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Vandana Shiva--Industrial Ag & Globalization Are Destroying Rural Communities Worldwide

Posted 6/7/04

Reith Lecture: Poverty and globalisation

Recently, I was visiting Bhatinda in Punjab because of an epidemic of
farmers suicides. Punjab used to be the most prosperous agricultural region
in India. Today every farmer is in debt and despair. Vast stretches of land
have become water-logged desert. And as an old farmer pointed out, even the
trees have stopped bearing fruit because heavy use of pesticides have killed
the pollinators - the bees and butterflies.

And Punjab is not alone in experiencing this ecological and social disaster.
Last year I was in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh where farmers have also been
committing suicide. Farmers who traditionally grew pulses and millets and
paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton seeds referred
to by the seed merchants as "white gold", which were supposed to make them
millionaires. Instead they became paupers.

Their native seeds have been displaced with new hybrids which cannot be
saved and need to be purchased every year at high cost. Hybrids are also
very vulnerable to pest attacks. Spending on pesticides in Warangal has shot
up 2000 per cent from $2.5 million in the 1980s to $50 million in 1997. Now
farmers are consuming the same pesticides as a way of killing themselves so
that they can escape permanently from unpayable debt.

The corporations are now trying to introduce genetically engineered seed
which will further increase costs and ecological risks. That is why farmers
like Malla Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh Farmers' Union had uprooted
Monsanto's genetically engineered Bollgard cotton in Warangal.

On March 27th, 25 year old Betavati Ratan took his life because he could not
pay pack debts for drilling a deep tube well on his two-acre farm. The wells
are now dry, as are the wells in Gujarat and Rajasthan where more than 50
million people face a water famine.

The drought is not a "natural disaster". It is "man-made". It is the result
of mining of scarce ground water in arid regions to grow thirsty cash crops
for exports instead of water prudent food crops for local needs.

It is experiences such as these which tell me that we are so wrong to be
smug about the new global economy. I will argue in this lecture that it is
time to stop and think about the impact of globalisation on the lives of
ordinary people. This is vital to achieve sustainability.

Seattle and the World Trade Organisation protests last year have forced
everyone to think again. Throughout this lecture series people have referred
to different aspects of sustainable development taking globalisation for
granted. For me it is now time radically to re-evaluate what we are doing.
For what we are doing in the name of globalisation to the poor is brutal and
unforgivable. This is specially evident in India as we witness the unfolding
disasters of globalisation, especially in food and agriculture.

Who feeds the world? My answer is very different to that given by most

It is women and small farmers working with biodiversity who are the primary
food providers in the Third World, and contrary to the dominant assumption,
their biodiversity based small farms are more productive than industrial

The rich diversity and sustainable systems of food production are being
destroyed in the name of increasing food production. However, with the
destruction of diversity, rich sources of nutrition disappear. When measured
in terms of nutrition per acre, and from the perspective biodiversity, the
so called "high yields" of industrial agriculture or industrial fisheries do
not imply more production of food and nutrition.

Yields usually refers to production per unit area of a single crop. Output
refers to the total production of diverse crops and products. Planting only
one crop in the entire field as a monoculture will of course increase its
individual yield. Planting multiple crops in a mixture will have low yields
of individual crops, but will have high total output of food. Yields have
been defined in such a way as to make the food production on small farms by
small farmers disappear. This hides the production by millions of women
farmers in the Third World - farmers like those in my native Himalaya who
fought against logging in the Chipko movement, who in their terraced fields
even today grow Jhangora (barnyard millet), Marsha (Amaranth), Tur (Pigeon
Pea), Urad (Black gram), Gahat (horse gram), Soya Bean (Glycine Max), Bhat
(Glycine Soya) - endless diversity in their fields. From the biodiversity
perspective, biodiversity based productivity is higher than monoculture
productivity. I call this blindness to the high productivity of diversity a
"Monoculture of the Mind", which creates monocultures in our fields and in
our world.

The Mayan peasants in the Chiapas are characterised as unproductive because
they produce only 2 tons of corn per acre. However, the overall food output
is 20 tons per acre when the diversity of their beans and squashes, their
vegetables their fruit trees are taken into account.

In Java, small farmers cultivate 607 species in their home gardens. In
sub-Saharan Africa, women cultivate 120 different plants. A single home
garden in Thailand has 230 species, and African home gardens have more than
60 species of trees.

