Skip to Content
Report an accessibility problem

Sustainability Videos & Lecture Series

Future of Food: Dictatorship or Democracy?

October 30, 2014 | Dr. Vandana Shiva discusses how the future of the planet is intimately linked to the future of food, both because everyone must eat and because industrial agriculture has the largest impact on ecosystems and our health. Trained in physics and philosophy, Dr. Vandana Shiva is renowned for her activism against GMOs, globalization, and patents on seeds and traditional foods. She co-founded Navdanya, which promotes seed saving and organic farming and has more than 70,000 farmer-members. She is the recipient of the 1993 Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award) and has authored several bestselling books.

Related Events: Future of Food: Dictatorship or Democracy?


Boone: My name is Chris Boone. I'm the dean of the School of Sustainability, which is part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. And I'm very proud to say that we are one of the sponsors of tonight's special presentation by Dr. Shiva. The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability provides support to bring in the world's leading thinkers and practitioners in sustainability. And of course, Dr. Shiva's certainly one among those ranks. This is the second of the Wrigley series of this year.

One of the things that we do in the Institute is to not only think about human environmental issues, but also to think about solutions. And the Julie Ann Wrigley series, I think, exemplifies that spirit and exemplifies those principles. So as I mentioned, this is a cosponsored event. In addition to the Wrigley Institute, we also have the Institute of Humanities Research and the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies as cosponsors.

It's my honor now to introduce to you Dr. Sally Kitch, who is a regents professor, one of the highest honors awarded at ASU to faculty. She's also the founding director of the Institute of Humanities Research and I'm particularly proud to say that she's a distinguished sustainability scientist. Sally.


Kitch: Thank you, Chris. I'm here to tell you a little bit about the Institute of Humanities Research and also to tell you about the project that is actually responsible for thinking about bringing Vandana Shiva here to ASU. We are part of an international project that is sponsored by the Mellon Foundation through the Consortium for Humanity Centers and Institutes to look at a global perspective on humanities for the environment.

And sometimes people think, what do the humanities have to do with the environment? But as I think you'll hear a little bit tonight, it has everything to do with the environment. And that, in fact, environmental issues are not in the first instance technological problems, but they're issues that involve human cultures and capacities. And we're here in our project to study and represent these possibilities. So also thanks not only to the Wrigley Institute but also to President Crow's Presidential Initiative Funds and Shippers, we are able to bring Dr. Shiva tonight so she can speak to us about some of these crucial and deep issues involving the environment.

I would now like to introduce the person who's going to introduce Dr. Shiva. Because you never just get one person up here. And that is Doctor Joni Adamson, who is a professor of English and Environmental Humanities here at ASU, and also a senior sustainability scholar in the Wrigley Institute. Joni.


Adamson: I would like to warmly welcome you to this lecture. Today we meet on the lands of the Akimel O'odham and Pima nations. And I tell you this because the focus of my own work is on global indigenous and oral and written literatures. I first came to know the work of Dr. Vandana Shiva when I had to answer the question of why so many indigenous novelists and writers around the world were writing about food sovereignty, seed saving, and soil health.

This brought me to Dr. Shiva's books and her prodigious writings answered my questions about why a prominent Laguna Pueblo writer such as Leslie Marmon Silko would write a novel that has as its main character a small O'odham girl who collects seeds and who freely shares them around the world. This novel titled Gardens in the Dunes focuses on all the topics that we will be discussing tonight, including seeds, seed saving, and famine foods. And the novel illustrates one of the ways in which the humanities and the arts are contributing significantly to conversations around the future of foods.

Dr. Shiva is a world renowned environmental thinker, a seed and food sovereignty activist, a physicist, feminist, philosopher of science, a writer, and a science policy advocate. In the 1970s, during that historic Chipko or Hug The Tree movement in the central Himalayan region, she dramatically shifted her career direction after learning that the women protecting forests against logging-- excuse me, after learning that the women protecting forests against logging were trying to convey the idea that to the world, forests for timber, revenue, and profits, but the real products of the forests were soil, water, and pure air.

She went on to focus her work on protecting access to clean water and preserving the diversity and integrity of native organisms. In 1993, she was a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the alternative Nobel Prize. She's also the co-founder of Navdanya, an organization that works with local communities and groups in India. She is the writer of many books, including Staying Alive, Biopiracy, Monocultures of the Mind, and Water Wars, and one that is very important to this seminar, Soil Not Oil, as well as over 300 papers in leading scientific and technical journals.

Her recent work in Soil Not Oil, she has argued that we need to quote, "Change our mind before we can change our world. This cultural transition is at the heart of making energy transitions to an age beyond oil." Unquote. Energy transitions is a research and cultural issue that we here at ASU are deeply involved in working on and it is an area of concern that is bringing humanists together with their colleagues across the disciplines.

Dr. Shiva's visit to ASU is part of a humanities workshop titled Forms of Collaborative Knowledge and Collective Action, The Future of Food, in which we will dive into issues and discussions about how we can build interactional competencies to work together. There is no one more qualified to help us think about these topics.

She has inspired change and empowered others through her optimism, her strength, and her unwavering determination to demonstrate the ways in which scientific knowledge, ecological knowledge, and collective action can lead to positive changes in the world. It is my great honor and my deep pleasure to welcome Dr. Vandana Shiva to the podium. Her lecture is titled, "The Future of Food, Dictatorship or Democracy."


Shiva: Thank you so much to the collaboration between the Institute of Sustainability, the Institute for Humanities Research, the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies. And isn't that an amazing collaboration? I think it's the first time such a diversity of institutes and disciplines have invited me. And it already shows that ASU is truly looking at the challenges of sustainability and non-sustainability in a very fresh way.

