Occupy the Food System! by Eric Holt Gimenez

In the past few weeks, the U.S. Food Movement has made its presence felt in Occupy Wall Street. Voices from food justice organizations across the country are connecting the dots between hunger, diet-related diseases and the unchecked power of Wall Street investors and corporations (See Tom Philppot’s excellent article in Mother Jones).

This is very fertile ground.

On one hand, the Food Movement’s practical alternatives to industrial food are rooted at the base of our economic system. Its activities are key to building the alternative, localized economies being called for by Occupy Wall Street. On the other hand, Occupy provides a space for the Food Movement to politicize its collective agenda and scale-up community-based solutions by changing the rules that govern local economies.

Of course, in the U.S., what we refer to as the “food movement” is really more of a loose “food network” of non-profit organizations and community groups (CSAs, food policy councils, community gardens, etc) with a sprinkling of bona-fide family farmer organizations and food worker organizations. There’s nothing wrong with this. The network has blossomed over the past decade, creating an amazing social infrastructure that is actively using the food system to make us healthier and happier. In the Food Movement we re-learn and re-invent ways of farming, cooking and eating. In doing so, we put back in the social, economic and cultural values robbed by the industrial food system.

But if the community gardens, CSAs, farm-to-school programs and sustainable family farms in the Food Movement are so great why isn’t everyone doing it?

The simple answer is, because the rules and institutions governing our food system — Wall Street, the U.S. Farm Bill, the World Trade Organization and the USDA — all favor the global monopolies controlling the world’s seeds, food processing, distribution and retail. This should come as no surprise, the “revolving door” between government and corporate food monopolies is alive and well, and goes back decades. But it means it’s unlikely that the Food Movement’s alternatives will ever become the norm rather than the alternative fringe — unless the Food Movement can change the rules and institutions controlling our food.

To do that, the Food Movement needs politicizing.

Why? Hasn’t it worked to improve school food, legalize urban chickens and reform the farm bill? Indeed, it has made important strides in impacting food policy. But many community food organizations have become dependent on the diminishing funding streams from the very foundations that helped them get off the ground. The nation’s economic downturn has further affected community organizations, forcing them to tighten belts, cut staff, eliminate programs and compete for scarce resources at a time when communities need them more than ever. This makes them vulnerable to cooptation.

This is not to say that the organizations in the Food Movement don’t deserve financial support. They do, and the existence of so many community food organizations is testament to positive cooperation with funders. But a broad-based movement is a different animal than an isolated community organization. For a movement, following a funding stream is the tail wagging the dog. Movements are about creating political will for the benefit of all. They converge, unifying and amplifying popular voices around a shared vision. Politically, movements cannot afford to be disarmed by money, silenced or divided.

A movement to “occupy the food system” will need to put healthy food in our communities and community voices in places of power.

A new, collective decision-making process is being fleshed out at Occupy sites across the country, and in the vibrant conversations on blogs, list servs and social media. It’s about more than formulating “demands.” As Naomi Klein commented in a recent visit to Food First, “Demands are about negotiation and compromise; this movement is articulating a broader vision.” As the food movement moves into the new political spaces being opened up by Occupy Wall Street, a bold vision of food sovereignty is being crafted — one in which food decisions, food resources and the food dollar are not controlled by Wall Street or by the food monopolies, but by local communities.

This political “convergence in diversity” has the potential to takes us from the strategies for survival to strategies for transformation.

Co-authored by Tanya Kerssen.

Food ministry says it is not averse to export of wheat or rice

NEW DELHI: Taking a U-turn, Food Minister K V Thomas today said he was not opposed to allowing exports of foodgrains and a decision on the issue will be taken by a panel of ministers at the earliest.

The government in early 2007 had banned shipment of wheat and later in April, 2008 restricted exports of non- basmati rice.

“We are not averse to export of foodgrains. I do not mind export of some quantity of wheat and rice as there is a bumper production. There are suggestions from state governments and other ministries for exports of 2 million tonnes of wheat and 1 million tonnes of rice,” Thomas told reporters, here.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food, headed by Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee , will take a decision at on allowing export of wheat and rice at the earliest, he said.

The minister had said several times that exports could not take place in view of the huge demand of foodgrains under the proposed National Food Security Act.

The government is now facing the problem of plenty with granaries overflowing in its godowns. As on June 1, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has an all-time-high stock of 65.4 million tonnes of wheat and rice.

Sources said that the Food Ministry, which fears shortage of space in view of bumper procurement, has already send a proposal on this issue to the Commerce Ministry.

Asked whether the government will permit export of grains stored in FCI or from the private trade, Thomas said, “Details are being worked out. The final call will be taken by the EGoM”.

He, however, said that the export should not lead rise in domestic retail price and benefit should reach to farmers.