Rural families in the Congo eat leaves from more than 50 species of their
farm trees.

A study in eastern Nigeria found that home gardens occupying only 2 per cent
of a household's farmland accounted for half of the farm's total output. In
Indonesia 20 per cent of household income and 40 per cent of domestic food
supplies come from the home gardens managed by women.

Research done by FAO has shown that small biodiverse farms can produce
thousands of times more food than large, industrial monocultures.

And diversity in addition to giving more food is the best strategy for
preventing drought and desertification.

What the world needs to feed a growing population sustainably is
biodiversity intensification, not the chemical intensification or the
intensification of genetic engineering. While women and small peasants feed
the world through biodiversity we are repeatedly told that without genetic
engineering and globalisation of agriculture the world will starve. In spite
of all empirical evidence showing that genetic engineering does not produce
more food and in fact often leads to a yield decline, it is constantly
promoted as the only alternative available for feeding the hungry.

That is why I ask, who feeds the world?

This deliberate blindness to diversity, the blindness to nature's
production, production by women, production by Third World farmers allows
destruction and appropriation to be projected as creation.

Take the case of the much flouted "golden rice" or genetically engineered
Vitamin A rice as a cure for blindness. It is assumed that without genetic
engineering we cannot remove Vitamin A deficiency. However, nature gives us
abundant and diverse sources of vitamin A. If rice was not polished, rice
itself would provide Vitamin A. If herbicides were not sprayed on our wheat
fields, we would have bathua, amaranth, mustard leaves as delicious and
nutritious greens that provide Vitamin A.

Women in Bengal use more than 150 plants as greens - Hinche sak (Enhydra
fluctuans), Palang sak (Spinacea oleracea), Tak palang (Rumex vesicarious),
Lal Sak (Amaranthus gangeticus) - to name but a few.

But the myth of creation presents biotechnologists as the creators of
Vitamin A, negating nature's diverse gifts and women's knowledge of how to
use this diversity to feed their children and families.

The most efficient means of rendering the destruction of nature, local
economies and small autonomous producers is by rendering their production

Women who produce for their families and communities are treated as
`non-productive' and `economically' inactive. The devaluation of women's
work, and of work done in sustainable economies, is the natural outcome of a
system constructed by capitalist patriarchy. This is how globalisation
destroys local economies and destruction itself is counted as growth.

And women themselves are devalued. Because many women in the rural and
indigenous communities work co-operatively with nature's processes, their
work is often contradictory to the dominant market driven `development' and
trade policies. And because work that satisfies needs and ensures sustenance
is devalued in general, there is less nurturing of life and life support

The devaluation and invisibility of sustainable, regenerative production is
most glaring in the area of food. While patriarchal division of labour has
assigned women the role of feeding their families and communities,
patriarchal economics and patriarchal views of science and technology
magically make women's work in providing food disappear. "Feeding the World"
becomes disassociated from the women who actually do it and is projected as
dependent on global agribusiness and biotechnology corporations.

However, industrialisation and genetic engineering of food and globalisation
of trade in agriculture are recipes for creating hunger, not for feeding the

Everywhere, food production is becoming a negative economy, with farmers
spending more to buy costly inputs for industrial production than the price
they receive for their produce. The consequence is rising debts and
epidemics of suicides in both poor and rich countries.

Economic globalisation is leading to a concentration of the seed industry,
increased use of pesticides, and, finally, increased debt.
Capital-intensive, corporate controlled agriculture is being spread into
regions where peasants are poor but, until now, have been self-sufficient in
food. In the regions where industrial agriculture has been introduced
through globalisation, higher costs are making it virtually impossible for
small farmers to survive.

The globalisation of non-sustainable industrial agriculture is literally
evaporating the incomes of Third World farmers through a combination of
devaluation of currencies, increase in costs of production and a collapse in
commodity prices.

Farmers everywhere are being paid a fraction of what they received for the
same commodity a decade ago. The Canadian National Farmers Union put it like
this in a report to the senate this year:

"While the farmers growing cereal grains - wheat, oats, corn - earn negative
returns and are pushed close to bankruptcy, the companies that make
breakfast cereals reap huge profits. In 1998, cereal companies Kellogg's,
Quaker Oats, and General Mills enjoyed return on equity rates of 56%, 165%
and 222% respectively. While a bushel of corn sold for less than $4, a
bushel of corn flakes sold for $133 ... Maybe farmers are making too little
because others are taking too much."