I never thought I'd spend so much of my life looking at food. I was among those crazy scientists who thought food is a luxury. You eat it when you have to eat it. And I realize increasingly that food is the web of life. Because the web of life is interactions between different organisms, where one is the food of the other. And the soil food web it's such an amazing correction to that extremely false idea that life is a pyramid with man on top. The organisms in the soil are one step beyond us. We are their food. That should bring us a little humility.


And how we produce and consume food is probably the most significant impact, both on the planet and society. In recent years, there was an indifference to these issues. I woke up to it in 1984, when violence erupted in the state of Punjab, which is the land of five rivers, prosperous, hardworking farmers. The Green Revolution was first implemented in Punjab. It was even given a Nobel Peace Prize with the thesis that changing the seeds and adapting them to chemicals is going to create so much prosperity that there will be peace.

And the color green did not come from the philosophy green. There was no philosophy green in '60s. The Green Movement grew much later as a sustainability movement. Green was just a color different from red. And red is what you didn't want/ and the idea was, you engineer the seeds, you engineer society, and there'll be peace ever after. But there wasn't peace in Punjab.

That same year, in the city of Bhopal, a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide leaked. And I rushed in with bucket fulls of Neem saplings, beautiful tree whose scientific name is azadirachta indica, which has been used for centuries in India for pest control. And I drew a poster. No more Bhopal, let's plant a Neem. But by the end of that year, I was asking myself, why is the model of agriculture that is dominant causing so much violence?

And I was working, at that point, on a major program for the United Nations University on conflicts over natural resources. And either I think the conflicts that are deeper than the ones that are being reported on. And will you let me investigate? They did. I wrote a book called The Violence of the Green Revolution as a result. And while doing the research for the book, half the time the field trips had to be canceled because the train had been blown up or the bus had been blown up with a bomb. But I persisted and finally did the research.

And I remember in particular a declaration of the Sarbat Khalsa, which is the big body of the Sikhs, saying when can't choose what you grow, when you can't decide the methods of production, when you don't determine the price of what you produced, when your own river's water can't be released through your decision. Because the Bhakra dam was controlled by Delhi. Then we are living under slavery.

And the reason they came out with this was because the Green Revolution, by the '80s, was going into a negative economy. Farmers were getting into debt. There were more pests. There was more pesticide use. The nitrogen fertilizer was having to be used more and more, with no gain and yield right now. The yields are going down that much. The soils were dying, the water was disappearing, the farmers were angry. And they took to the gun. There were protests. The protests weren't listened to.

Something very similar is actually happening right now in Syria. But so rapidly our minds have become so fragmented and we forget so fast. Now, I remember reading in newspapers just a few years ago how there was a major drought in Syria. And just as the Indian peasants had revolted in the '80s, instead of offering a solution through food democracy, through the rights of farmers to have seed sovereignty and food sovereignty, instead of creating a more fair system of pricing of food, the military was sent to the Golden Temple, which is the sacred shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar.

The Sikhs felt outraged. They had assassinated Indira Gandhi by the end of the year. And in response, the congress killed 3,006 in a terrible program. And the justice on that issue hasn't yet been done.

But in Syria, as the drought continued to intensify, 800,000 Syrians, farmers and herdsmen in the area around the town of Daraa, were losing their livelihoods. 75% of the crop had finished. 85% of the herds were dead. And they came into the city protesting. They were rested, they were thrown into jail, and that is what created the anti-Assad movement. Assad himself had locked into the globalization paradigm of new liberalism where agriculture has to be either destroyed or ignored. And global trade is what gets priority.

With the drought, the farmers started to mine more water where they could. And the NASA figures are there, both for Punjab as well as for Syria, which is in the Tigris-Euphrates basin. 144 cubic meters were being lost because of excessive drilling. In Punjab, the water level is falling by a foot a year. This is a land where, in my days, younger days, wherever you went in Indo-Gangetic Plain, you would see Persian wheels, which would be getting water at 10 feet. More than 26 cubic miles of water disappeared in Punjab.

Why is so much water being wasted and misused? Because whether it's in Syria or in India, crops that use less water have been displaced. Whether it is drought resistant rices or barley or wheat or the millets which I call the foods of the future. The millets are the most nutritious crops. You think they just bird food. No, they are authentic human food. We did a calculation that if we grew millet, we would have 400 times more food using the same amount of water in India.

The Green Revolution, which is based on chemicals, is water intensive. Not for the plants, but for the chemicals. Uses 10 times more water. Globally, between 75% to 95% of the water in different countries is going into an intensive agriculture which is not bringing us any gains in food security. In fact, it's undermining food security by destroying water availability.

Because the limiting factor for the production of food is not limits of land. We've got so much land. But the land is not always able to grow food because of limits on water. And in desert cultures, the indigenous people of this land or in Rajasthan or the semi-arid tracts of the Deccan, farmers evolve the most amazing ways of conserving water and using less.

Now of course there's a lot of fashion about crop per drop. But it's not yet at the systems level where you have ecosystems conserving more water and using less. I have seen, of course, on the flights to this country sometimes napkins served that say, "We put more water back than we take." Now that is arithmetically impossible. But Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola try and convince us that they are creators of water.

So water wise, these systems were hugely non sustainable. And because we have developed very reductionist mechanistic ways of thinking about the world since the Industrial Revolution, and these have been defined as the only way you can approach science. But we have now the advantage of the birth of ecological sciences all over.