Wheat procurement by the FCI has touched the record 28 million tonnes in the ongoing 2011-12 rabi marketing season (April-June).
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreigntrade/Food-ministry-says-it-is-not-averse-to-export-of-wheat-or-rice/articleshow/9040598.cms

Industrialising India’s Food Flows: An analysis of the food waste argument

23rd May, 2011, Rahul Goswami

From the mid-term appraisal of the Eleventh Five Year plan onwards, central government ministries have been telling us that post-harvest losses in India are high, particularly for fruits and vegetables. The amount of waste often quoted is up to 40% for vegetables and fruits, and has been held up as the most compelling reason to permit a flood of investment in the new sector of agricultural logistics, to allow the creation of huge food processing zones, and to link all these to retail food structures in urban markets. The urban orientation of such an approach ignores the integrated and organic farming approach, as it does the evidence that sophistication in food processing has not in the West prevented food loss or waste.

Fighting hunger together

Express News Service ,
The New Indian Express
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/fighting-hunger-together/156359-60-121.html

Oxfam, an Indian organization working towards eradicating poverty and building a sustainable world, launched the global Grow campaign on June 1 at Hari Hara Kala Bhavan.

To kick start the campaign, the organisation hosted a photo exhibition on food and hunger, two ethnic food stalls, one handloom stall and topped off the evening with a cultural performance.

Shaik Anwar, regional manager, Oxfam India, said, “Grow is Oxfam’s campaign for a better way to grow, share and live together. It is a campaign for billions of us who eat food and over a billion men and women who grow it, to share solutions for a more hopeful future in which everyone always has enough to eat. India is a strategic country for this campaign — we are launching this campaign simultaneously in Hyderabad and Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai and Guwahati in India.”

One billion hungry

Nearly one billion people in the world face hunger every day. One in four of the world’s billion hungry people live in India. The rise in food prices in 2011 has only exacerbated the problem. Through the Grow campaign, Oxfam wants to convey a simple message — come together to live better.

K Sajaya, an activist and documentary filmmaker from the Caring Citizens’ Collective in attendance, opined, “It makes me sad to see that the very people who provide food to the society are the ones who are going hungry. It is time to demolish the prevailing notion that hunger is individual and realise that hunger is societal. It is time that the government and the civil society thrive to bring a holistic and sustainable solution to the millions of providers (farmers) to have enough to eat.”

The message

To build a brighter future Grow suggests that one should learn to ‘share better’ — which means managing markets to prevent food crises, stopping corporate abuses of power, reforming flawed polices and empowering people to respond to shocks and natural disasters.

Also suggested via the campaign was the notion that one should ‘live better’ in order to build better ways to do business, making an ecological future rich in shared resources, safe from the risk of a changing climate possible. The third and final message of Grow was that one should ‘grow better’ — in other words, one must invest in new agriculture, so that over a billion small-scale food producers around the planet, many of them women, are no longer starved of the land and resources they need.

Picture this

The photo exhibition contained 15 photos depicting a day in the average rural farmer’s life. Reminiscent of propaganda posters, on either side of the photographs were messages urging people to join the campaign, to come together and held eradicate hunger. Also accompanying the photos were small written messages that threw light on the many starving farmers around the world.

Swadeshi food

Thousands of years ago, millet was the primary staple food. The Grow campaign believes that cultivating more millet can be step towards alleviating the country’s food problem. The two ethnic food stalls at the event exhibited a variety of millets — like proso, foxtail, pearl, finger, sorghum — that can not only be used for food by also as medicine.

Food crisis? We’ve enough on our plates

Tim Lang
http://www.hindu.com/2011/06/03/stories/2011060350490900.htm
Yes, food prices are rising but more competition is not the answer — it’s time to stop over-consumption.
Slowly, surely, a new mixture of consensus and fault lines is emerging about world food. On the one hand, there is agreement we are entering a new era in which basic agricultural commodity prices are rising after decades of falling. This will hit the poorest hardest, as an Oxfam report this week on food justice rightly points out. But there is not yet sufficient agreement or political leverage to begin the big, necessary changes. And there’s disagreement on what the problem really is.

Is another round of technical intensification needed to raise productivity? That’s what the U.K. government’s Foresight report argued this January, calling for the oxymoronic “sustainable intensification.” Or is it best addressed by a more equitable distribution of wealth? This is what Oxfam and others argue, saying there is enough food to go round if properly shared. Much hangs on which perspective is used to frame food policy.

To the west, the great success of the food story in the second half of the 20th century was lower prices. This allowed spending to diversify and fuelled the consumer boom. Proportionately less outlay on food meant more for clothes, homes, holidays and fun. This rebalancing came at a cost to the developing countries dependent on food exports. Their purchasing power declined while ours went up. It also came with dire environmental costs: biodiversity loss, pollution, soil damage and water stress. These indicators suggested that the environment too was being squeezed.

Under to over-consumption

From the 1960s, with growing evidence and conviction, environmentalists have warned that human reliance on the eco-sphere might be threatened. Public health analysts spotted the transition from problems of under-consumption to those of over- and mal-consumption. Mass hunger sits alongside mass obesity. This distortion is no longer one where the rich world is fat, and the developing world is thin; even sub-Saharan Africa now has an obesity problem.

The evidence of this mismatch between policy and reality has been growing for decades. It ought to be centre-stage on every government’s food policy agenda. The tragedy is this isn’t the case. For a moment, when in 2006-08 world food prices rose, even rich countries looked worried. Fresh from the banking crisis, no one wanted food destabilisation too. An emergency world conference was scheduled. But even before it was held, prices began to drop. Sighs of relief in the west.

