: by engineering, patenting, and transforming seeds into costly packets of intellectual property, multinational corporations such as Monsanto, with considerable assistance from the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the United States government, and even philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are attempting to impose "food totalitarianism" on the world. She describes the fight against agricultural biotechnology as a global war against a few giant seed companies on behalf of the billions of farmers who depend on what they themselves grow to survive. Shiva contends that nothing less than the future of humanity rides on the outcome. "There are two trends," she told the crowd that had gathered in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, in Florence, for the seed fair. "One: a trend of diversity, democracy, freedom, joy, culture—people celebrating their lives." She paused to let silence fill the square. "And the other: monocultures, deadness. Everyone depressed. Everyone on Prozac. More and more young people unemployed. We don't want that world of death." The audience, a mixture of people attending the festival and tourists on their way to the Duomo, stood transfixed. Shiva, dressed in a burgundy sari and a shawl the color of rust, was a formidable sight. "We would have no hunger in the world if the seed was in the hands of the farmers and gardeners and the land was in the hands of the farmers," she said. "They want to take that away." Shiva, along with a growing army of supporters, argues that the prevailing model of industrial agriculture, heavily reliant on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fossil fuels, and a seemingly limitless supply of cheap water, places an unacceptable burden on the Earth's resources. She promotes, as most knowledgeable farmers do, more diversity in crops, greater care for the soil, and more support for people who work the land every day. Shiva has particular contempt for farmers who plant monocultures—vast fields of a single crop. "They are ruining the planet," she told me. "They are destroying this beautiful world."

No matter who says what world has to come up with new ideas and programs to goad the farmers to produce more food to meet the increasing demand for food without expanding the current level of land utilization. In stead of squabbling on this vital issue, it is time that all countries put their heads together to arrive at a consensus regarding the most feasible way of achieving increased production of foods. While debating about the best route to go about the imposing task, what is not negotiable is that safety of humans and quality of the environment they live in. Predominantly private initiatives in seed development and evolution of new farm technology must give way to more government controlled programs that will have no strings attached vis-a-vis direct economic returns. Privatization of fruits of research and finance linked intellectual property regime cannot be allowed to dictate to the world the terms of utilizing the scientific results for the common good of the people inhabiting this planet.


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