And a World Bank report has admitted that "behind the polarisation of
domestic consumer prices and world prices is the presence of large trading
companies in international commodity markets."

While farmers earn less, consumers pay more. In India, food prices have
doubled between 1999 and 2000. The consumption of food grains in rural areas
has dropped by 12%. Increased economic growth through global commerce is
based on pseudo surpluses. More food is being traded while the poor are
consuming less. When growth increases poverty, when real production becomes
a negative economy, and speculators are defined as "wealth creators",
something has gone wrong with the concepts and categories of wealth and
wealth creation. Pushing the real production by nature and people into a
negative economy implies that production of real goods and services is
declining, creating deeper poverty for the millions who are not part of the route to instant wealth creation.

Women - as I have said - are the primary food producers and food processors
in the world. However, their work in production and processing is now
becoming invisible.

Recently, the McKinsey corporation said: "American food giants recognise
that Indian agro-business has lots of room to grow, especially in food
processing. India processes a minuscule 1 per cent of the food it grows
compared with 70 per cent for the U.S...".

It is not that we Indians eat our food raw. Global consultants fail to see
the 99 per cent food processing done by women at household level, or by the
small cottage industry because it is not controlled by global agribusiness.
99% of India's agroprocessing has been intentionally kept at the small
level. Now , under the pressure of globalisation, things are changing.
Pseudo hygiene laws are being uses to shut down local economies and small
scale processing.

In August 1998, small scale local processing of edible oil was banned in
India through a "packaging order" which made sale of open oil illegal and
required all oil to be packaged in plastic or aluminium. This shut down tiny
"ghanis" or cold pressed mills. It destroyed the market for our diverse
oilseeds - mustard, linseed, sesame, groundnut, coconut.

And the take-over of the edible oil industry has affected 10 million
livelihoods. The take over of flour or "atta" by packaged branded flour will
cost 100 million livelihoods. And these millions are being pushed into new

The forced use of packaging will increase the environmental burden of
millions of tonnes of waste.

The globalisation of the food system is destroying the diversity of local
food cultures and local food economies. A global monoculture is being forced
on people by defining everything that is fresh, local and handmade as a
health hazard. Human hands are being defined as the worst contaminants, and
work for human hands is being outlawed, to be replaced by machines and
chemicals bought from global corporations. These are not recipes for feeding
the world, but stealing livelihoods from the poor to create markets for the

People are being perceived as parasites, to be exterminated for the "health"
of the global economy.

In the process new health and ecological hazards are being forced on Third
World people through dumping of genetically engineered foods and other
hazardous products.

Recently, because of a W.T.O. ruling, India has been forced to remove
restrictions on all imports.

Among the unrestricted imports are carcasses and animal waste parts that
create a threat to our culture and introduce public health hazards such as
the Mad Cow Disease.

The US Centre for Disease Prevention in Atlanta has calculated that nearly
81 million cases of food borne illnesses occur in the US every year. Deaths
from food poisoning have gone up more up more than four times due to
deregulation. Most of these infections are caused by factory farmed meat.
The US slaughters 93 million pigs, thirty seven million cattle, two million
calves, six million horses, goats and sheep and eight billion chickens and
turkeys each year.

Now the giant meat industry of US wants to dump contaminated meat produced
through violent and cruel methods on Indian consumers.

The waste of the rich is being dumped on the poor. The wealth of the poor is
being violently appropriated through new and clever means like patents on
biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

Patents and intellectual property rights are supposed to be granted for
novel inventions. But patents are being claimed for rice varieties such as
the basmati for which my Valley - where I was born - is famous, or
pesticides derived from the Neem which our mothers and grandmothers have
been using.

Rice Tec, a U.S. based company has been granted Patent no. 5,663,484 for
basmati rice lines and grains.

Basmati, neem, pepper, bitter gourd, turmeric.......every aspect of the
innovation embodied in our indigenous food and medicinal systems is now
being pirated and patented. The knowledge of the poor is being converted
into the property of global corporations, creating a situation where the
poor will have to pay for the seeds and medicines they have evolved and have
used to meet their own needs for nutrition and health care.