Three years on, prices are way above 2008 levels, and food inflation is endemic. Oxfam predicts food prices will double by 2030. That would take the average British shopping basket to about 20 per cent of disposable income. But to the poorest of the world, it would mean almost all income going on food. Even the World Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are troubled.

In South Africa

What can be done? In 2008, many governments acted unilaterally; chaos ensued. Today, the South African government has emulated Tony Blair’s action in 1999 when concerned about food prices: turn to Walmart. Aware of the vice-like grip Britain’s dwindling number of supermarket giants had over 60 million British mouths, Blair signalled that the U.K. would welcome the world’s biggest food retailer to introduce price competition. Competition and U.S. capital were the recipe to reduce food prices. Walmart purchased Asda.

But this model is part of the problem. The last thing South Africa needs is a retail giant that threatens the existence of thousands of small shopkeepers. Allowing it into Africa may signal modernity, but it is ecological and social irresponsibility.

The prospect of food prices doubling ought to be a political wake-up call. But politicians don’t seem to be listening yet. They will, though.

To be fair, the challenge they face cuts across conventional political boundaries. An entire 20th-century approach to food modernity is under threat. Consumer expectations, not least that we can eat whatever we like whenever we like, are at stake. The 20th century created the fiction that ever more food can be produced by tapping oil, throwing fertiliser at seeds, spraying endless water and treating the soil as blotting paper, a neutral medium. We now know how fragile that mix is, and how fragile the Earth’s crust and biology are too.

In the west, we are over-consuming and wasting food. A whole change of direction is required, not just in the food chain but in food culture. ( Tim Lang is professor of food policy at City University London.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011.

State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet

State of the World 2011 objectively states the hunger, water and environmental problems facing Africa and the rest of the world, and illuminates a multitude of encouraging answers that are already saving lives and livelihoods. It is an eloquent, painstakingly researched sound of warning and expression of hope.”

–Rick Docksai, The Futurist, May-June 2011

The 2011 edition of our flagship report is a compelling look at the global food crisis, with particular emphasis on global innovations that can help solve a worldwide problem. State of the World 2011 not only introduces us to the latest agro-ecological innovations and their global applicability but also gives broader insights into issues including poverty, international politics, and even gender equity.

Written in clear, concise language, with easy-to-read charts and tables, State of the World 2011, produced with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provides a practical vision of the innovations that will allow billions of people to feed themselves, while restoring rural economies, creating livelihoods, and sustaining the natural resource base on which agriculture depends.

Preview State of the World 2011:

 

The New Geopolitics of Food

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/25/the_new_geopolitics_of_food

In the United States, when world wheat prices rise by 75 percent, as they have over the last year, it means the difference between a $2 loaf of bread and a loaf costing maybe $2.10. If, however, you live in New Delhi, those skyrocketing costs really matter: A doubling in the world price of wheat actually means that the wheat you carry home from the market to hand-grind into flour for chapatis costs twice as much. And the same is true with rice. If the world price of rice doubles, so does the price of rice in your neighborhood market in Jakarta. And so does the cost of the bowl of boiled rice on an Indonesian family’s dinner table.

Welcome to the new food economics of 2011: Prices are climbing, but the impact is not at all being felt equally. For Americans, who spend less than one-tenth of their income in the supermarket, the soaring food prices we’ve seen so far this year are an annoyance, not a calamity. But for the planet’s poorest 2 billion people, who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food, these soaring prices may mean going from two meals a day to one. Those who are barely hanging on to the lower rungs of the global economic ladder risk losing their grip entirely. This can contribute — and it has — to revolutions and upheaval.

Already in 2011, the U.N. Food Price Index has eclipsed its previous all-time global high; as of March it had climbed for eight consecutive months. With this year’s harvest predicted to fall short, with governments in the Middle East and Africa teetering as a result of the price spikes, and with anxious markets sustaining one shock after another, food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics. And crises like these are going to become increasingly common. The new geopolitics of food looks a whole lot more volatile — and a whole lot more contentious — than it used to. Scarcity is the new norm.

Until recently, sudden price surges just didn’t matter as much, as they were quickly followed by a return to the relatively low food prices that helped shape the political stability of the late 20th century across much of the globe. But now both the causes and consequences are ominously different.


How Food Explains the World
By Joshua E. Keating

Street Eats

An FP Slide Show

In many ways, this is a resumption of the 2007-2008 food crisis, which subsided not because the world somehow came together to solve its grain crunch once and for all, but because the Great Recession tempered growth in demand even as favorable weather helped farmers produce the largest grain harvest on record. Historically, price spikes tended to be almost exclusively driven by unusual weather — a monsoon failure in India, a drought in the former Soviet Union, a heat wave in the U.S. Midwest. Such events were always disruptive, but thankfully infrequent. Unfortunately, today’s price hikes are driven by trends that are both elevating demand and making it more difficult to increase production: among them, a rapidly expanding population, crop-withering temperature increases, and irrigation wells running dry. Each night, there are 219,000 additional people to feed at the global dinner table.

