Feature

For the love of grain

Dr-Vandana-Shiva

Hear Dr Shiva talk at WOMADelaide from 6–9 March, at The Planet Talks. Stay tuned for our intimate backstage meeting with Dr Shiva, and click here to see the lucky Green Lifestyle reader who will be joining us at the festival.

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GM seeds & Biopiracy
Her passion for seed saving is the reason for her outspoken activism against Genetically-Modified (GM) seeds.

“The whole GM edifice is based on the criminalisation of seed saving.

“I realised that there was a major threat to seeds and an erosion of their diversity – a threat through genetic engineering and patenting of seed – and to me, that transfers into a threat to human freedom, because seed saving for me is about human duty and freedom.”

In one of the heartiest laughs of the interview Dr Shiva tells me how she thinks the global agricultural and chemical corporation Monsanto is a bit of a joke, really.

“In fact, I can say to Monsanto that they thought they'd take over the seeds of the world by the year 2000 – they really had announced they would take over all the seeds of the world by then – and when you think of all the positive examples, and when you realise they just have four crops with two traits, and they had to bully every government and bribe every government – I mean, what a pathetic economy if it's based on bribing and threats! Hahahaha!”

Dr Shiva has been outspoken about the situation of Steve Marsh in Australia – an organic farmer who has been in ongoing legal disputes with Monsanto over crop contamination.

“When GMOs contaminate a farm, instead of the polluter having to pay, the polluted has to pay! This is a perversion of environmental laws and responsibilities based on 'the polluter pays' – whether it's Steve Marsh in Australia, or it's Percy Schmeiser in Canada [see the film, David Versus Monsanto]. Monsanto is trying to put the logic of 'the polluter gets rewarded'!

She describes the practices of Monsanto as 'biopiracy'.

“Biopiracy is claiming as an invention that which exists in Indigenous cultures – because pre-chemical cultures, the non-industrial cultures, are all based on biodiversity. For example, the Aboriginal people of Australia knew every plant that they lived with, and every property of that plant. But now, it's very easy for anyone to take that knowledge and to patent it, and that is what is called biopiracy.

“Biopiracy is an epidemic. It's illegal, and it's a crime. I help to fight it legally, but I also deal with it at the level of making sure that the policies are put in place, laws are put in place.

“I come from Doon Valley where our Basmati rice is the same as a company in Texas that claims to have invented it... India has these ancient wheat varieties that don't contribute to allergies – wheat allergies have become so commonplace in the Western world, and Monsanto wanted a monopoly on this old Indian wheat.

“Your readers can go to the website of Navdanya to see a letter redrafted for President Obama, who is coming to India to bully us so that laws will not prevent biopiracy. The US have committed to allowing it's corporations to own everything on the planet, so there's an open letter to Obama on the website, and there's a very large section on biopiracy that you can also read and use.”

Despite criticism of her actions, including controversy last year involving a leaked report from the Indian Intelligence Bureau, as well as Prince Charles and Greenpeace, Dr Shiva is charging forward with her mission, coming to Australia to give a series of talks over the next few weeks.

I know that there's a very big issue that connects Australia and India right now, which is this giant coal mine by Indian company Adani and the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef... All of this Australian and Indian tax money is being mobilised for private profit of a very destructive kind.

“The concern for me is that fact that a globalisation based on greed must become a globalisation based on violence.

“The targeting of individuals who are acting from love for the Earth shows that those who hate the Earth hate people, and are afraid of love.

“When I made the commitment to give my life to the service of the Earth, which is 40 years ago – I knew it needs courage of a lifetime. And I didn't stop then, and I'm not going to stop now. Hahaha!”

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Hear Dr Shiva talk at WOMADelaide from 6–9 March, at The Planet Talks. Stay tuned for our intimate backstage meeting with Dr Shiva, and click here to see the lucky Green Lifestyle reader who will be joining us at the festival.

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