Such false claims to creation are now the global norm, with the Trade
Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of World Trade Organisation
forcing countries to introduce regimes that allow patenting of life forms
and indigenous knowledge.

Instead of recognising that commercial interests build on nature and on the
contribution of other cultures, global law has enshrined the patriarchal
myth of creation to create new property rights to life forms just as
colonialism used the myth of discovery as the basis of the take over of the
land of others as colonies.

Humans do not create life when they manipulate it. Rice Tec's claim that it
has made "an instant invention of a novel rice line", or Roslin Institute's
claim that Ian Wilmut "created" Dolly denies the creativity of nature, the
self-organisational capacity of life forms, and the prior innovations of
Third World communities.

Patents and intellectual property rights are supposed to prevent piracy.
Instead they are becoming the instruments of pirating the common traditional
knowledge from the poor of the Third World and making it the exclusive
"property" of western scientists and corporations.

When patents are granted for seeds and plants, as in the case of basmati,
theft is defined as creation, and saving and sharing seed is defined as
theft of intellectual property. Corporations which have broad patents on
crops such as cotton, soya bean, mustard are suing farmers for seed saving
and hiring detective agencies to find out if farmers have saved seed or
shared it with neighbours.

The recent announcement that Monsanto is giving away the rice genome for
free is misleading, because Monsanto has never made a commitment that it
will never patent rice varieties or any other crop varieties.

Sharing and exchange, the basis of our humanity and of our ecological
survival has been redefined as a crime. This makes us all poor.

Nature has given us abundance, women's indigenous knowledge of biodiversity,
agriculture and nutrition has built on that abundance to create more from
less, to create growth through sharing.

The poor are pushed into deeper poverty by making them pay for what was
theirs. Even the rich are poorer because their profits are based on the
theft and on the use of coercion and violence. This is not wealth creation
but plunder.

Sustainability requires the protection of all species and all people and the
recognition that diverse species and diverse people play an essential role
in maintaining ecological processes. Pollinators are critical to
fertilisation and generation of plants. Biodiversity in fields provides
vegetables, fodder, medicine and protection to the soil from water and wind

As humans travel further down the road to non-sustainability, they become
intolerant of other species and blind to their vital role in our survival.

In 1992, when Indian farmers destroyed Cargill's seed plant in Bellary,
Karnataka, to protest against seed failure, the Cargill Chief Executive
stated, "We bring Indian farmers smart technologies which prevent bees from
usurping the pollen". When I was participating in the United Nations
Biosafety Negotiations, Monsanto circulated literature to defend its
herbicide resistant Roundup ready crops on grounds that they prevent "weeds
from stealing the sunshine". But what Monsanto calls weeds are the green
fields that provide Vitamin A rice and prevent blindness in children and
anaemia in women.

A worldview that defines pollination as "theft by bees" and claims
biodiversity "steals" sunshine is a worldview which itself aims at stealing
nature's harvest by replacing open, pollinated varieties with hybrids and
sterile seeds, and destroying biodiverse flora with herbicides such as
Roundup. The threat posed to the Monarch butterfly by genetically engineered
bt crops is just one example of the ecological poverty created by the new
biotechnologies. As butterflies and bees disappear, production is
undermined. As biodiversity disappears, with it go sources of nutrition and

When giant corporations view small peasants and bees as thieves, and through
trade rules and new technologies seek the right to exterminate them,
humanity has reached a dangerous threshold. The imperative to stamp out the
smallest insect, the smallest plant, the smallest peasant comes from a deep
fear - the fear of everything that is alive and free. And this deep
insecurity and fear is unleashing the violence against all people and all

The global free trade economy has become a threat to sustainability and the
very survival of the poor and other species is at stake not just as a side
effect or as an exception but in a systemic way through a restructuring of
our worldview at the most fundamental level. Sustainability, sharing and
survival is being economically outlawed in the name of market
competitiveness and market efficiency.

I want to argue here tonight that we need to urgently bring the planet and
people back into the picture.

The world can be fed only by feeding all beings that make the world.

In giving food to other beings and species we maintain conditions for our
own food security. In feeding earthworms we feed ourselves. In feeding cows,
we feed the soil, and in providing food for the soil, we provide food for
humans. This worldview of abundance is based on sharing and on a deep
awareness of humans as members of the earth family. This awareness that in
impoverishing other beings, we impoverish ourselves and in nourishing other
beings, we nourish ourselves is the real basis of sustainability.