More alarming still, the world is losing its ability to soften the effect of shortages. In response to previous price surges, the United States, the world’s largest grain producer, was effectively able to steer the world away from potential catastrophe. From the mid-20th century until 1995, the United States had either grain surpluses or idle cropland that could be planted to rescue countries in trouble. When the Indian monsoon failed in 1965, for example, President Lyndon Johnson’s administration shipped one-fifth of the U.S. wheat crop to India, successfully staving off famine. We can’t do that anymore; the safety cushion is gone.

That’s why the food crisis of 2011 is for real, and why it may bring with it yet more bread riots cum political revolutions. What if the upheavals that greeted dictators Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya (a country that imports 90 percent of its grain) are not the end of the story, but the beginning of it? Get ready, farmers and foreign ministers alike, for a new era in which world food scarcity increasingly shapes global politics.

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GLOBALIZATION AND POVERTY:

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Interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva By Gary Null Progressive Radio Network, Broadcast December 16, 2008

GARY NULL (GN): My guest today is one of the more remarkable individuals that you will ever hear speak on the subjects that we’re going to discuss: the relationship between globalization and poverty, the oil industry’s destruction of agriculture, plus other issues involving the disposition of land and power and the body politics in Africa and India. Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of India’s top nuclear physicists and an internationally renowned environmental and social activist. She has been credited as a principal founder of India’s ecological and eco-feminism movement.
In 1982 she founded The Research Foundation for Science and Technology and Ecology in New Delhi, which led to the creation of an organization, Navdanya, dedicated to the restoration of organic farming across India and the preservation of indigenous knowledge and culture. For several decades Vandana has fought for changes in the globalized practices of agriculture and food and has traveled the world speaking against the bio-piracy of indigenous plants and their medicinal properties by large agriculture and pharmaceutical corporations. She has received numerous international awards including the Alternative Nobel Prize, UNEP’s Global 500 Award, and the UN Earth Day International Award. Her most recent book is “Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in An Age of Climate Crisis.” There are so many pressing issues in the world today, and I would like to start with one that is not getting the mainstream media attention that it deserves, specifically the relationship between corporate globalization and increased poverty, including the policies of the World Bank, IMF, the WTO and their western government backers. From your point of view how has the US and its aggressive push for free market economics contributed to the increase in poverty and a widening of the gap between the haves and have nots throughout the world, especially in light of Barack Obama recently stating that he is very much for globalization and free market efforts.

VANDANA SHIVA (VS): I think India is a good test case to see how globalization increases real poverty even while measurements of growth make it look like the country is booming. India’s growth these last few years has been 9 percent and it is seen as one of the fastest growing economies. And yet in this decade of high growth under free market globalization India has the largest number of hungry people in the world. An agrarian society that has all the capacity to feed itself is today unable to feed its children partly because the land is being diverted for mining, for car companies and highways, and because agriculture itself is being diverted for luxury crops for the rich. One of the greatest tragedies of the new poverty that India is witnessing is the emergence of an epidemic of farm suicides. It’s one step beyond poverty to have to end your life because you’re so deeply indebted and the debt is completely related to corporate seed monopolies, such as Monsanto’s genetically engineered BT cotton. It’s a globalized agriculture controlled by a handful of agribusiness companies-the Cargill’s and ConAgra’s-and the WTO that wrote the rules of agriculture. The combination of seed and commodity controls has denied India its basic right to food, especially for the poor.

GN: There is also 9.1 percent growth in China and still 66 million hungry, unemployed people who are now beginning to protest. Do you believe that we will begin to see protests and riots in India such as what we have seen in Pakistan where the poor were not being subsidized and where there is no infrastructure to care for the poor?

VN: Actually protests are happening. Some protests come out in the language, voice and pain of the people themselves. They protest for land. They protest for food. They protest for water. They protest for forests, for the indigenous communities. But very often, just as our food is being genetically modified protests too are being genetically modified to appear as if they concern religion or are related to terrorism and extremism. And this mutation into a new form of response is partly a manipulation of those powers in control. They do not allow a farmer’s protest to be viewed as simply a farmers’ protest. This is what was happening in the state of Punjab two decades ago. Farmers’ protests were mutated into a protest about religion. Out of it came the invasion of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the military standoff, and finally the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who had ordered the army to deal with the issue of the Punjab and extremism. But today terrorism is made to look like it appears by itself. I can offer two examples of conflicts about land and livelihood which have been distorted to look like they’re conflicts initiated by people on the basis of caste, religion and ethnicity. We have had a major protest among the pastoral tribes in a region of Rajasthan, a desert area where livestock is the only economy because you can’t really farm extensively with very little water. All of those common lands which are pastoral have been handed over to industry to grow bio-fuel. The pastoralists are now without land as well as livelihood. When they protest they stop the entire transport system of India. Yet the protest is not written in the language of the land and people’s livelihood. It is written in the language of caste. Caste is a name for an occupation, just as pastoralists signify a pastoral occupation. Even the large Darfur conflicts in the Sudan, which are made to appear as if they are only about religious strife, is really about collapsing livelihoods with increasing desertification due to climate change. The settled agriculturalists and the pastoralists cannot meet their own needs. So they end up warring against each other. I think it is time for us to read the narrative of the new conflict and the new violence as distorted protests that were engineered to look like something else. And of course it suits the powerful and wealthy because they can keep free market globalization going and define war economies in every society as a means to contain terrorism.

