Vandana Shiva arrived here on Oahu 1/15/2013 hosted by Hawaii SEED to share her wisdom with us about issues central to food sovereignty. She inspired those of us in the room with so much information I could hardly keep up with my note taking! Some of the main points that I gleaned I’ll share here in this post.
Who is Vandana Shiva?
According to Wikipedia, Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books. She was trained as a quantum physicist and received her Ph.D. in philosophy from a Canadian university. She’s known as a visionary leader and a figure of the world-wide solidarity movement for food sovereignty and has been featured in recent documentary films. She has fought for changes in the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, genetic engineering are among the fields where Shiva has contributed intellectually and through activist campaigns. She has assisted grassroots organizations of the Green movement in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria with campaigns against genetic engineering. In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which led to the creation of Navdanya in 1991, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade. For last two decades Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations serving many men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in conservation of more than 2000 rice varieties from all over the country and have established 34 seed banks in 13 states across the country.
What were some of her key points?
1) ECOFEMINISM: Ecofeminism is the social movement that regards the oppression of women and nature as interconnected. Many of her comments centered on the innate wisdom, beauty, and power in nature. A couple of times while discussing her recommend action steps to make personal change (specifically organic gardening and cultivating a connection with nature), she drew a parallel to the recent gang rape of a young woman in Delhi. She suggested that the so-called “right to genetic engineering of seeds” is the equivalent of this gang rape. Not only is what’s happening with biotech connected to violence against women, but it is also connected to what is happening to other species of our planet, in particular, factory farmed animals. She spoke out against feeding cows corn instead of their natural diet of grass, as well as allowing them to live in such horrifying conditions. She said that to successfully do organic gardening, such as understanding the interconnections between pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies) and the health of the soil and weather are a true science, whereas biotech has absolutely no understanding of this complexity. These companies instead just add inputs (chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers) and overlook nature. The companies take varieties of seeds that have, for multiple generations, been saved by organic farmers and run the seeds through computer programs separating out the gene sequences. She said, for example, that while organic farmers know which of their seeds would be drought tolerant, the biotech industry has no idea which gene sequence is responsible for that particular trait. Irregardless, they create seeds anyway and simply take a gamble on the future of life. The most important part of farming is NOT growing the vegetables themselves, but actually caring for the soil quality (the nutrition the plants get as they grow). In places overrun by seed companies, the soil has no microorganisms, but is rather a cloud of toxic chemicals in the dust that blow in the wind. She suggested that after speaking with the companies, that it sounds like they know exactly what safety issues exist, but they are focused only on profits.
2) Racial Genocide: The other key point that she brought up was that seed companies quite intentionally go to a geographic region and modify the indigenous plants sacred to native people. Much like the US government gave blankets to Native Americans infected with small pox, the seed companies go after the most important plants to indigenous people. In Mexico, they have monopolized corn; in India, cotton, wheat, and eggplant; and in Hawaii, have gone after taro (kalo). Further, there is now only 5% of cotton seed in India that is organic. That’s right, 95% is biotech. She said that the cotton belt is also known as the suicide belt. The seed companies come to the farmer’s land and ask the farmers to “sign on the dotted line”. They deliberately sell the farmers seeds that the seed companies know are going to fail in that region. (Why? Again, profits.) The farmers thus have to buy more seeds, thinking perhaps their failure was just something random that season. Over time, farmer’s inputs go up by as much as 500% as they are purchasing everything they need to grow the crops (fertilizer, seeds, pesticides) putting them into severe debt. What is even more insulting is that they market the seeds to farmers by using Hindu deities. If for example, a seed packet has Hanuman’s image, the farmers often say, “Why would Hanuman lie to us?” By the time the farmers realize that there is no way to pay down their significant debt, the companies come back and seize the land, separating them from all they have ever known, and from their spirituality. The farmers ultimately commit suicide. She said in a place where Hindus believe in reincarnation, there is no longer a place where they can reincarnate to. With this company’s plan, she said, there is no other life. She felt they are waging a war against sacred cultures and that the so-called “science” needs to be taken out of culture. Fertilizers are leftover ammunition from bombs, so this is the science of killing, not life. Monoculture is a recipe for starvation and environmental destruction. (Biodiversity is the opposite of this and what will provide more food and protect the environment, especially with climate change.) The “biotech scientists” they speak of are actually just made up people that claim to be experts. When you actually research them, they do not exist at all. (If you have ever seen the movie The Yes Men Fix The World, they are the antidote!)
3) Health Issues: Ever wonder why so many people are now having gluten issues? One thing Vandana Shiva talked about was how wheat is being cultivated now to yield high gluten. Why? To make more profits. Wheat that is indigenous to the place (in her case, India) is naturally LOW in gluten. Research with animals fed biotech food shows that they die from cancer and lose 50% of their offspring also to health problems.
4) The Right to Ignore Unjust Law: “Progress means thousands of small and medium size sustainable organic farms.” Shiva said that Gandhi has been her inspiration for her teachings and life work. He taught that one need not follow a law that is unjust. In Gandhi’s time, this dealt specifically with salt and cotton. Now in current times, this deals with the right to save seeds. She will save seeds that to her represented freedom, and her dream for 2013 is food freedom zones filled with gardens everywhere. In these gardens we can claim unity which she said rests on biodiversity. Our strength is in the power we share with nature and that the power of non-violence is stronger than the power of violence. The power of money held by these corporations will be defeated by our love of the earth and of each other across the world. Another speaker there, Andrew Kimbrell said, “What can you do? Defend love. We live on love, not efficiency.”
