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Ronnie Cummins: What is Biodemocracy & Why Does it Matter?

Web Note: This is the first in a regular series of posts - called Biodemocracy Bytes - by OCA Director Ronnie Cummins. Read Ronnie's latest thoughts at:
http://organicconsumers.org/chat/viewforum.php?f=19&sid=0ee660546f4349f376f82d26c32cee66

Biodemocracy Bytes #1, Jan.22, 2006
By Ronnie Cummins <www.organicconsumers.org>

What is Biodemocracy and Why Does it Matter?

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has tried to popularize the term "Biodemocracy," as a key concept or goal in our work, ever since we started organizing a national network back in 1998. I first used the term "Biodemocracy," on the anniversary of Gandhi's birthday, October 2, 1994, to coincide with a demonstration I helped organize in Minneapolis to protest the World Trade Organization's policy to allow corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, and W.R. Grace to obtain monopoly patents on living life forms and indigenous knowledge, including plants, seeds, animals, and even human cell lines. "Biodemocracy" was meant to describe what the global grassroots stands for, democracy, and reverence for all living creatures, in opposition to Biotechnology or Bioimperialism, rule by the corporate technocrats, who basically believe that living live forms are just "a bag of chemicals," as the head of the Biotechnology Industry Organization put it. OCA's first electronic newsletter, which focused mainly on food safety and genetic engineering, was called Biodemocracy News. http://www.organicconsumers.org/biodarchive.htm

Now the OCA network, which started out with 800 people on our email list, has grown to 350,000 subscribers, many of whom forward Organic Bytes, our bi-weekly online newsletter, to their friends and family members. As we've expanded our network, we've also expanded our focus and the definition of Biodemocracy. So here's a new working definition of Biodemocracy: democratic control by the global grassroots over the policies and institutions that impact our health and environment, as well as the health and environment of the future generations.

Vandana Shiva, a leading writer and activist from India, and a member of OCA's international Policy Advisory Board, uses the term "Earth Democracy," in her new book, Earth Democracy, to describe this concept. As Shiva puts it, "Earth Democracy is both an ancient worldview and an emergent global political movement for peace, justice and sustainabilityŠ a People's Project for a New Planetary Millennium." You can order this inspiring new book off our website: http://organicconsumers.bookswelike.net/isbn/089608745X

As readers of this website http://www.organicconsumers.org and OCA's newsletters and Alerts are well aware, we are living in a dangerous and frightening time. Our health, food, water, and climate are under continuous assault by a corporate technocracy that apparently can't tell the difference between a "suicide economy," as Vandana Shiva describes it, and business as usual. Unless we nurture and build up our strength as healthy and sovereign individuals, and build up a powerful online and on the ground culture and politics of resistance and affirmation, most likely we, and certainly our children's generation, are doomed.

As Lester Brown from the World Watch Institute bluntly pointed out on January 6, (AFP, French News Service) the growth of a global economy in China and India based upon the hyper-consumer model of the USA spells disaster for the planet. "If China continues imitating the American dream, between now and 2031 its 1.45 billion inhabitants will consumeŠ two-thirds of the world's grains, and more than double the world's current paper supplies. At this rate, all of world's forests will be destroyed." Brown adds that India, following a similar path of non-sustainable corporate globalization and industrialization, will likely have an even larger population than China within 25 years. And as other analysts point out, global oil production has peaked, or will soon peak, meaning that there will simply not be enough oil to supply the accelerating transportation, manufacturing, heating, refrigeration, and agricultural needs of the industrialized nations, not to mention the newly emerging economic tigers, China and India. http://www.organicconsumers.org/BTC/eat080405.cfm

Increased market share for organic, Fair Trade, and green products in an era of Armageddon and climate chaos will provide little consolation. In the era of Katrina, climate change, and Iraq-style resource wars, we are literally in a race against time to turn our nation and the global community toward health, justice, and sustainability. This turning will likely require nothing short of a Second American Revolution, carried out on a global scale.

In the ultimate sense Biodemocracy means survival. As Vandana Shiva puts it,
Biodemocracy means embracing "ancient concepts of living together: connected to the Earth locally and globally, reintegrating human activities into the Earth's ecological processes and limits." It means, as OCA's current campaign says, "Breaking the Chains" and moving beyond the din of commercial advertising and mindless consumerism to put our money where our values lie, to choose food, products, and lifestyles which are healthy and sustainable. http://www.organicconsumers.org/btc.htm

But it also means collectively raising our political voices, and getting organized, as organic consumers and responsible citizens, to stop the out-of-control corporations, politicians, and technocrats who are driving us toward disaster. Stay tuned to this website and Organic Bytes for news, analysis, and ongoing opportunities to get involved in our campaigns. And please send us your thoughts on Biodemocracy, and where we should go from here.

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