GN: A lot of that has to do with policies on Wall Street and in Washington, which today are virtually one and the same. So if you have a peaceful protest of hungry farmers who cannot afford and do not want to use the genetically modified crops, such as cotton, and who are in such personal debt that they would rather commit suicide by the tens of thousands instead of seeing their families suffer anymore, then of course they would. But when you have people sitting on corporate boards and on Wall Street and in Washington who don’t give a damn about the Indian public-in fact they don’t even care about the average American because the average American is being thrown out on the street while these individuals are reaping humungous rewards by the very people who caused the problem. These are anti-civic individuals. How do you stop that mindset so that every truly progressive movement that deserves to be heard is not just stamped with the moniker of terrorist?

VN: I think the most important way to conduct resistance for a more just and peaceful society is to be absolutely committed to nonviolence. That was the bar of India’s freedom movement, and that is the bar of the civil rights movement in the United States-to challenge power and wealth strategically but also nonviolently. That is a very strong demand of our time. The second very important issue is to continue to defend the democratic right to dissent. After all what is democracy if not the right to dissent? A dictatorship doesn’t allow the right to dissent, a
nd as I’ve written in book after book corporate globalization has become a dictatorship. It is drawing states into implementing that dictatorship, and as long as corporate globalization implements this dictatorship it will destroy democracy. It will treat every legitimate democratic action as equal to the worst form of terrorism. So we stand for democracy and democracy is our birthright and our duty.

GN: In our society, like your own, we have our own caste system. There are the have’s and have not’s. I’ve never in my lifetime seen the powerful bring in the poor and ask for their advice. So how in the world are we ever to change any thing constructively if the most powerful people in the land surround themselves with the elitists and refuse to acknowledge that the poor and those less up the ladder also may have something constructive to offer? Was it not Albert Camus who said, “We rarely confide in those who are better than we are?” What if the ‘better’ means people with more humanistic and practical views of how to solve problems, such as the advocates of the organic movement? What if all of India, Africa, and the United States were to start looking at long-term sustainability of small agriculture projects in every community using organic heirloom instead of genetically modified crops? Think of the consequences to the water, to the air, to the land, to erosion, to reforestation, to sustainability and compatibility. And yet we have no such movement except at the grassroots level. Not a single dollar in the United States goes for organic, and yet everything goes for the big and very immoral food companies.

VS: During the last 20 years I’ve worked with both a scientific realization as well as a political realization that one of the most radical revolutions of our time is adopting biodiversity, saving open-pollinated seeds and practicing organic farming. As you said it’s a solution to every problem we face. It’s a solution to climate change. Moving beyond oil returns more to the soil, and we find in an ecological and organic agriculture both the mitigation and the adaptation strategies for knowing how to deal with the mess that a fossil fuel civilization has created. Organic food is the best solution to the biggest health problem of our time. Two billion obese and ill with food-related diseases. One billion denied their rights to food. Hence three billion are denied the right to wholesome food that can be solved with a local ecologically robust food economy. Then there is the issue of water. Ten times more water is used in industrial chemical agriculture. Water is clearly a limiting factor and will become more of a crisis as climate change melts our glaciers, dries up our springs, and leaves more and more areas water scarce. It’s also a solution to the conflicts all around us. I recently returned from a long field trip in the very poor Indian state of Orissa. Culturally, in terms of peace and harmony between nature and people and between people and people, there are amazing examples. Every villager has the deepest humanity. Every villager has the deepest sense of self sufficiency and enough-ness. That is the future we have to strive for. And I think the biggest monopoly in our time is when agribusiness went into the oil economy. It is a new genetic engineering industry. They are not going to allow governments to move towards organic farming rapidly. They will try everything to force genetic engineering upon us. Two decades ago when I started the Navdanya movement in India, these companies had announced they would have all seeds patented and all crops genetically engineered by the turn of the century. They have so far only genetically engineered four crops on any significant scale: cotton, soy, rice and canola. They haven’t managed to patent everything under the sun, and we have built a movement that will not acknowledge patents. I call it the seed satyagraha just like Gandhi’s satyagraha when he told the British that nature gives salt for free. We need it for our survival. We will make our own salt. In the same way we get seeds from our ancestors and nature. We will continue to save them for future generations, and we will not obey patent laws. I believe if we keep saving our open-pollinated seeds, if we keep doing organic farming, and those in the cities commit themselves to eating only food that is genuinely free of patents, GMO’s, pesticides and toxins, and free of corporate control, we can succeed. Even if governments don’t change their policies we will have created another economy. And if you look at the growth of the movement, it has grown without policy protection in spite of adverse policies. When we combine the financial, climate and food crises, the manipulative corporate economies will not survive. The economies of care and compassion fight it by their recognition that we live on a very fragile earth and have a very high level of responsibility to protect it. If there’s going to be a future, it’s going to be found in people’s actions.