The sustainability challenge for the new millennium is whether global
economic man can move out of the worldview based on fear and scarcity,
monocultures and monopolies, appropriation and dispossession and shift to a
view based on abundance and sharing, diversity and decentralisation, and
respect and dignity for all beings.

Sustainability demands that we move out of the economic trap that is leaving
no space for other species and other people. Economic Globalisation has
become a war against nature and the poor. But the rules of globalisation are
not god - given. They can be changed. They must be changed. We must bring
this war to an end.

Since Seattle, a frequently used phrase has been the need for a rule based
system. Globalisation is the rule of commerce and it has elevated Wall
Street to be the only source of value. As a result things that should have
high worth - nature, culture, the future are being devalued and destroyed.
The rules of globalisation are undermining the rules of justice and
sustainability, of compassion and sharing. We have to move from market
totalitarianism to an earth democracy.

We can survive as a species only if we live by the rules of the biosphere.
The biosphere has enough for everyone's needs if the global economy respects
the limits set by sustainability and justice.

As Gandhi had reminded us: "The earth has enough for everyone's needs, but
not for some people's greed".


Sujata Gupta, the Tata Energy Research Institute: I'd like to hear your
views on sustainable use of scarce inputs like water for agriculture. What I
gathered from your lecture was total condemnation of the market system.

Vandana Shiva: Let me first respond by saying - I love markets. I love my
local market where local "subgees" are sold, and one can chat with the
women. The tragedy really is that the market is being turned into the only
organising principle for life, and Wall St is being turned into the only
source of value, and it's the disappearance of other markets, other values
that I am condemning. In terms of water, the solution to water conservation
and scarce water management is not putting it in the hands of those who can
afford to buy the last drop, but to put it in the hands of the community, to
use it sustainably within the limits of renewal. The water must be returned
to the communities and managed as a commons - it has to be taken beyond the

Professor Marva, University of Delhi: Can there be sustainable development
without sustainable population?

Vandana Shiva: I think non-sustainable population growth is a symptom and
product of non-sustainable development. It's not that population grows by
itself as a separate phenomena - you look at the data - Indian population
had stability till 1800 - colonisation, dispossession of land started to
make our population grow. Highest growth rates of population in England is
after the enclosures of the commons. It's the loss of resources of the
people that generate livelihood and the replacement of resources by labour
to be sold on markets in an uncertain daily wage market that triggers
population growth. Population growth is a result of non-sustainable

Bhoopinder Singh Hooda, member Legislative Assembly from Haryama: I belong
to a farmer family and myself am a farmer. Farmers were exploited even when
there was no globalisation. And I totally agree with you globalisation is
going to lead (to) neocolonisation, but we can't be out of globalisation.
WTO is a ground reality - no country can get out of it like you have

Vandana Shiva: WTO rules are written on pieces of paper - as I mentioned in
my lecture they're not God given. And therefore they are not ground reality
in the way the soil and the Ganges are ground realities that can't be
changed. These are rules that need to be changed - that was the message of
Seattle and the way to change them is to bring consideration of people's
livelihoods, sustainable use of resources at the heart of every step of
trade decisions, and to ensure that trade rules reflect sustainability and
the right of people to have security.

Bhoopinder Singh Hooda: In India farmers are getting negative subsidy -
there's no subsidy for farmers, so how can unequal competitors go for

Vandana Shiva: That's precisely the issue - that we were told we'd have a
level playing field - we were told when the WTO rules come into place we
would have a fair market for Indian farmers - that was the single most
important reason why India justified signing on to the GATT treaty after the
Uruguay round. It turns out we have a very unlevel playing field - the
northern countries or OECD countries are giving 343 billion dollars of
subsidies and these subsidies have actually doubled since the completion of
the Uruguay round - meantime India's giving a negative subsidy of 25
billion. Now one could keep arguing about how the north is giving very high
subsidies - I think the argument needs to shift to how can we ensure that
small farmers in every country and the soil and water and biodiversity in
every country be protected and how can we ensure that trade rules as they
are written by totally fallible trade ministers and trade secretaries should
be rewritten to ensure that this unequal playing field does not destroy the
Earth and her producers.

