Deepak Chopra and Vandana Shiva Talk Seeds and GMOs
When meta-physician, Deepak Chopra and food champion and ecologist, Vandana Shiva met before a live audience at his Love in Action series atDeepakHomeBase,
they had a good laugh over the Bullshit Award. Yes, that’s right. Monsanto gave a Bullshit Award to Shiva. To Shiva, whom Forbes Magazine called one of the seven most powerful women on earth, that was an unintended compliment. To get the joke, it helps to recognize the value of cow dung (the Indian down-on-the-farm name for bullshit.)
Cow dung is the original recyclable material. It helps fertilize the fields that grow the grass, which the cows, that produce the dung, feed upon. Their grazing helps our dehydrating planet retain moisture in the earth, contributing to global water supplies. Cow dung use cuts down on the excess nitrogen produced by chemical fertilizers, which contribute to climate change. In a pinch cow dung can be burned for fuel (lowering fossil fuel use) or to help build or insulate a home (lowering fuel use and providing low cost shelter.) As an added gift, those grazing cows produce the butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese that people eat as well.
By surveying the versatile ecology of cow dung, even urban dwellers, like me, can see the earthy pragmatism embedded in the Indian worship of cows (and indeed all life) as sacred. That’s why Chopra and Shiva laughed at the would-be insult.
But before anyone rushes in to take for themselves alone the newly perceived value of cow dung, let’s recognize it as just one part of a teaming, living ecology that supports human life by helping to:
- Feed more people
- Promote self-sufficiency
- Create more jobs
- Harvest more energy
- Maintain the earth’s climate and ecological balance
Time has tested and proven the value of cow dung, and the natural cycle to which it belongs. Acting in ways that attune with nature’s processes and cycles is not about having the right to label a product “natural.” It is about following nature as the supreme guide to creating and maintaining life. Otherwise, we risk undermining and destroying the baseline conditions for life, the two Indian scientists maintain. (Shiva originally trained as a physicist.) In different ways, they express the utter urgency to make the right choices now.
As opposed to the life proliferating activities of cow dung, GMO seeds are “terminator seeds designed to be sterile, in a deliberate creation of food scarcity for profits,” says Shiva, who has worked with and defended the rights of farmers to store seeds for three decades.
Whether or not GMOs hold up to the Monsanto claim of feeding more people, (a claim that Shiva disputes, countering that 80 percent of food is grown on small farms, rather than mass industrial ones) Monsanto defines success very differently than Shiva does.
Rather than seek to promoting life through promoting food cultivation, Monsanto acts to:
- Obtain the exclusive intellectual property rights to the earth’s seeds
- Modify seeds genetically with pesticides and herbicides
- Build planned obsolescence into traditional crops
- Sue farmers who maintain the centuries old ecological cycle by collecting seeds from each new crop
In the U.S., where long time industry executives hold powerful positions in key governmental regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA are pursuing pro-GMO policies. But how well have those worked in India? There, Vandana Shiva reports that they have resulted in the suicide of a quarter of a million Indian farmers. When in the aftermath of being forced into industrial agriculture, Indian farmers lost their independence, livelihoods, food, and farms, they committed suicide, she says, by drinking what remained: the chemical pesticides produced by industrial giants.
The technological science so highly prized in our civilization has another side.
“Yes, it has given us important tools,” Chopra acknowledges, before he goes on to enumerate the ugly side of “fragmented science,” such as global warming, ecological destruction, mechanized death, nuclear weapons, GMOs, and pesticides. “Together they are risking our extinction as a species,” he says.
Beyond the specific health impacts Chopra enumerates, including “cancer, hormonal disorders, weight gain, allergies, and propensity to infections,” lies a more pervasive problem. “What is happening in our body is also happening in the body of Mother Earth. Because many of the chemicals and processes were originally developed for military aims, their purpose is destructive.” Using them in life proliferating activities, like food farming, amounts to “declaring war on the land,” Chopra points out.
Vandana Shiva tallies the impacts of technological science on the living systems on which humans depend.
“Pollinators are disappearing. We have a migration of birds, a loss of planetary water, changing weather patterns. We have created a war on life.”