GN: I’ve always been an organic farmer, and I’ve been a major promoter of organic farming in the United States on a small scale. I’m a believer in moving back to the land, and then creating small sustainable communities. To grow one pound of organic potatoes takes 60 gallons of water. To grow one pound of meat, a 16 ounce steak, requires 12,000 gallons of water. If we’re running out of water, and we are, would you suggest that it would make sense to preserve our water by being conscious that you’re going to eat something that requires less? Now that meat has arachidonic acid. That arachidonic acid increases chemicals in the body called cytokines and tumor necrosis factors that result in inflammation. By eating organic and eating more naturally not only are avoiding these chemicals, besides many environmental toxins, but we are also saving water. Much food we buy at our corporate markets has traveled thousands of miles to reach our tables, and this leaves a large carbon footprint. So wouldn’t it be better to buy something local, support our local food crops and organic movements to lessen pollution? Isn’t it advantageous then to do everything we can to clean up the environment by going green? For those in India and other parts of the world who are principally vegetarian, and who care about life and the environment, do you imagine that at some point there needs to be a collective shift in consciousness that supersedes the power brokers and the policy makers, and says, “We tried it your way and look where we’re at. We’re now going to do it our way, and you’re welcome to join us, but we’re not going to listen to you anymore.”

VS: Just because the corporate media doesn’t cover it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening on a large scale. I think if you add together the people who want to eat and live consciously, who want to reduce the human ecological footprint on the planet, who want to do less harm to other human beings — because every economic system that does violence to the planet also violates the rights of fellow human beings — creates a powerful force in the world. I think as this information becomes more coherent and moves more quickly a conscious shift will take place. A year ago people would never have believed those of us who were saying all these measures of financial growth are fictitious. It’s just a bubble waiting to burst. Twenty years ago I started to organize rallies of half a million farmers in the street to declare that the agra-industrial system would kill our farmers. It was a death knell for our farmers and a recipe for hunger. People didn’t believe it. Today the farmers are committing suicide. Today the food prices have risen. Food sovereignty and local food systems are back on the agenda and that reveals the incoherence of the dominant corporate system. The governance of the truth we stand by, the truth of the earth, the truth of nature, the truth of justice is our greatest strength and that will only increase consciousness. From it we’ll only grow with every step along the way. The next five and ten years will be absolutely unpredictable times, but as long as we can hol
d our ground and hope, I believe the shift of consciousness will turn today’s dominators into the marginals who will be enlightened to come join our table of peaceful food and of abundant food.

GN: Well I absolutely agree with you. That was a very special insight. Now to two other areas that are not getting the attention, in my opinion, that they deserve in the United States. Every US administration, Democrat or Republican, has looked at profit as preferable to people. How has the mega corporations and western administrations given us a false utopian concept regarding human and economic development and environmental sustainability for raising people out of poverty? During the elections I didn’t see a single statement that was printed or a voice spoken about the hundred million poor in the United States, the 36 million who go to bed hungry each day, the 12 million children in the United States who don’t have enough to eat, let alone the 27 thousand children who die each year, and most of them from infections, from bad water or malnutrition. Not a word about these things, and yet they blather on as if somehow they’re in touch. I’m asking who are they in touch with? Since it’s always about profit and never about people.

VS: You know as the food crisis has intensified during the last year, food prices have doubled. But we’ve also seen the corporate profits driving the food system double. I think we now have a major contest between two futures. There’s the future that you and I are talking about and living in. It’s a future of providing food security to the last child on the basis of people working lovingly with the land. More farmers growing good food, growing organic food, and this will drive away hunger and food scarcity. I really find the United Nation’s millennium goals highly un-ambitious because seven or eight years ago they talked only about halving the number of people who go to bed hungry. Well, with ecological farming and biodiversity agriculture we are not only doubling and tripling but we could increase food production five-fold and nutritional production even higher because the foods grown organically have much higher levels of nutrition. That’s the way to address the problem of hunger. That’s the way to make sure society does not neglect people. Of course there is another agenda. And that agenda will attempt to use the crisis it has created to grab more of the food and agrarian economy. Look at what happened at the June Summit on climate and food. The biggest winner was fortune’s foremost Bill Gates and his foundation who wants to sell more chemical fertilizers to Africa, and then commercialize the food supply for Africa. The second winner was the genetic engineering lobby. Of course both of these plans are completely inappropriate. The prices of fertilizers are going high. Nitrogen fertilizers are a major cause of global warming because the nitrogen oxides emitted are 300 times more lethal in global warming than carbon dioxide. To push more chemical fertilizers during this period of climate change is doubly criminal because it will force African peasants into debt, and then it will force all of humanity into an ecological debt. The genetic engineering lobby offered a false solution. They said only they can solve the problem of addressing climate change. They can’t because genetic engineering can only deal with single gene manipulations. Climate resilience in crops is a multi-genetic trait. They cannot engineer climate resilience. They can steal salt resistant seeds from us. They can steal flood resistant seeds from us. They can steal sources of seeds from us. I’m in fact preparing for our next campaign against bio-piracy-when agricorporations patent our traditional knowledge, our indigenous seeds. And when corporations are patenting, and there are 500 pending patents on climate resilience traits in crops, all of this is based on bio-piracy. Of course the real solution that we are offering is building community seed banks, building the commons for people to share as disasters happen. For example, we took salt tolerant rice down to the tsunami areas and drought tolerant rice to the areas in central India where they were having a four-year drought linked again to a climate catastrophe. The corporations will continue to seek profits. So we have to build on community. We have to build on people’s rights. And this contest is not going to go away in a hurry. But the fact that it doesn’t go away in a hurry doesn’t mean we don’t build the power of people.