At no point was a response made in terms of food democracy. Not in Syria, not in India. Not in Sudan, not in Nigeria. Every conflict we see around the world today that is defined as a religious conflict has at its roots resource use. And how we grow food is the single biggest determinant of resource use. Most people in the world farm. Because we use the figures up how much of humanity lives in cities, we forget that in most of Africa, 90% to 95% people are involved in agriculture, most of them women.

So narrowing it down into a conflict based on religion, we then create an amazing narrative of enemies out there. I wish President Obama was not sending drones and fighter jets to drop bombs, but was allowing Syria and Iraq, which gave agriculture to the world, to be able to rejuvenate their biodiversity, to be able to rejuvenate their agriculture. I work very closely with Professor Chicorelli, who was, for most of his life, in Aleppo, where there is an International Center of Arid Zone agriculture research ICARDA. Of course, Aleppo has been bombed.

But Dr. Chicorelli works with us on how participatory breeding with farmers is our only security today. He works with us on evolutionary breeding that in times of climate change you've got to allow the plants to evolve to adapt. Put the seeds out in that seed bank in Norway. They call it the doomsday seed bank. I don't think we can ever talk about the seed in terms of dooms days. The seed is what carries hope and the future.

And it is evolving. When it goes through a hot period, it evolves to deal with it. When it goes through a flat, it evolves with it. And when a seed has to be in areas where you have cyclones or salt water in the backwaters, farmers have evolved salt tolerant varieties in Navdanya seed banks. We just saved every seed we could.

We've created 120 community seed banks. Because we were not making a judgment about nature and our ancestors. We knew they had intelligence. And then when the super cyclone hit Orissa in 1999, we were able to distribute salt tolerant seeds from our seed banks. And Orissa jumped back in agriculture.

In 2004 when the tsunami hit, the farmers were members of Navdanya and were growing salt tolerant seeds. Gifted two truckloads to Tamil Nadu. Now, I've gone to Tamil Nadu when the tsunami happened, and agriculture department said we can't do agriculture for five years. And we don't know what to do with our farmers.

I said, you can do agriculture right now. We'll bring you the seeds. And the seeds didn't just survive. They did so well that they've been getting distributed. They've traveled all the way to Indonesia. A farmer came up to me on my recent trip in Indonesia to say, I'm bring the salt tolerant seeds we received from Navdanya.

So seeds are the hope. These are seeds of hope. This diversity is our real insurance for the future. Whether it is to deal with climate change or it is to create democracy or it is to deal with the pests and insects and diseases that are typical of the monoculture model. And yet the monoculture paradigm destroys that diversity.

In 1995, the food and agricultural organization did a conference on plant genetic resources, to make an assessment of how much have we lost and why have we lost it. And every country was asked to do this assessment of biodiversity in agriculture. '95 they found 75% of the diversity in agriculture had disappeared because of industrial monocultures. And in '95, globalization was just being born through the free trade rules of what became the World Trade Organization.

Because of my work on the Green Revolution, I'd started to get invited to agriculture meetings. And I'm a perennial learner. Any place I find I can learn something new, I'll be there. Because I don't think one ever learns enough with a degree or a university or a PhD. I think more PhDs should go back to learn all over again, something they've never did a PhD on.


So I get invited to this conference in 1987 on biotechnology. 1987 there were no GMO crops. It was a small meeting organized jointly with the United Nations and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation. Dag Hammarskjold was the first Director General of the UN. And it was called Laws Of Life. What are the implications of the new biotechnology? It was pre commercialization. And the industry was very honest, which was the industry that was starting to think of biotechnology, the old chemical industry.

Who was this old chemical industry that brought us the agrochemicals? The old war chemical industry. I'm reading my book for my trip this time. It's not a very pleasant book. It's called Hell's Cartel. And it's about the chemical industry that made chemicals for the war, for killing people in concentration camps. There was then tried in Nuremberg. They moved into agriculture after the war, not wanting to give up their habit of selling chemicals for profits.

But they did a very, very good job of making it look like without their chemicals we could not grow food. So unless you could kill every insect you saw, we would starve as human beings. Every insect was in competition with us. Textbooks on pest control say the war against pests. We have to keep escalating it because they are getting smarter. Pesticides have created more pests. 1,200% is what the figure was a few years ago.

Now, at this meeting, industry said very clearly the reason we've got to do genetic engineering is it's the only way we can continue to grow. Only through genetic engineering can we claim patents on seeds. By adding a new gene, we can now say we have created another life form and claim a patent. And they also said it wasn't good enough. The sampling is the rich world is a very small market when it comes to food. Europe and the USA are small compared to the billions in our parts of the world. And everyone must eat.

And most farmers are in the south. Every fourth farmer is an Indian peasant. So it's not good enough to have laws of patenting of seed for Europe and America. We've got to have it globally and therefore we need an intellectual property rights agreement. In what became the GATT, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff, is what became the World Trade Organization.

In 1995, a Monsanto representative in a speech in Washington, DC said, "We've achieved something absolutely unprecedented. We wrote an agreement, gave it to our government, which then had it moved through the GATT. We also went directly to the GATT secretariat and moved the treaty. And we were the patient, diagnostician, physician, all in one."

And what was the problem? What was the disease? The disease was farmers are saving seed. Now, a patent is a right of an inventor to exclude anyone else from making, using, selling, distributing what is invented. The problem is when it comes to seed, seed is not an invention. Seed evolves. Farmers co-evolve with the seed to breed varieties. Seed is evolution. And I'm so glad Pope Francis has said evolution happens.


Evolution is real. Just gave a speech the other day. So the invention of seed being built into law for me was so outrageous. Because I had been working to defend the integrity of species, the intrinsic value of every life form of this planet. And to suddenly be told the life forms are inventions was a very, very deep violation. But I kept thinking, these companies are talking about five of them controlling the seed supply in the future. That's what they said. They said we are too small, so we must become bigger.

And right now you see Monsanto is controlling so many seed companies. That meeting there was Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. They merged to become the pharmaceutical firm Novartis and then they joined with Astra and Zeneca to become Syngenta, the second biggest corporation that controls seed, especially genetically modified seeds.

So after I'd heard the corporations talk about their future, I said I'm going to save seeds. And I took inspiration from Gandhi's spinning wheel. Realizing that the British empire ran on control over the textile industry and the raw material for the textile industry. And the living seed was being reduced to raw material for the biotechnology industry. Because you don't invent the seed, you take it from somebody. Usually you just steal it.

And so much of my life has gone in dealing with what I call biopiracy. Now seed exchange has always happened. Exchange is not piracy. But you come to me and you take the seed and then you patent it and say I created it and now you pay me royalty, that's bio piracy.

So the four cases we have fought and won. The first was Neem, that wonderful tree I took to Bhopal. 10 years later I find it's patented. And world's first biopesticide from Neem. So we started a campaign and I took 100,000 signatures to the European Patent Office as well as to the US Patent Office.

Now, the US Patent Office wrote and said, "What's your commercial interest?" We said we don't have a commercial interest. We have a public interest. We have an ecological interest. Sorry, we only entertain commercial competition between two people claiming a patent. But the European law has a clause on public interest, so they admitted it. For 11 years we fought that case and we won. And the patent was held jointly by a company called WR Grace and the US Department of Agriculture.

I remember when we first filed a case. The lawyers, they were common lawyers, and they're pointing to me in the courtroom of the European Patent Office and saying, "She can't be here because she's not a European." So I just smiled and said, "No, are you?" Because they were Americans.


But of course there's this thing of how can a brown woman in a sari come and challenge us? But when it's illusions of that scale that cause so much harm to the democracy of life on this planet and our food democracy, then I will challenge. There was another case where a Texas company claimed to have invented our beautiful basmati, for which my valley, Doon Valley, is famous. And we had to do campaigns on that. I had to fight cases.

And eventually they had to drop most of their claims. We even did an action where I came to Texas and worked with church groups to send postcards. So it's US Patent and Trademark Office, which becomes USBTO. And the postcard just said, if you don't revoke this patent, we will have to call you the US Piracy and Theft Office. And they dropped the patents.

And then everyone's getting gluten allergies because wheat has been bred in a way that it's expressing too much gluten. We in India have wheats that don't express the gluten. Our ancient wheats don't lead to gluten intolerance. So when Monsanto realizes a huge market. Some figures I've read is every third American has problems with the wheat now. So there's a market. They pick up an Indian wheat variety and say we've invented all its properties and now we're going to control and monopolize all products made from, all the seed, the grain, and all products made from wheat.

In this particular case, by the time I went to file the patent in the European Patent Office and the head of the patent office is coming out in the snow, I'm trudging through and saying, I'm so happy to see you again, Dr. Shiva. I said, you should be ashamed to see me again, because it just means you keep issuing bio piracy patents, which is illegitimate and illegal and violates the law. Because piracy is theft. It's not an invention.

Sadly, this idea of a totally constructed intellectual property in seed and life is being pushed very, very hard. And it is having very high costs. I don't know how many of you have because of patents on seed, on GMO seeds. American farmers are spending $10 billion extra for royalty. Because that's the main intention of genetically engineered seed, to collect a royalty.

In India, I won't give you the long story of what happened to India's cotton, but before globalization, before Monsanto entered the country, if it was a farmer's own seed, it was 0 cost. If it had been bought from a public institution or a local company, it was five rupees or 10 rupees a kilogram of seed. Monsanto enters with 450 gram packages 1,600 rupees. It's more than 3,600 for a kilogram. And as a Monsanto representative said to a parliamentary committee that was investigating, the crisis related to GMOs. They said, yeah, half of it is royalty collection.

But can you imagine? Here's the seed that's growing and evolving. Here are farmers who have worked to evolve that seed. They're doing the hard work in the field. And the royalties come to Monsanto. There've been so many investigations on the banking system. There've been so many investigations on Ponzi schemes of all kinds. One thing that hasn't being investigated, and I hope the amazing institutions that are hosting this lecture will get into this, intellectual property rights on seed patents, on seed are a Ponzi scheme.


Of course, this Ponzi scheme is upheld with claims of miracles from GMOs, the first claim being that they produce more food and the world will go hungry and there'll be 10 billion people on the planet and without GMOs you won't have food. Because of GMOs we don't have food. Only 10% of the GMO corn and soya which accounts for the largest expansion of acreage in the world in the recent years. Only 10% goes for food.

The UN data has clarified that 70% of the food we eat comes from small farms. And I would assume that if we add the gardens, urban gardens, organic farms, we would have figures that would cross 80%. So in fact the industrial system is a minority system when it comes to food security. But it is the major system that is causing both the ecological crisis as well as the crisis of democracy.

What is a dictatorship? A dictatorship basically is control of an absolute kind. And look at what's happening to our food system. See the first link in the food system is being controlled like we've never seen before. It was not controlled before. It was shared. We had public universities breeding seed and they'd share the seed. Farmers shared seed amongst each other. I have learned so much from the peasant cultures of India and the cultures of seed saving and seed sharing.

But what we have witnessed so far is just the beginning of this new system. We've had industrial agriculture. We've had the Green Revolution. But this thing called the Second Green Revolution, precision agriculture, one agriculture for the entire world, that's what they're talking about. That future vision is a disaster.

So can GMOs produce more food? They can't. The technology is not for breeding. The technology is for shooting a gene that doesn't belong to the plant. The yield comes from the original plant. You don't really know what's happening when you shoot a gene. It's not a precise technology. It's a highly inaccurate and imprecise technology. But it brings new risks, which is why we have international law on bio safety.

In the US, you don't have such laws because President Bush came back and implemented a principle which is totally unscientific, a principle of substantial equivalents. If I have a corn that has evolved as a corn and crossed with other corns, and I have a corn with a BT toxin in it that has taken a gene from a soil organism and is now expressing toxins in this corn, this BT corn is not the same as the ordinary corn.

We make a difference between chemically farmed and organic crops. And here we are tampering with the very genome of the crop and saying it's the same. I've called this ontological schizophrenia because when it comes to owning the seed through patents, you say never existed before. I'm the creator. I'm the inventor. I am the one who's brought something novel in the world. So give me a patent.

Then say, OK, this thing you brought into the world that's so novel, can we please look at it and see what impact it has on the environment, on the pollinators, on the soil organisms? Can we please look at what it does to our health? Can we please look at what does it do to farmers economics?

We are told no, just like nature made it. We don't have to look. We don't have to see. We don't have to find. And by not doing anything, we declare safety. And then we go around bullying the world which does experiments on safety to say it's unscientific.

Now Europe has safety laws and they do tests. The first was a test done by the-- The UK government commissioned the top lectin expert of his time, Dr. Arpad Pusztai, to do tests on GMO crops, because the movements were very strong. And he was actually pro GMO. He didn't expect to find anything different. But he found that the rats he was testing in the three month study, their brain had shrunk, the pancreas had expanded, their intestinal walls were damaged, and their immunity system was compromised.

So he went to his director and said, this is serious. Three months of feeding? What will happen to lifelong eating? Come on, humans, we must warn the public. So they did a press conference. It went all over the world. Next day there was a call from the United States to Tony Blair. Shut this man, shut this lab. Put a gag order. Putting a gag order on scientists who are telling us what's really going on at the level of science means not just sowing the seeds of dictatorship, but preparing us for ignorance of what's happening.

The next victim was Ignacio Chapela at Berkeley, who did studies on the contamination of the corn in Mexico. His paper was published in Nature, and suddenly there were letters to Nature saying withdraw this paper. Nature had never experienced this before, so they withdrew the paper. Turns out, there's a system called viral marketing, and it was a British journalist who tracked it, where on one computer I can cook up 1,000 names of scientists who don't exist, bombard the journal, and have them panic. There were no scientists complaining to Nature. It was viral marketing.

The more recent case is that of Seralini, Eric Seralini, who used to be a regulator at University of Caen for bio safety. And he used to see the dossiers that the companies were bringing. And he says, this is so sloppy. There's no research here. They're just declaring safety. And he went back to France where he had been a scientist and opened a lab to look at bio safety. He's the first person who did a two year study on genetically engineered corn. It hasn't been done before. Most trials are for three month feeding. He did a two year feeding study.

And because he knew what happens, he kept it very quiet, got it published in the Journal of Chemical and Food Toxicology. It was published. Then this viral marketing started. They said, withdraw the paper. They said the rats were too few. He said, my rats were more than the Monsanto number. Wrong species. Same species. This is the one that's used all over the world for lab trials. Anyway, they started putting out saying, unscientific.

And Dr. Seralini's Wikipedia doesn't talk to Dr. Seralini's research, it talks about Seralini affair, like he's some shady scientist cooking up his data. And when they couldn't get away getting his paper withdrawn because the journal just said, sorry, this is peer reviewed, it's gone through all the tests, and we are not going to withdraw it, they just changed the editor.

A Monsanto man was planted and he withdrew the study. Seralini published it in another journal, but you can see that the issue of food dictatorship begins with the seed, goes into food, goes into our knowledge systems, goes into how our decisions are made, because governments are being hijacked. I feel very sorry to see the White House, whether it was under Bush or under Obama, only doing what Monsanto asks them to do.

I won't go into details of the new trade treaties, but I will talk a little about the fact that in spite of GMOs not producing more food, in spite of GMOs not reducing chemical use. That was the promise, that we won't have to spray. There'll be no chemical uses. Everything will be done. I'll just run through.

In India, BT cotton is not working to control the bull worm, but has created new pests. Aphids, weevils, and mites. But new epidemics, more pesticide use. In China, 12 fold more use pesticides in the BT crops. In the US, herbicide use increased 15%. And right now in Argentina, overall glyphosate use has tripled because of Roundup Ready soya.

And then if you look at the impacts, you see the Argentinian studies on the birth defects, children being born without brains, children being born with no anus. And these are pediatricians of the government doing these studies. Chemical use hasn't gone down. Production hasn't increased. Farmers' incomes haven't increased, because you now have the burden of additional chemicals as well as the royalty payment for seed, seed which should be a commons, seed which should be in every farmer's hands. Seed sovereignty is the very basis of food sovereignty, which is the basis of food democracy.

The alternatives are doing so much better. Every UN study has shown that agroecology produces more food. There's a UNEP study called Preventing Future Famines, Defending the Ecological Foundations of Agriculture. A UNCTAD study called The Wake Up Call To Governments saying don't go down this non sustainable path. FAO study showing that even in Africa agroecological systems are producing much more food.

And our own studies, the Health Breaker, which shows that man measured in terms of nutrition, biodiverse ecological systems can feed not just the 10 billion they would like us to be scared about, but 14 billion. But we shouldn't become 14 billion. We are too many already.

And I won't go into too much detail about how, an agriculture that removes people from the land has a big role in population growth. Because as long as people are secure in their land, they know how large the family should be. So when they're displaced, that they have to sell their labor power, they've got to have a child who grows up enough, who survives until they are old. All of that combination of insecurity, which on the one hand is creating conflicts, which is being labeled as religious conflict. And on the other hand, is triggering the need for larger numbers in the context of insecurity. The roots are in removing people from agriculture.

We've also done a new report that agriculture minister just released. It's called Wealth Breaker. I've done a PhD in the foundations of quantum theory, very tricky combination of non-separability and unpredictability and it's tough to get your head around it. And I would very often not solve a problem and then I'd go to sleep and in the morning I'd start writing my chapter in my PhD.

But the globalized industrial system is like 10 PhDs. Here you have high cost seed with a patent royalty, and it ends up as cheap food. In fact, the other day I had the debate where the biotech industry was saying, only we can produce food that's cheap. I said no, you produce seed that's costly. The subsidies produce food that becomes cheap.


400 billion is the global subsidy. $1 billion a day. In the US, the industrial system would collapse if that tax money was diverted from subsidizing toxic food that's destroying the planet and destroying our health to being shifted to growing food that protects the planet and protects our health and generates employment in the process.

Let me revisit the destruction on the planet. 75% of planetary damage, water, soil, biodiversity. 40% of the greenhouse gases come from the globalized industrial system. We are talking about the biggest impact on the planet. And yet ecological farming and local food system can be the place where we do the opposite, we rejuvenate bio diversity, we save seeds. We build up organic fertility of the soil, we conserve water.

And we mitigate and adapt climate change. We literally have capacity through organic farming to take out much more of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is being put into it. But of course, we get rid of nitrogen oxides that come from nitrogen fertilizers. We get rid of methane that comes on the one side from factory farming and on the other side from wasting 50% of the food. That's the figure for this country. 50% food is wasted. It's wasted on the farm through imposing uniformity. It's wasted in supermarket shelves because of the long distance travel, with a best before date.

And I was so happy I had to do a convocation in one of the Washington colleges. And the students cooked a wonderful dinner for me. So I innocent asked, I said, which organic farm supplied the dinner? And they all had grins on their face and they weren't telling me. I said, what's the secret? They said, it's all a dumpster dived.


And they explained to me about this new culture of preventing food waste in doing dumpster diving. I really pay tribute to the young people. They come up with such amazing things to face these giants and to change the insanity to sanity.

Because all these initiatives are growing, organic is growing, local food is growing, seed saving is growing, there's a new attempt at seed and food dictatorship. There's now an attempt to criminalize seed saving. Already in Pennsylvania and Maryland, notices have been served to seed libraries. In the case of Pennsylvania, a statement was made.

Agroterrorism is a very, very real scenario. And where does agroterrorism come? From the ancient seeds that we have grown for hundreds of years. Herited seeds and ancient seeds pose a threat. GMOs are totally safe. They should be deregulated.

The law basically is a law imposing uniformity. Says, it shall be unlawful to sell, offer for sale, expose for sale, which is exchange between people, or transport any seed subject to the provisions of this act. Any seed. They tried the same last year in Europe. And we built a huge seed freedom movement there with the European Parliament.

There's a new French film made by the French called Seed Wars, and they just sent me the link for YouTube. I looked at it and it was really nice to go back to last year and the mobilizing we did. The law was sent back to the European Commission. But there are 19 states with such legislation to make biodiversity and local seeds illegal. 19 states, and Arizona is one of them.

Now, a similar law was introduced in India. Same year, 2004, when your laws are changing, they've been kind of kept in cold storage all these years, and they're being brought out now. And the fact that they're being brought out now is because the dictators are panicking because of democracy. If all these seeds are available, how will they collect royalties from toxic GMO seeds? Sooner or later, that market will shrink.

So the only way to make that market grow is shut down the rest. And in 2004 they tried to do a similar law. And I can just see how 2004 they became very active. And I saw these two lines in our financial papers. So I immediately got in touch with parliamentarians, got a text of this seed act. These acts are called seed acts. And therefore compulsory licensing and compulsory registration of any seed.

I've studied it. I've traveled the country. When any occasion like this happens, I just get out there with communities and travel the country and inform them and show them and translate into different languages. And by the end of it, hundreds of thousands of farmers had signed a petition telling our prime minister, which I carried to him, that we are in the land of Gandhi. And when the British tried to impose salt laws, Gandhi walked to the beach, picked up the salt from the sea, said nature gives it for free. We need it for our survival. We will continue to make salt. We will not obey your laws.

And we take inspiration from the salt satyagraha. Satyagraha was Gandhi's word for the force of truth. Satya Is truth, agraha is the force. Truth, force. And he said, as long as the illusion exists that unjust laws must be obeyed, so long will slavery exist. And he worked on this first in South Africa against the apartheid regime. 1930, he used it against the salt laws. So I told our prime minister, we are in the land of Gandhi. And if you impose such a law, we will have to do a seed satyagraha.

So it won't work anyway. Because we have higher duties to higher laws. Laws of corporate monopoly are degraded laws. Laws of protecting biodiversity and providing good food to all through saving good seed is the higher law both in terms of the laws of the earth and the planet as well as laws of justice and human rights and human dignity and human freedom.

We now have to decide our role in the future of food. Will it be a role of engaging, of building the alternatives that allow all life on earth to prosper while bringing us big food? Or will it be a future where we witness impassivity, this unfolding of a deeper dictatorship? You know, the other dictatorships were around speech. If I can't speak my beliefs, I don't die. The difference between this dictatorship over seed and food and all earlier dictatorships is because this is touching on the very basis of our survival.

So we have to move beyond reductionist mechanistic science that separates and fragments and creates illusions that we are doing better in our food system, even while we are losing our ecological endowment, and while we are losing our health and we're losing our freedom. We have to go beyond reductionist economics, which defines people as labor and then labor as an input and the earth as land and land as an input into a system where mysteriously value gets created somewhere else.

I deeply believe that human beings are a creative force, not capital. Toxic chemicals are not a creative force. They're a destructive force. Human beings as a creative force are an outcome of a good agricultural system. And in a similar way, rejuvenated biodiversity, rejuvenating soils, rejuvenated water, a stable climate are outcomes of an agriculture system. They are the objective. Taking care of the earth is the objective.

I always tell people who come to our earth university where we run courses on agroecology, we run courses throughout the year. There's a biodiversity farm, a research farm, a training farm in Doon Valley. I say our first work in creating earth democracy and in creating food democracy is earth care. We just have to take care of the earth and the biodiversity in the soil. The rest biodiversity does for us. She controls the pests. She rejuvenates the water. We only have to do our duty to the earth.

And I can tell you in these years since we've started the work, we don't have pests that damage. We have insects that are doing all the work. Ladybirds and spiders on every plant. Volunteer crops that are food, that would be the source of nutrition if they weren't sprayed with Roundup. And then they want to do bio fortification by genetically engineering rice and banana. Rice for vitamin A, banana for vitamin A and iron.

Biodiversity is thousands of percent more efficient in getting us the nutrition we need. These new reductionist tricks, for a short while, will work only because there's lots of advertising money. I've been told $400 million has been spent to kill labeling laws in the last few years. And talking about democracy and freedom, besides the fact that there's this new attempt to shut down seed libraries, there is of course the attempt to prevent labeling.

64 countries of the world have mandatory labeling of GMOs. This country doesn't only me not have labeling, every time citizens organize to get labeling, 40 million is put in, 30 million is put in, California, Washington, right now Oregon is going on. Well, Vermont's too small and it went through. They got their labeling law. And I am traveling from here to Vermont for solidarity.


Not only do we have a dictatorship, we have a dictatorship of fictitious persons.


Vermont is being sued for its labeling law because Monsanto and others say that citizens knowing what they're eating and having the freedom to choose what they eat is robbing the cooperation of their freedom of speech.


I feel the challenge we have for food democracy is to realize that democracy is populated by real beings. Earth democracy is all the beings of the earth. Food democracy, the human beings involved in producing food and eating food. And it's their freedom that comes first. Not a fictitious person of corporations. That's a construct and it's now becoming a construct that's threatening both food and democracy. We have neither bread nor freedom if this kind of false freedom, of folds beings, is allowed to unfold.

So we have all the evidence that working with the earth, we produce more food. Working with the earth, we produce better food. And this is scientific. It's scientific to work with the laws of nature. It's unscientific to cook up laws and impose them on nature and humanity.

So the earth is inviting us to create food democracy as a way of restoring earth democracy. To decline her invitation at this point of our species evolution would be to live in a dictatorship for a short time and not live at all in the long run. And that, I'm sure you agree, would not be a very intelligent choice. Thank you.


Adamson: So because we have such a limited amount of time, we have asked all of the people who reserved tickets for tonight to submit questions. And so I'm going to be reading the questions that were submitted by those of you who sent in questions. And I'm going to just read them the way they were submitted. So in fact, you might have already sort of answered some of these questions, but this will give you a chance to elaborate a little bit further.

Some researchers are saying that 80% of people will live in cities by 2050 or 2080. Can you talk about how your work answers questions about the looming increases in urbanization of the world's population?

Shiva: First I don't treat it as an inevitability that cities will continue to grow. Cities are growing because of a dysfunctional agriculture system that's making agriculture livelihoods un-viable because of the way farmers are being exploited. Farms don't earn anything anymore because of all those subsidies that are used to dump cheap products, especially in our parts of the world.

But when farmers are in a distressed system where there's only one buyer, a Cargill is the only one you'll sell your corn to. Cargill fixes the prices. And they always fix the prices downwards, never upwards. And I've been told this here corn and cotton are in such low levels of price for farms, there's going to be more distress.

So we do need to correct the agrarian system for fairness and sustainability. The fact that cities have grown recently doesn't get rid of that responsibility to correct our agricultural system. As far as cities are concerned, cities are dependent on food. Food is their metabolism.

I was just reading a Mitsubishi ad saying the same thing. There will be bigger cities, more cities. And therefore, we are the smart ones who'll deliver food. And we'll do it through logistics and we'll do it through GPS systems. No, you can do it with local farmers. That's what the CSA's about. That's what urban agriculture's about.


And if we just realize that food is the metabolism even of cities, then you first begin to grow in the city what you can grow in the city. You can have CSAs linking to the city. And then you have food sheds linking on a larger level. A larger city will have a larger food shed, but it'll still be local to that city. And a smaller city will have a smaller food shed. So cities don't mean local doesn't work, organic doesn't work. It's just an illusion of the mind to say, because there are cities, let's trash the planet. There'll be no food on a dead planet.

Adamson: What would you say or recommend to students interested in food systems about how they can make a career out of making our food systems more sustainable and democratic?

Shiva: Well, the first is I really do believe that being a farmer is the highest vocation in today's world.


And it's as the young people, as you students, get into it, you're going to change it. You're going to change the terms. I was giving a talk and the moderator just asked the students, how many of you would be farmers if you could? The whole hall put up its hands. If you could.

It's also necessary to undo this deep inequality between the countryside and the city. With the assumption that the people in the countryside have no brains. All the brains are in cities. And of course that thesis doesn't work. Because how could someone with no brain when they migrate to the city suddenly have brains?


I have a new book coming out for the expo 2015 that's going to be held in Milan. And I worked in that book how it is so important to see agriculture as the place where opportunities for employment and livelihood grow. I meet young people who've been at our farm in training, and I meet them in Brazil or I meet them somewhere else. They've started organic cafes. Someone is an organic farmer, someone else is a city dweller. They are creating partnerships of the most amazing kind.

So the food system is so rich. It's inviting you as produces. Its inviting you as researchers. It's inviting you as entrepreneurs. But the most important issue is, it is time to stop looking down on those who give us food. It's time to put them at the pedestal of being the custodians of the land. They're not producing commodities. They're taking care of the land and the biodiversity and the water and even the atmosphere. Because when they do organic farming, they are reversing climate change.

And when we realize agriculture's about these multi-dimensional, multi-functional activities, then the shift will start to happen. And then you'll be the ones who make sure that farmers aren't getting 2% of the consumer dollar, but getting 50%. And that'll make anyone's life possible in agriculture.


Adamson: We have several of our local farmers here today and CSA honors, and I just want to give a nod to those people who are here with us today. Yay.


Next question. Is there a way that you think small scale farmers and conventional agribusiness can coexist? Given our need to feed the world, are there things that the small scale sector could learn from agribusiness and vice versa?


Shiva: Well, I think I can see farmers running classes for agribusiness. But frankly, what has agribusiness brought us? They brought us toxic chemicals. And I think agriculture and food systems are better off without them. And we now have the data that shows that ecological agriculture produces more food. Agribusiness has brought us global distribution chains. Do we need more food coming from far away or less?

So this long distance globalized supply chains is, again, not a relevant issue. I would be so happy to see agribusiness realize that they depend on the land and the biodiversity and the farmers to create relationships of respect and then take permission from the earth as well as farmers tell us what is our role. If they have a role, farmers will decide.

Adamson: Very nice. What would you say to our students who don't want to be farmers or who don't want to go back to the land? I'm just reading the questions.

Shiva: I absolutely don't think everyone should be farmers and it shouldn't become a new imposition of any kind. It should be an inspiration. If it matches your passions, then we have to change the terms so that it's fulfilling and satisfying and meaningful and dignified for you. But you can't run away from food no matter what. You can run away from farming. But you've got to eat.

So all students just have to become more concerned about where does their food come from, how was it grown. They need to become active, if not as farmers, as eaters. And that is both about the sustainability of the planet and it's about the sustainability of your health. I don't have to tell you about the obesity epidemic of this country, which is all related to bad food. We've created structures which have imposed bad food and deprived people of good food.

Now, that health literacy is vital for everyone. And that role in spreading that literacy, you have a particularly special responsibility because you've been to a wonderful university which is the top on sustainability. How can we have non-sustainable health and a sustainable planet?

Our health itself is reaching limits of total non-sustainability with the disease epidemics. And that's another area where constantly research is shut down and good researchers are ridiculed. So you need to join in that side of it. If you don't want to be at the beginning of it, at least be at the end of it.

Adamson: Given that most everything we and our ancestors have ingested over the years has been genetically tweaked, what make the contemporary methods used to alter genetic makeup of a crop taboo? And why, at the end of the day, when practically every crop in existence was modified ages ago even make the distinction between GMO and non GMO?

Shiva: OK, the word that's used for genetically engineered seeds has become GMOs by default. It's become GMOs because industry never wanted genetic engineering to be the word communicated. And in fact, in the UN treaty on convention on biological diversity, they went further and said no, not even GMOs. Talk about it as living modified.

Now, there were two reasons this was done. Each of you is a living modified version of your parents. Offspring are never clones of their parents. They're a little variation. Living modified, genetically modified, and from it to GMOs. The difference between what is called genetic tweaking and genetic engineering is this.

In nature, plants have evolved in a dynamic way. Farmers have worked with plants as breeders in co-evolution. All farmers breeding, which accounts from 99.9% of all of breeding, is a core evolution with nature. Working with the evolutionary patterns of the plant and the seed. Even cross breeding works within those laws. And cross breeding is within the same species, as is hybrid seeds. They are all within the same species.

The distinctiveness of all breeding and genetic engineering is genetic engineering allows you using the tools of recombinant DNA research to introduce genes into a plant that don't belong to that plant. And because it's an unreliable technology, you don't just introduce new genes of BT toxins or herbicide tolerance.

You add antibiotic resistance markers just for marking and separating the failed introduction from those that were successful and viral promoters. No plant has ever had genes from unrelated species through evolution's history or through plant breeding. And that's what we are calling on for testing and research and safety. Pigs with human growth hormones.

In England, the ladybird beetle controls aphids beautifully in wheat plants. They've killed the beetles and now they want to genetically engineer the wheat with a cow like gene. And when I asked my colleagues in England, asked what this cow like gene is, they said we can't tell you. Trade secret.

So we don't know what the cow like gene is. A wheat has never had cow like genes before. A cabbage has never had scorpion genes before. There was a Dr. Bishop doing this work. Corn has never had BT toxin genes in it before being expressed in every cell all the time, impacting the butterflies. Monarch butterflies died when they were fed BT pollen.

We've done studies on soil organisms, 22% gone in four years of planting. So it's not the same. There is a distinction. That is why substantial equivalents or the argument that we've always tweaked genes or nature has always tweaked genes and therefore we can mess up the genetic code of plants in our food systems is unscientific to begin with and irresponsible to everyone.

Adamson: Thank you. That's, I think, a really wonderful ending of the lecture And so yes, let's give her a hand.