- Scientific studies are now starting to implicate genetically modified foods to infertility
- Studies show conventionally grown food has lower nutrient value
- High fat and sugar diets lead to obesity, hypoglycemia and diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, digestive distress, among many other common lifestyle related illnesses (Plant-based diets prevent and reverse the same ailments.)
- There are about 5,000 deaths each year from food-borne illnesses like e-coli
- Someone else is controlling your food source! There’s a definite lack of information about what’s actually in the food. Corporations do not often trace back to producers from places like China and it’s nearly impossible for consumers to get this information about all the ingredients in food items.
What’s the cost of getting a serious illness? Besides the financial cost, the emotional cost seems quite high.
Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are more satiating–they make you feel fuller than junk food even though they have fewer calories.
- Pesticides poison farm workers, the water system, and those who eat the foods
- Eroding soil
- Lost marine life due to soil run-off
- Loss of plant diversity from use of genetically modified seeds and produce
- Risk of extinction to many marine species from overfishing
- Use of machines to plant, harvest, refrigerate, and transport food uses fossil fuels that pollute the environment.
- Small farmers going out of business
- Resources are diverted to purchasing stimulants, depressants, sleeping pills, pain killers, and various other medications to alleviate symptoms
- Use of machines to plant, harvest, refrigerate, and transport food uses expensive fossil fuels
Monday wasn’t the best day for me, but my father always says, “Get a good night’s sleep. Things will look different the following day.” Hearing his voice, I went to bed early and when I got up on Tuesday and went outside, the first thing I saw was my orchid had bloomed in triplicate! So beautiful! It really was a great way to start the day.
Other simple pleasures of the day came from a phone call from two people who were updating me about their lives, expressing their happiness, growth, and changes. The personal connection and time spent sharing stories as well as celebration of another person’s success was very healing.
Later, I went grocery shopping to restock on staple items and things to cook with this week. For some reason, I’ve been thinking about Turkey, a country I’ve never been to yet, but would really love to see at some point. While I was grocery shopping, I was thinking about Mediterranean food, so picked up a variety of things that sounded good such as olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, local cucumbers and tomatoes, and artisan quality fig walnut bread.
These were transformed into “mezze” for my meal, and for dessert, some lilikoi that a friend shared with me from her garden along with a little bit of dark chocolate. She gave me baby plants that popped up out of her yard, and at long last they are fruiting, so my own will be ripe very soon.
All of the small stuff brightened my day!
The magazine Whole Living reports that when women who are trying to lose weight eat meals they’ve made at home (especially lunch), they drop 5 pounds a year more than women who eat out. Those who eat regular meals every day lost 8 pounds more. (This is probably true for men as well given that restaurants in general tend to add a lot of fat, salt, and sugar to their food to make it taste better.)
Here’s an example of a quick, easy, and healthy meal that I made after the Thanksgiving holiday to carry to the beach. It’s a chilled soba noodle salad with tofu, veggies (like cilantro, cherry tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and wakame), with peanut sauce. This is as simple as boiling the noodles, chopping the vegetables, and mixing together the ingredients for the dressing!
Here are a few images of the food from today’s side dishes class.
The menu was:
Artichoke and Heart of Palm Salad
Pumpkin Coconut Bisque
Christmas Parsnip Soup
Sweet Potato Casserole with Mapled Pecans
Oven Baked Squash
Also the second side dishes class included: Cranberry Chutney; Green Beans w/Pumpkin Seed Dressing; Mashed Potatoes w/Shiitake Gravy; Olive, Onion, Walnut Pan Bread; Brussels Sprout Salad.
Apple Pie is on the dessert menu ?
If you’ve been to my cooking classes, you probably know how much I love parsley! Here are the reasons why:
Parsley’s volatile oils qualify it as a “chemoprotective” food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke). In addition to its volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is an excellent source of two vital nutrients that are also important for the prevention of many diseases: vitamin C and vitamin A (notably through its concentration of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene). Some studies indicate that vitamin C-rich foods, such as parsley, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.
I was there learning about the chocolate making process with Dave of Madre Chocolate. It was wonderful to gulp in all the fresh air while simultaneously marveling at the 70+ types of fruit growing there. The chocolate making process is fascinating. Check it out some time!
Getting out in nature is just a fabulous thing to do to restore one’s natural balance and learning from others is truly so much fun.
And here are a few more photos from my recent trip:
For more amazing photo’s and info about Reppun Farm, here’s a post that I wrote when I went two years ago:
Learn how to cook with local, organic produce: [CSA BOX CLASS]
Leslie Ashburn 5 element theory, Blog, class, community, cooking, cooking class, green, hawaii, health, holistic, honolulu, local, macrobiotic, Macrobiotic Hawaii, organic, seasonal, vegan, vegetarian No Comments
In the 8/12 Got Spice? cooking class I taught how to make:
- Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Dip
- Red Lentil Tagine
- Thai Vegetable Soup
And more from when I was setting up and waiting for all the participants to arrive…
We have one more class in the series coming up on 8/19! CSA BOX