GN: I would like to discuss the relationship between how the loss of natural biodiversity increases population growth and thereby increases poverty. If you would address the large agro-industrial players that you mentioned earlier and the destruction of biodiversity with their genetically modified seeds. I might mention that Hillary and Bill Clinton were sponsors of the Stevens Financial Group out of Little Rock, Arkansas, who was a major player in developing these genetically modified seeds. Under NAFTA and the WTO, the Clinton administration and its supporters thought it was a great idea. Little did they ever consider or care about the consequences. So if you would take a look at what it means to be forced into using seeds because your own natural seeds are no longer available. This has been true around the world where the World Bank and IMF went into almost every developing country and said, “We’ll give you a loan, but you must now give us structural adjustments. No more growing sustainable crops. No more small crops. Now you’re going to plant cash crops: cotton, soybeans, rubber and crops that you can get out of the country and sell abroad. That was also the case in India. Also speak about the contradiction between the great Green Movement, which won one person the Nobel Prize. But they weren’t looking at what this green revolution actually meant in terms of the average person.

VS: Well you know the Green Revolution was far from green. It was introduced in India in 1965 and ’66 when we had a drought. Because of the drought we needed to buy grain, and the US government said we could not have higher imports unless we changed our agriculture to the new seeds and the new chemicals. This package of new seeds that required chemicals is what is called the Green Revolution. The seeds had been evolved by Norman Borlaug who received the Nobel Peace Prize. The assumption was that commercializing and making agriculture more dependent on purchases would create a capitalist alternative to the spread of communism. And the reason the Green Revolution was called green was because it was contrary to red. It was not called green because it was ecological. The word green did not describe any ecological movement at that time. The Green Revolution was also pushed by the World Bank, which forced structural adjustments on India. It gave loans linked to structural adjustment to move seeds, pesticides and chemicals. The World Bank financed large dams that provided the intensive irrigation their seeds and chemicals required. Within the first few years 25 percent of the peasantry of Punjab had been wiped out. They were displaced from the land. Well within a decade, agriculture in Punjab had fallen into disarray, which is what then led to the extremist movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s. That was the basis of my book, “The Violence of the Green Revolution,” because I wanted to understand why the land, which was called the most prosperous, is today the angriest and why young Punjabis were taking to guns. What the Green Revolution basically did was push farmers into debt. It left the land desertified. It destroyed variety. Punjab used to grow 250 crop varieties. Today it grows monocultures of wheat and rice during two separate seasons and a monoculture of genetically engineered cotton. Punjab is one of the areas where we have large numbers of farm suicides. Twenty percent of the Punjab is now unfit for cultivation. Ten percent is water logged by putting too much water in intensive irrigation. Now this is precisely the package upon which the genetic engineering revolution has been built. The
biotechnology industry calls it the second green revolution, and Bill Gates wants to take this package to Africa as the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa. Gate’s, the Rockefeller’s and their corporate affiliates would like to bulldoze over Africa a green revolution like they bulldozed it on India in 1965 through conditions and through destruction of our sovereignty and democratic decision making. But the true green revolution is the ecological agriculture revolution. That’s what we are trying to build.

GN: A final question I would like you to address is the difference between what evolutionary biologists, such as the late Francisco Varella and others, call autopoetic systems as opposed to allopoetic systems. Autopoetic systems are those that are self-organized and are self renewed and such systems rely on biodiversity and are self-sustained. If agriculture, human development and economics were to think autopoetically there would be a flourishing of well being and sustainability. On the other hand, allopoetic systems are externally driven. This is what the entire Green Revolution believed in. Therefore, this revolution seized upon external stimuli to develop artificial energy and external resources. However, this is a completely mechanistic model. There is nothing holistic about it. It’s totally against what we’re talking about and requires increasing energy input like dumping more and more fossil fuels into an industry that would not be required if it was autopoetic.

VN: In my view, ecology is about self organization. It’s the ability of an eco system to clean itself up. That’s self organization, an autopoetic system. It’s about seeds being able to reproduce themselves. That’s an autopoetic system. A genetically engineered seed is an allopoetic system. It needs an external control for its reproduction. A genuine seed is a seed that needs only itself, some soil and sunshine to give you a plant. A child growing into an adult in their full humanity is an autopoetic system. Slaves live under allopoetic conditions. Chemical agriculture and industrial agriculture are allopoetic. The free market globalized economy is an allopoetic system. It’s externally organized. Sovereign local economies are autopoetic systems. Gandhi called this an economy of place, the ability to be creative and to produce for yourself and to meet your own needs. Self-organization is also the highest form of democracy. Democracy is not just going and voting. Genuine democracy is the ability to self-organize to make real decisions about how we are to live: to be able to shape our food system and our education. That means taking power back. That power will not be handed over to us by those who have taken it away. It will have to be shaped by our everyday actions. We will have to reclaim that deep democracy and that’s our autopoetic system.

