Dr. Vandana Shiva has been an incredible environmental and agricultural activist for many decades, and through her latest tour in Europe she shows no sign of slowing down. We are big fans of her work and her message. As Michael Specter of the New Yorker writes: a critical look at her work:
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.”
Specter goes on to describe her passionate stance on intellectual property and dangers of GMOs, her views on the negative effects of the Green Revolution (the series of farming innovations brought to India in the 60’s), farmer suicides related to pest-resistance brought about by GMO seeds, and a slew of other problematic issue surrounding agriculture. Specter, a self-described pro-biotech write is not, however, a true believer in Shiva’s work.
Specter makes borderline attacks on Shiva’s credentials and methodology at points, which seem mostly superfluous, but he gives a fairly impartial look at the GMO issue, exploring the issues and agriculture in India in an attempt to validate Shiva’s claims. In our view, Specter may be missing the point of Dr. Shiva’s main message: when the power to grow food is not in the hands of the people they are trapped in an unsustainable system that perpetuates poverty and corporate greed. That being said, his criticism of Shiva’s stance, and that of the anti-GMO movement is well thought out and worth reading, if not only to catalog some counter arguments.
A for a much more critical view of Specter’s piece, read Louis Proyect’s work in Counterpunch, in which the self proclaimed Marxists breaks down most of Specter’s arguments and points out that the majority of the folks he cited for his New Yorker piece are pro-GMO advocates:
As it turns out, Pamela Ronald is one of the most fanatical supporters of GMO in the USA and hardly a neutral judge on chemistry in agriculture. It is like someone treating Bjorn Lomborg as a disinterested expert on global warming."
Later Proyect lays his cards on the table calling not for capitalism, GMO’s and the Green Revolution to save the day, rather a eschewing of the rural-urban divide and return to our former agrarian tactics:
Every advance in agriculture based on chemicals creates new contradictions that will in turn require a new chemical solution. The answer to the food crisis is not more chemicals but a reorganization of society that eliminates the profit motive and that overcomes the breach between city and countryside, a key demand of the Communist Manifesto. When animals such as cows, chickens and pigs provide the fertilizer for crops—as was the case for millennia—the natural balance will be restored."
Proyect’s views seems a little extreme, but no more extreme than Specter’s, we speculate. There’s a great debate going on out there, Warriors, where do you stand?
- Seeds of Doubt An activist’s controversial crusade against genetically modified crops. via The New Yorker
- Gunning for Vandana Shiva via Counterpunch
Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson