rn: Vandana Shiva on Poverty & Globalization (how did the wells go dry?)


Jan Slakov

Date: Wed, 24 May 2000 01:55:59 -0500
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <•••@••.•••>
Subject: (Fwd) [GT] Vandana Shiva - Reith Lecture on Globalization
  (long post) (fwd)

MichaelP wrote:

> This is the BBC's transcript of a 25 minute lecture, plus Questions and
> Answers, plus selected e-mail comments.
> ========================
<snip>         VANDANA SHIVA
> Recently, I was visiting Bhatinda in Punjab because of an epidemic of
> farmer suicides. Punjab used to be the most prosperous agricultural
region> in India. Today every farmer is in debt and despair. Vast stretches of
> land have become water-logged desert. And as an old farmer pointed out,
> even the trees have stopped bearing fruit because heavy use of pesticides
> have killed the pollinators - the bees and butterflies.
> And Punjab is not alone in experiencing this ecological and social
> disaster. Last year I was in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh where farmers have
> also been committing suicide. Farmers who traditionally grew pulses and
> millets and paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton
> seeds referred to by the seed merchants as "white gold", which were
> supposed to make them millionaires. Instead they became paupers.
> Their native seeds have been displaced with new hybrids which cannot be
> saved and need to be purchased every year at high cost. Hybrids are also
> very vulnerable to pest attacks. Spending on pesticides in Warangal has
> shot up 2000 per cent from $2.5 million in the 1980s to $50 million in
> 1997. Now farmers are consuming the same pesticides as a way of killing
> themselves so that they can escape permanently from unpayable debt.
> The corporations are now trying to introduce genetically engineered seed
> which will further increase costs and ecological risks. That is why
> farmers like Malla Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh Farmers' Union had
> Monsanto's genetically engineered Bollgard cotton in Warangal.
> On March 27th, 25 year old Betavati Ratan took his life because he could
> not pay pack debts for drilling a deep tube well on his two-acre farm.
The> wells are now dry, as are the wells in Gujarat and Rajasthan where more
> than 50 million people face a water famine.
> The drought is not a "natural disaster". It is "man-made". It is the
> result of mining of scarce ground water in arid regions to grow thirsty
> cash crops for exports instead of water prudent food crops for local
> needs.
> It is experiences such as these which tell me that we are so wrong to be
> smug about the new global economy. I will argue in this lecture that it
is> time to stop and think about the impact of globalisation on the lives of
> ordinary people. This is vital to achieve sustainability.
> Seattle and the World Trade Organisation protests last year have forced
> everyone to think again. Throughout this lecture series people have
> referred to different aspects of sustainable development taking
> globalisation for granted. For me it is now time radically to re-evaluate
> what we are doing. For what we are doing in the name of globalisation to
> the poor is brutal and unforgivable. This is specially evident in India
> we witness the unfolding disasters of globalisation, especially in food
> and agriculture.
> Who feeds the world? My answer is very different to that given by most
> people.
> It is women and small farmers working with biodiversity who are the
> primary food providers in the Third World, and contrary to the dominant
> assumption, their biodiversity based small farms are more productive than
> industrial monocultures.
> The rich diversity and sustainable systems of food production are being
> destroyed in the name of increasing food production. However, with the
> destruction of diversity, rich sources of nutrition disappear. When
> measured in terms of nutrition per acre, and from the perspective
> biodiversity, the so called "high yields" of industrial agriculture or
> industrial fisheries do not imply more production of food and nutrition.
> Yields usually refers to production per unit area of a single crop.
> refers to the total production of diverse crops and products. Planting
> only one crop in the entire field as a monoculture will of course
> its individual yield. Planting multiple crops in a mixture will have low
> yields of individual crops, but will have high total output of food.
> Yields have been defined in such a way as to make the food production on
> small farms by small farmers disappear. This hides the production by
> millions of women farmers in the Third World - farmers like those in my
> native Himalaya who fought against logging in the Chipko movement, who in
> their terraced fields even today grow Jhangora (barnyard millet), Marsha
> (Amaranth), Tur (Pigeon Pea), Urad (Black gram), Gahat (horse gram), Soya
> Bean (Glycine Max), Bhat (Glycine Soya) - endless diversity in their
> fields. From the biodiversity perspective, biodiversity based
> is higher than monoculture productivity. I call this blindness to the
> productivity of diversity a "Monoculture of the Mind", which creates
> monocultures in our fields and in our world.