Dr. Sandhya Tiwari, Confederation of Indian Industry: Dr. Shiva is it really
the job of the farmer to preserve germ plasm and biodiversity, to grow
plants that are less productive? Shouldn't this job be left to the

Vandana Shiva: Well - I'm talking about leaving it to the specialist, which
is the women farmers. So far if we have biodiversity available to us it is
because biodiversity experts who happen to be women by gender, happen to be
on small farms in poorer parts of the world, have continued to conserve
biodiversity because it is more productive for them from their perspective.
It might not be productive for a single monopoly trading house that wants to
have every farmer grow corn in a region or every farmer grow cornola in a
region, but it is highly productive and very efficient use of land, water -
to feed the family, to have a little surplus to sell on the local market, to
send your child to school and it is in fact that community which will save
these resources for us. We cannot trust them in anyone else's hands.

Gulgit Choudhury, Ram Organics: I have worked earlier with Monsanto. I have
a simple question to ask you. Suppose you were given the opportunity to
develop parameters of a social governance which ensures sustainability -
what would you suggest for countries like India.?

Vandana Shiva: We are in fact involved for the last few years - generating
the kind of criteria through participatory democracy building - through
ensuring that people at every level have the information, through ensuring
that communities are organised, to manage collectively the resources that
can only be sustained collectively. If I have the money and power to drill a
deep tube well I can make dry my neighbour's shallow well and she will
usually be a very poor woman. And therefore the only way a village can
conserve its ground water is to do what the "Paani Panchayath" did in Harash
- ensure that water is used within limits. Systems of governance have to
begin with where people feel the impact, and therefore we do require the
rebuilding of decentralised direct democracy. I do not see growers as
isolated individuals because the consequences of their action are felt by
their neighbours. If I am growing b.t. corn on my field I kill the monarch
butterfly of my neighbour's field. Communities, collectives are cohesiveness
of societies are important to talk about not individual growers, and that is
the bottom rung of decision making to which both which corporations as well
as governments need to be accountable - that is the experiment that started
after Seattle and that experiment in accountable localisation to ensure that
decisions are made at appropriate place and production is carried out at the
appropriate level is really the new enterprise of democracy that societies
are involved in around the world, even while globalisation threatens our

Host, Kate Adie: Thank you - we'll have some time for more questions from
our audience here at the Nehru Memorial Library in Delhi in just a moment.
First I'd like to read some of the e-mails sent to the BBC's Reith 2000
website. From Bangladesh Alimgihia Haque says he finds himself in sympathy
with both Vandana Shiva and the Prince of Wales on the issue of GM foods.
Thank God he says that the people of Britain made their voices heard and the
Prime Minister, Tony Blair had to listen.

A contributor from Malaysia who signs himself Yong is critical of his own
country's leaders. He says they condemn globalisation on the one hand and on
the other give approval for dams and other environmentally destructive

Chris Whitehouse, who sent his e-mail from Nepal questions whether more
roads, more fridges, more water greedy flush toilets will make people in
developing countries any happier? Every society he says should decide its
own vision of development.

Zeb Phibbs from Britain says eating meat has got a lot to answer for. 70% of
everything grown is used to feed animals which are then killed to feed us.
Use the land grow food directly for people and we can easily feed everyone.
Being Vegan is easy - completely cruelty free and sustainable. What more do
you need?

Finally, we had this from last year's Reith lecturer Anthony Giddens -
addressing you Vandana he says - "I congratulate you on your challenging
presentation. I have to say though I don't agree with much of it. Isn't it a
contradiction in terms to use the global media to put a case against

Vandana Shiva: I don't think BBC is a product of the economic globalisation
regime that the World Trade Organisation gave us or the new recent trade
liberalisation has given us. I think it was created in l922 and
international integration, international communication is not what economic
globalisation is about. Corporate concentration, corporate control is what
recent economic globalisation is about and in fact the BBC is a
counter-example to that because the real example of globalised media and
communication is Time Warner, now bought up by American on Line, Disney, and
the News Corporation.

