The Right to Choose with Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva spent three years doing interdisciplinary research at the Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Management. In 1982 she left an academic career to start the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), a public interest research organization focusing on critical ecological issues of our times.
In 1987, Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya (which means both “nine seeds” as well as “new gift”) to start saving seeds as an alternative to the corporations rushing to patent and genetically engineer seeds. Dr. Shiva is recognized as a leading expert on the issue of intellectual property in the area of biodiversity and seed. Her research and books are used in universities worldwide. Dr. Shiva has been a visiting professor and lectured at many universities across the globe.
While many types of food sovereignty used to be commonly accepted, during this time of big corporations and technological experimentation, common ownership of things as basic as seeds is being called into question. Dr. Shiva explains the term food sovereignty and describes how it relates to both the agricultural systems and our health.
Douglas Gayeton: The terms food sovereignty and food security are often confused and sometimes used interchangeably, but are they the same thing?
Vandana Shiva: They can mean the same thing if you define them as one. The reason they don’t mean the same thing is because food security was defined with the rise of globalization as having money in your pocket to buy food no matter where it’s produced. There was this total relocation of food security as something you buy. You are food sovereign when you can grow the food and not be prevented from growing it. It was the distortions on the language of food security that lead to the emergence of food sovereignty.
Douglas Gayeton: Does food sovereignty have a cultural aspect of wanting to protect the cultural identity that is attached to food?
Vandana Shiva: Yes. But if you look at all the literature of the Food and Agricultural Organization, and its discussions on food, they do talk about food as culture and they do talk about food as a way of living. It only became a commoditized interpretation with the rise of globalization. Every time there are new threats and a new emptying out of meaning then you get new movements to put meaning into things, which were normal. Seed was a commons, now we’re having to talk the language of seed sovereignty when before Monsanto you didn’t have to talk about seed sovereignty because you had seed sovereignty.
Douglas Gayeton: Why should we care about it? Do we need the 10 types of zucchini my grandmother had growing in her garden?
Vandana Shiva: You need 10 types of zucchini because that variety in the zucchini has relationships with the soil, the insect, the pollinators and everything else, but it also has a whole different relationship in terms of your diet.
They track how every variety has a different kind of conversation with different cells of the body. They have a companionship with different parts of the body. Now that’s the subtlety of diversity, of the level of the complexity of our body. The complexity of the ecosystem is something gene shooting.
Part of the intellectual property rights idea is that Monsanto puts in a toxic gene and says, I created this life, I’m the creator of corn, I’m the creator of soy, I’m the creator of banana, I’m the creator of canola and the creator of everything I touch.
I call it the biggest creation myth of capitalist patriarchy, because capitalist patriarchy assumes that when capital touches life, including when it touches to extinguish it, that’s when creation begins. This is necessarily blind to the creativity, intelligence and work of nature, the creativity, intelligence and work of the men, the creativity, intelligence and work of the peasants.