> The Mayan peasants in the Chiapas are characterised as unproductive
> because they produce only 2 tons of corn per acre. However, the overall
> food output is 20 tons per acre when the diversity of their beans and
> squashes, their vegetables their fruit trees are taken into account.
> In Java, small farmers cultivate 607 species in their home gardens. In
> sub-Saharan Africa, women cultivate 120 different plants. A single home
> garden in Thailand has 230 species, and African home gardens have more
> than 60 species of trees.
> Rural families in the Congo eat leaves from more than 50 species of their
> farm trees.
> A study in eastern Nigeria found that home gardens occupying only 2 per
> cent of a household's farmland accounted for half of the farm's total
> output. In Indonesia 20 per cent of household income and 40 per cent of
> domestic food supplies come from the home gardens managed by women.
> Research done by FAO has shown that small biodiverse farms can produce
> thousands of times more food than large, industrial monocultures.
> And diversity in addition to giving more food is the best strategy for
> preventing drought and desertification.
> What the world needs to feed a growing population sustainably is
> biodiversity intensification, not the chemical intensification or the
> intensification of genetic engineering. While women and small peasants
> feed the world through biodiversity we are repeatedly told that without
> genetic engineering and globalisation of agriculture the world will
> starve. In spite of all empirical evidence showing that genetic
> engineering does not produce more food and in fact often leads to a yield
> decline, it is constantly promoted as the only alternative available for
> feeding the hungry.
> That is why I ask, who feeds the world?
> This deliberate blindness to diversity, the blindness to nature's
> production, production by women, production by Third World farmers allows
> destruction and appropriation to be projected as creation.
> Take the case of the much flouted "golden rice" or genetically engineered
> Vitamin A rice as a cure for blindness. It is assumed that without
> engineering we cannot remove Vitamin A deficiency. However, nature gives
> us abundant and diverse sources of vitamin A. If rice was not polished,
> rice itself would provide Vitamin A. If herbicides were not sprayed on
> wheat fields, we would have bathua, amaranth, mustard leaves as delicious
> and nutritious greens that provide Vitamin A.
> Women in Bengal use more than 150 plants as greens - Hinche sak (Enhydra
> fluctuans), Palang sak (Spinacea oleracea), Tak palang (Rumex
> vesicarious), Lal Sak (Amaranthus gangeticus) - to name but a few.
> But the myth of creation presents biotechnologists as the creators of
> Vitamin A, negating nature's diverse gifts and women's knowledge of how
> use this diversity to feed their children and families.
> The most efficient means of rendering the destruction of nature, local
> economies and small autonomous producers is by rendering their production
> invisible.
> Women who produce for their families and communities are treated as
> `non-productive' and `economically' inactive. The devaluation of women's
> work, and of work done in sustainable economies, is the natural outcome
> a system constructed by capitalist patriarchy. This is how globalisation
> destroys local economies and destruction itself is counted as growth.
> The globalisation of non-sustainable industrial agriculture is literally
> evaporating the incomes of Third World farmers through a combination of
> devaluation of currencies, increase in costs of production and a collapse
> in commodity prices.
> Farmers everywhere are being paid a fraction of what they received for
> same commodity a decade ago. The Canadian National Farmers Union put it
> like this in a report to the senate this year:
> "While the farmers growing cereal grains - wheat, oats, corn - earn
> negative returns and are pushed close to bankruptcy, the companies that
> make breakfast cereals reap huge profits. In 1998, cereal companies
> Kellogg's, Quaker Oats, and General Mills enjoyed return on equity rates
> of 56%, 165% and 222% respectively. While a bushel of corn sold for less
> than $4, a bushel of corn flakes sold for $133 ... Maybe farmers are
> making too little because others are taking too much."
> And a World Bank report has admitted that "behind the polarisation of
> domestic consumer prices and world prices is the presence of large
trading> companies in international commodity markets."
> While farmers earn less, consumers pay more. In India, food prices have
> doubled between 1999 and 2000. The consumption of food grains in rural
> areas has dropped by 12%. Increased economic growth through global
> commerce is based on pseudo surpluses. More food is being traded while
the> poor are consuming less. When growth increases poverty, when real
> production becomes a negative economy, and speculators are defined as
> "wealth creators", something has gone wrong with the concepts and
> categories of wealth and wealth creation. Pushing the real production by
> nature and people into a negative economy implies that production of real
> goods and services is declining, creating deeper poverty for the millions
> who are not part of the dot.com route to instant wealth creation.