Prof. Vinod Chowdhury, reader in economics at St. Stephen's College: It
strikes me as very extraordinary that Vandanaji should have such a one sided
approach. And I'm saying that with due respect to the sheer vivacity of her
presentation. Vandanaji seems to believe that there are two clearly
antithetical paradigms. One is a paradigm that essentially is based on
decentralisation, democratisation - all the good things in life - - women
are cared for, poor people are cared for - this, that and the other. And
other is terribly evil. Everything's wrong with it. Now surely life cannot
be like that Vandanaji may I plead with you to please consider third
paradigm, where we take bits and pieces from here and there and get an
eclectic, practical approach, and I support Boopinder Singh Hooda - the
President of the Haryama Congress who asked you - and you didn't answer that
- what is the alternative at a time when no country can opt out of the WTO -
it's not a piece of paper madam - it is a commitment that countries have to
make or they will be paraiah countries and we cannot afford to be a paraiah
country - please react?

Vandana Shiva: I did react to him. And I said rewriting those rules -
rewriting those rules that are one sided. In fact it's the WTO rules that
are totally one sided because they really only protect the interest of one
sector of the global community which is the global corporations, not in the
local industry, not even local retail business, not small farmers anywhere,
not in the north and not in the south. And those rules can be rewritten.
That is the point I'm trying to make. Do not treat WTO rules in the Uruguay
Round Treaty as the final word on how trade should be carried out. Those
rules are being reviewed. What we have called for in Seattle is a more
democratic input in what sustainable and just rules would look like for
agriculture on intellectual property rights, in the area of services, in the
area of investments, the four new areas which were brought in. Before that -
no-one had problems with the GATT. The old GATT was about real trade in real
products beyond national boundaries. The new GATT with the Uruguay round -
is about invading in every space of our everyday lives ... and if you are a
woman you do have a somewhat different point of view. That's why we talk of
gender. If you are poor, you will have a different point of view from the
rich. To have different points of view because of differences in location in
society is not a problem. It is opportunistic though to take a little
element of the perspective of the rich , a little element of the perspective
of the poor and put it into a little jigsaw of opportunistic statements.
Societies live by coherent principles, organisational systems, values and
world views. And what we are calling for is to balance out that one sided
idea that we live by commerce alone.

Rovinder Raki, student: You seem to eulogise the fairness and efficiency of
traditional agricultures, societies and production patterns. But the reality
is that the farmers were exploited in these societies by moneylenders and
feudal lords. With the market reaching these societies that exploitative
social system certainly declines. Now what I have to ask you is what
restrains you from appreciating this sanitising effect of the market?

Vandana Shiva: Well the sanitising affect of the market does end up treating
people like germs. Wipe them out. And it is that view of dispensability, the
disappearances of the small that I was trying to draw attention to in my
lecture. There has always been exploitation, and I agree with Mr Hooda, but
no exploitation before this period of current, economic globalisation, ever
organised itself in ways that it could totally dispense with the exploited.
Even the slave system needed the slave. Even the worst of British rule which
created the Bengal famine, and led to the "Faybehaga" movement to rise
against the exploitation, it needed to keep the peasants alive For the first
time we have a system where no-one needs the peasants, unless we realise as
societies we need them, that we've reached a period where people are
actually talking in India, in other countries that you can get rid of small
producers. It's assumed that everything, real growth, real prosperity is
going to come out of cyber space, but as you can see, you can have the best
of IT technologies floating above the carcasses of people dying in Rajisthan
and Gujerat right now -- and it will not help them out. We have to pay
attention to the ecological base of our survival and the needs of all. I
personally am committed to feeling and believing that the smallest of
species and the smallest of people have as much a right to live on this
planet with dignity as the most powerful corporation and the most powerful

Anurag Jacob: I'm a card-carrying member of India's nascent dot-com economy.
Dr. Shiva I just was very disturbed by your omission of any reference to
education. Communities in today's world cannot grow in vacuum - they need to
have tools to evaluate the evils of globalisation with the good of
localisation. Why is that you omitted to talk about education?

Vandana Shiva: For the simple reason that the Reith lecture only allows me
25 minutes. But in any case I don't disagree with the characterisation of IT
driven society as the only knowledge society. I believe the women working in
the fields conserving biodiveristy, producing our food, cooking the food
also have a knowledge society and it's that denial of knowledge in other
ways through other domains that is the basis of the work we do against
biopiracy, the work I do against monocultures of the mind, the work I do
against reductionism in science and technology, and I think there is a real
need for our future to recognise knowledge in all its diverse forms among
all the different creators of knowledge.

