Vandana Shiva, ‘Seeds of Freedom’

Shiva picScientist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva has contributed a piece to the latest edition of Delhi’s The Asian Age (known as “India’s global newspaper”), entitled ‘Seeds of Freedom’ in which she discusses the reciprocal relationship between biodiversity and cultural diversity, specifically in the practice of seed planting which she now sees as threatened by the privatising practices of multinational agro-businesses such as Monsanto:

In times of climate change we need the biodiversity of farmers’ varieties to adapt and evolve. … While nature and farmers have evolved the traits of climate resilience in seeds, corporations claim their role of creator; they declare that seeds are their “invention”, hence their patented property. In times of climate change, such monopolies aggravate the disaster by blocking farmers’ rights to seeds they have evolved. Hence, seed as a common good became a commodity of private seed companies, traded on the open market.

Returning to themes which will be familiar to followers of her writing and activism, Shiva frames the discussion in terms of a broader “fight against corporate enclosures of the commons” and argues:

If we have to survive as a species, we need to reclaim our commons — of seed, of climate, of knowledge and resist the privatisation of every aspect of life.

This existential threat of corporate enclosure and the need to return to a harmonious relationship with the natural world is the subject of Shiva’s works such as Soil Not Oil (Zed, 2009) and the more recent Making Peace with the Earth (Pluto, 2013). In the latter of these two, Shiva talks about what she terms “eco-apartheid”, a deliberately evocative phrase to describe a stark situation:

The global corporate economy based on the idea of limitless growth has become a permanent war economy against the planet and people. The means are instruments of war; coercive free trade treaties used to organise economies on the basis of trade wars; and technologies of production based on violence and control, such as toxins, genetic engineering, geo-engineering and nano-technologies. Here we have just another form of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which kill millions in peace-time by robbing them of food and water and poisoning the web of life.

With such an adroit mixture of vital information and vivid prose, little wonder she has achieved the position described by The Guardian as “one of the world’s most prominent radical scientists”. You can read the entirety of her article for The Asian Age here and pick up a copy of Making Peace with the Earth here.

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