> Women - as I have said - are the primary food producers and food
> processors in the world. However, their work in production and processing
> is now becoming invisible.
> Recently, the McKinsey corporation said: "American food giants recognise
> that Indian agro-business has lots of room to grow, especially in food
> processing. India processes a minuscule 1 per cent of the food it grows
> compared with 70 per cent for the U.S...".
> It is not that we Indians eat our food raw. Global consultants fail to
> the 99 per cent food processing done by women at household level, or by
> the small cottage industry because it is not controlled by global
> agribusiness. 99% of India's agroprocessing has been intentionally kept
at> the small level. Now , under the pressure of globalisation, things are
> changing. Pseudo hygiene laws are being uses to shut down local economies
> and small scale processing.
> In August 1998, small scale local processing of edible oil was banned in
> India through a "packaging order" which made sale of open oil illegal and
> required all oil to be packaged in plastic or aluminium. This shut down
> tiny "ghanis" or cold pressed mills. It destroyed the market for our
> diverse oilseeds - mustard, linseed, sesame, groundnut, coconut.
> And the take-over of the edible oil industry has affected 10 million
> livelihoods. The take over of flour or "atta" by packaged branded flour
> will cost 100 million livelihoods. And these millions are being pushed
> into new poverty.
> The forced use of packaging will increase the environmental burden of
> millions of tonnes of waste.
> The globalisation of the food system is destroying the diversity of local
> food cultures and local food economies. A global monoculture is being
> forced on people by defining everything that is fresh, local and handmade
> as a health hazard. Human hands are being defined as the worst
> contaminants, and work for human hands is being outlawed, to be replaced
> by machines and chemicals bought from global corporations. These are not
> recipes for feeding the world, but stealing livelihoods from the poor to
> create markets for the powerful.
> People are being perceived as parasites, to be exterminated for the
> "health" of the global economy.
> In the process new health and ecological hazards are being forced on
> World people through dumping of genetically engineered foods and other
> hazardous products.
> Recently, because of a W.T.O. ruling, India has been forced to remove
> restrictions on all imports.
> Among the unrestricted imports are carcasses and animal waste parts that
> create a threat to our culture and introduce public health hazards such
as> the Mad Cow Disease.
> The US Centre for Disease Prevention in Atlanta has calculated that
nearly> 81 million cases of food borne illnesses occur in the US every year.
> Deaths from food poisoning have gone up more up more than four times due
> to deregulation. Most of these infections are caused by factory farmed
> meat. The US slaughters 93 million pigs, thirty seven million cattle, two
> million calves, six million horses, goats and sheep and eight billion
> chickens and turkeys each year.
> Now the giant meat industry of US wants to dump contaminated meat
produced> through violent and cruel methods on Indian consumers.
> The waste of the rich is being dumped on the poor. The wealth of the poor
> is being violently appropriated through new and clever means like patents
> on biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.
> <snip>
> As humans travel further down the road to non-sustainability, they become
> intolerant of other species and blind to their vital role in our
> In 1992, when Indian farmers destroyed Cargill's seed plant in Bellary,
> Karnataka, to protest against seed failure, the Cargill Chief Executive
> stated, "We bring Indian farmers smart technologies which prevent bees
> from usurping the pollen". When I was participating in the United Nations
> Biosafety Negotiations, Monsanto circulated literature to defend its
> herbicide resistant Roundup ready crops on grounds that they prevent
> "weeds from stealing the sunshine". But what Monsanto calls weeds are the
> green fields that provide Vitamin A rice and prevent blindness in
children> and anaemia in women.
> A worldview that defines pollination as "theft by bees" and claims
> biodiversity "steals" sunshine is a worldview which itself aims at
> stealing nature's harvest by replacing open, pollinated varieties with
> hybrids and sterile seeds, and destroying biodiverse flora with
herbicides> such as Roundup. The threat posed to the Monarch butterfly by
> engineered bt crops is just one example of the ecological poverty created
> by the new biotechnologies. As butterflies and bees disappear, production
> is undermined. As biodiversity disappears, with it go sources of
nutrition > and food.