Anurag Jacob: I'm not saying the knowledge that indigenous community has is
rubbish. But when a farmer is faced with the prospects of using what you
call white gold as opposed to his traditional seeds, the farmer opted for
the white gold because he did not know how to evaluate his own local seed
against genetically modified foods. Therefore don't you think we do need to
educate our people so that they can evaluate what they need to do?

Vandana Shiva: I actually referred in the response to the person who used to
work in Monsanto - that part of democracy is to have public education, and
full public awareness. I agree with you that technologies need to be
assessed and that is why for the last 13 years we have been trying to build
this system of assessing genetic engineering, the bio-safety protocol under
the convention on biological diversity, that finally after a decade of
subversion is now in place and was completed in January in Montreal. We need
people to make decisions on the basis of having the knowledge of what the
technologies are, and having processes to actually participate. That's the
basis of our plea - in the supreme court on the Monsanto trials - that we
need more knowledge dissemination, more participation, more accountability.
And finally, there are situations in which we will be ready with the
production technology long before we are ready with the capacity to assess
its impact. That is when we call for the precautionary principle. Know the
risks before you deploy technology. The result we have a precautionary
principle today is because we put out DTT - gave it Nobel prizes, now we
want to withdraw it. We put out fossil fuel now we're worried about climate
change. With GM crops you can't deploy them because there's no call back. In
any case the climate change phenomena is becoming so life threatening that
people are calling for the fact that you will never have the final ultimate
deterministic linear prediction - therefore on the basis of complex
assessment, take care, take caution before you deploy technologies on a very
large scale that could be absolutely devastating for the planet.

Rukmini Paya Naiur - professor at the Indian Institute of Technology: Some
would argue (my institute) is exclusively focused on what you call the dot
com route to success. Listening to your strong emphasis on biodiversity, it
struck me that there was an unseen shadow twin of biodiversity which is
recyclability or reusability in our cultures. India is said to be a great
recycling culture - we recycle everything including souls...I wanted to ask
you whether this shadow twin recycling had something to contribute to the
notion that the materials of the whole universe are in fact reusable and
that we have something to actually offer the world in this sort of

Vandana Shiva: We have been a civilisation that lived on the basis of
recycling and that's why when we today are burdened with plastic and plastic
packaging now compulsory, now required by law, people still treat that
plastic bag as if is a little banana leaf that will disappear. And even the
cows are in the habit of thinking plastic is like a banana leaf they can eat
up. Some products don't disappear. Some products don't get recycled and
that's part of the crisis that as a culture which has had such sensitive
ways of ensuring that our ecological footprint is very light on the planet -
last year a scientist from Canada sent me his data on ecological footprint
and his data on resource use, and ability of eco-systems to absorb outputs
and waste was that there were only 3 countries with surpluses in resources -
Canada, Sweden - at that time India. That was India before the race to
"plastic" itself, globalise itself. Today what we need is a way to make a
fit into those systems that we have evolved so sophisticatedly, recycling
organic matter to ensure we get out of the chemical tread mill because
chemicals do not get recycled. They just bio-accumulate.

P.D. Kayra from Delhi: While one would appreciate that biodiveristy and
systems like that do help in production, but I'm more concerned with the
farmer who today I find is disenchanted and is less and less motivated and
becoming totally indifferent to his way of life and that maybe biodiversity
by itself will not be able to explain?

Vandana Shiva: In the areas where monocultures have taken over, where
external inputs and chemicals are forcing farmers to spend the little bit of
income they have to buy those useless and costly inputs - farmers are
disenchanted both because of the negative economy I talked about - and no
production can take place over time on the basis of a negative economy - as
well as the fact that the entire set of technologies in industrial
agriculture are careless technologies. They are technologies that substitute
care with carelessness. You can just spray urea - you don't have to do
composting. You don't have to weed at the right time - the few tiny weeds
that might come up, spray the herbicide and that technology of carelessness
eventually creates disenchanted people because they have no meaning, no
role. In the areas where we work through our movement called "Navdanya", for
conserving biodiveristy and we now have seed banks in seven states, eleven
community seed banks have been started - every region where after a while
the farmers have replaced external inputs with internal inputs to produce
food organically, where they have managed to get rid of their debts - a
threefold increase in incomes just by saving on expenditure - they are
excited, they're enthused, they are absolutely on the verge of a whole new
determination and I invite some of you to come and visit those regions.