> The world can be fed only by feeding all beings that make the world.
> In giving food to other beings and species we maintain conditions for our
> own food security. In feeding earthworms we feed ourselves. In feeding
> cows, we feed the soil, and in providing food for the soil, we provide
> food for humans. This worldview of abundance is based on sharing and on a
> deep awareness of humans as members of the earth family. This awareness
> that in impoverishing other beings, we impoverish ourselves and in
> nourishing other beings, we nourish ourselves is the real basis of
> sustainability.
> The sustainability challenge for the new millennium is whether global
> economic man can move out of the worldview based on fear and scarcity,
> monocultures and monopolies, appropriation and dispossession and shift to
> a view based on abundance and sharing, diversity and decentralisation,
and> respect and dignity for all beings.
> Sustainability demands that we move out of the economic trap that is
> leaving no space for other species and other people. Economic
> Globalisation has become a war against nature and the poor. But the rules
> of globalisation are not god - given. They can be changed. They must be
> changed. We must bring this war to an end.

> As Gandhi had reminded us: "The earth has enough for everyone's needs,
> not for some people's greed".
> **Sujata Gupta, the Tata Energy Research Institute:
>         I'd like to hear your views on sustainable use of scarce inputs
> like water for agriculture. What I gathered from your lecture was total
> condemnation of the market system.
>  Vandana Shiva:
>         Let me first respond by saying - I love markets. I love my local
> market where local "subgees" are sold, and one can chat with the women.
> The tragedy really is that the market is being turned into the only
> organising principle for life, and Wall St is being turned into the only
> source of value, and it's the disappearance of other markets, other
values> that I am condemning. In terms of water, the solution to water
> conservation and scarce water management is not putting it in the hands
of> those who can afford to buy the last drop, but to put it in the hands of
> the community, to use it sustainably within the limits of renewal. The
> water must be returned to the communities and managed as a commons - it
> has to be taken beyond the marketplace.
> **Professor Marva, University of Delhi:
>         Can there be sustainable development without sustainable
> population?
>  Vandana Shiva:
>         I think non-sustainable population growth is a symptom and
product> of non-sustainable development. It's not that population grows by
> as a separate phenomena - you look at the data - Indian population had
> stability till 1800 - colonisation, dispossession of land started to make
> our population grow. Highest growth rates of population in England is
> after the enclosures of the commons. It's the loss of resources of the
> people that generate livelihood and the replacement of resources by
labour> to be sold on markets in an uncertain daily wage market that triggers
> population growth. Population growth is a result of non-sustainable
> development.
> Gulgit Choudhury, Ram Organics:
>         I have worked earlier with Monsanto. I have a simple question to
> ask you. Suppose you were given the opportunity to develop parameters of
> social governance which ensures sustainability - what would you suggest
> for countries like India.?
>  Vandana Shiva:
>         We are in fact involved for the last few years - generating the
> kind of criteria through participatory democracy building - through
> ensuring that people at every level have the information, through
ensuring> that communities are organised, to manage collectively the
resources that
> can only be sustained collectively. If I have the money and power to
drill> a deep tube well I can make dry my neighbour's shallow well and she will
> usually be a very poor woman. And therefore the only way a village can
> conserve its ground water is to do what the "Paani Panchayath" did in
> Harash - ensure that water is used within limits. Systems of governance
> have to begin with where people feel the impact, and therefore we do
> require the rebuilding of decentralised direct democracy. I do not see
> growers as isolated individuals because the consequences of their action
> are felt by their neighbours. If I am growing b.t. corn on my field I
kill> the monarch butterfly of my neighbour's field. Communities, collectives
> are cohesiveness of societies are important to talk about not individual
> growers, and that is the bottom rung of decision making to which both
> which corporations as well as governments need to be accountable - that
is> the experiment that started after Seattle and that experiment in
> accountable localisation to ensure that decisions are made at appropriate
> place and production is carried out at the appropriate level is really
the> new enterprise of democracy that societies are involved in around the
> world, even while globalisation threatens our lives.
> **Finally, we had this from last year's Reith lecturer Anthony Giddens -
> addressing you Vandana he says -
>         "I congratulate you on your challenging presentation. I have to
> say though I don't agree with much of it. Isn't it a contradiction in
> terms to use the global media to put a case against globalisation?"
> Vandana Shiva:
>         I don't think BBC is a product of the economic globalisation
> regime that the World Trade Organisation gave us or the new recent trade
> liberalisation has given us. I think it was created in l922 and
> international integration, international communication is not what
> economic globalisation is about. Corporate concentration, corporate
> control is what recent economic globalisation is about and in fact the
BBC> is a counter-example to that because the real example of globalised media
> and communication is Time Warner, now bought up by American on Line,
> Disney, and the News Corporation.
> **Prof. Vinod Chowdhury, reader in economics at St. Stephen's College:
>         It strikes me as very extraordinary that Vandanaji should have
> such a one sided approach. And I'm saying that with due respect to the
> sheer vivacity of her presentation. Vandanaji seems to believe that there
> are two clearly antithetical paradigms. One is a paradigm that
essentially> is based on decentralisation, democratisation - all the good
things in
> life - - women are cared for, poor people are cared for - this, that and
> the other. And other is terribly evil. Everything's wrong with it. Now
> surely life cannot be like that Vandanaji may I plead with you to please
> consider third paradigm, where we take bits and pieces from here and
there> and get an eclectic, practical approach, and I support Boopinder Singh
> Hooda - the President of the Haryama Congress who asked you - and you
> didn't answer that - what is the alternative at a time when no country
can> opt out of the WTO - it's not a piece of paper madam - it is a commitment
> that countries have to make or they will be paraiah countries and we
> cannot afford to be a paraiah country - please react?
>  Vandana Shiva:
>         I did react to him. And I said rewriting those rules - rewriting
> those rules that are one sided. In fact it's the WTO rules that are
> totally one sided because they really only protect the interest of one
> sector of the global community which is the global corporations, not in
> the local industry, not even local retail business, not small farmers
> anywhere, not in the north and not in the south. And those rules can be
> rewritten. That is the point I'm trying to make. Do not treat WTO rules
in> the Uruguay Round Treaty as the final word on how trade should be carried
> out. Those rules are being reviewed. What we have called for in Seattle
is> a more democratic input in what sustainable and just rules would look
like> for agriculture on intellectual property rights, in the area of services,
> in the area of investments, the four new areas which were brought in.
> Before that - no-one had problems with the GATT. The old GATT was about
> real trade in real products beyond national boundaries. The new GATT with
> the Uruguay round - is about invading in every space of our everyday
lives> ... and if you are a woman you do have a somewhat different point of
> That's why we talk of gender. If you are poor, you will have a different
> point of view from the rich. To have different points of view because of
> differences in location in society is not a problem. It is opportunistic
> though to take a little element of the perspective of the rich , a little
> element of the perspective of the poor and put it into a little jigsaw of
> opportunistic statements. Societies live by coherent principles,
> organisational systems, values and world views. And what we are calling
> for is to balance out that one sided idea that we live by commerce alone.
> **Rovinder Raki, student:
>         You seem to eulogise the fairness and efficiency of traditional
> agricultures, societies and production patterns. But the reality is that
> the farmers were exploited in these societies by moneylenders and feudal
> lords. With the market reaching these societies that exploitative social
> system certainly declines. Now what I have to ask you is what restrains
> you from appreciating this sanitising effect of the market?
>  Vandana Shiva:
>         Well the sanitising affect of the market does end up treating
> people like germs. Wipe them out. And it is that view of dispensability,
> the disappearances of the small that I was trying to draw attention to in
> my lecture. There has always been exploitation, and I agree with Mr
> but no exploitation before this period of current, economic
> ever organised itself in ways that it could totally dispense with the
> exploited. Even the slave system needed the slave. Even the worst of
> British rule which created the Bengal famine, and led to the "Faybehaga"
> movement to rise against the exploitation, it needed to keep the peasants
> alive For the first time we have a system where no-one needs the
peasants,> unless we realise as societies we need them, that we've reached a
> where people are actually talking in India, in other countries that you
> can get rid of small producers. It's assumed that everything, real
growth,> real prosperity is going to come out of cyber space, but as you can
> you can have the best of IT technologies floating above the carcasses of
> people dying in Rajisthan and Gujerat right now -- and it will not help
> them out. We have to pay attention to the ecological base of our survival
> and the needs of all. I personally am committed to feeling and believing
> that the smallest of species and the smallest of people have as much a
> right to live on this planet with dignity as the most powerful
> and the most powerful individual.
> ======================
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