GN: I want to thank you very, very much for being with us today. You’ve given us a lot of great insights, and hopefully people will read your new book, “Soil Not Oil: Justice in An Age of Climate Crisis,” or go to your website: www.vandanashiva.org and see all of your activities.

Gary Null, Ph.D. is the nation’s longest talk show host on alternative health on NPR and Pacifica radio stations, and an award winning director of documentary films. www.progressiveradionetwork.com

UPA neglects Agriculture the most

Submitted by editor on Sat, 10/25/2008 – 18:27

Rajnath Singh
India today is on the brink of a protracted recession. Almost every economic indicator in the country is putting immense pressure on all economic activities in the country and painting a gloomy picture of our economy. Inflation is in high double digits, GDP growth rate is faltering, Industrial growth rate has touched a record low of 1.3 percent and the growth of our agriculture sector has turned bad to worse.

Declining capital formation and steep reduction in public investment in agriculture sector during the UPA rule has led to a complete stagnation of Agricultural growth in India. In other words the UPA Government has proved to be a big disaster on the economic front.

Agriculture is considered a recession proof sector as it does not face decline in demand even in a worsening situation. Being a predominantly agrarian society, India has the potential and resources to deal with any challenge posed by recessionary atmosphere in the world.

Eminent thinkers and economists around the world have started chalking out detailed action plans for agriculture and predicted that food security will be the top agenda of all the Governments in future. It clearly indicates that the world is now awakening to the growing importance of strengthening agriculture sector but the UPA Government’s slumber has deepened further.

By pursuing disoriented and confused economic policies the UPA Government has jeopardized our national food security. No wonder, India’s record on hunger today is worse than that of nearly 25 sub-Saharan African countries and all of South Asia, except Bangladesh.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s 2008 Global Hunger Index says that with over 200 million people insecure about their daily bread, Indian scenario is ‘alarming’ in terms of hunger and malnutrition.

According to the World Development Report, “To reduce poverty and hunger, the growth of the agricultural sector is the only solution.” But the higher cost of production without a corresponding increase in prices has made agriculture a non viable profession in India.

In the absence of remunerative prices, coupled with lack of timely, affordable and adequate credit and high interest rates have forced the helpless farmer either to quit farming or to commit suicide. More than five thousand farmers committed suicide in different parts of the country.

The Prime Minister’s ‘Vidarbha Package’ for the farmers has failed to address the key issues. The farmer’s loan waiver scheme also met the same fate as it left majority of the farmers agitated and disgruntled.

Both these schemes have proved to be a cruel joke on farmers and the Congress led UPA Government will have to pay a heavy price for it in forthcoming assembly elections and the General Elections scheduled next year.

The UPA Government has remained unconcerned over the gravity of the situation and adopted a casual approach while dealing with a sensitive subject like Agriculture.

I am happy to note that the BJP ruled states have performed better than the Congress led Governments on the agriculture front.
We have the shining example of Gujarat State before us which registered a remarkable 13 percent growth in agriculture in comparison to meager national agriculture growth of nearly 1.8 percent.

After coming to power the BJP led NDA Government will introduce a paradigm shift in agriculture where it will synthesise the old and the new, and focus on the economics of small land holdings.

The BJP will increase the quantum of public investment in agriculture and mandate banks to earmark 30% of their total loans for credit to the agriculture sector. We will take immediate steps to see that the farmers be given loans at not more than 4% interest for agriculture and allied activities.

The NDA Government at the Centre will implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers and assure the farmer of actual cost of production plus 50% over and above this cost as the MSP for his produce.

BJP led NDA Government will also implement Farm Income Insurance Scheme to ensure guaranteed income to all farmers in the country.

India facing economic terrorism

UPA Government’s soft and weak-kneed approach to deal with terrorist activities is a fact well known. Unfortunately the issue of internal security which warrants national consensus among all political major political parties and other prominent stake holders in our society has become a casualty of UPA Government’s vote bank politics.

During the 42 months of UPA rule terrorists and anti-India forces have galvanised its cadres and gained strength to strike India anywhere, anytime and at will. They have developed a multi-pronged strategy to damage India at every possible level. Recently we have witnessed a big surge in circulation of fake Indian currency notes in the country. It is well thought strategy of anti-India forces to unleash economic terrorism in the country.

Pakistan’s intelligence agency the ISI has pumped in counterfeit currency worth billions of Rupees into India through Bangladesh and Nepal borders. According to recent estimates by a Government panel, fake currency worth 1 lakh 69 thousand crores Rupees are already in circulation.

Fake currency notes have been recently confiscated in many States. Even at the branches of the Nationalised banks and their ATM’s fake currency notes have been confiscated. Counterfeit currency is being used to fund terrorist operations. I urge the present dispensation at the Centre to take effective steps to plug the supply of fake currency notes in India.

The BJP demands the Government that it should come out with a white paper on circulation of fake currency in India.

MP at bottom of hunger pyramid

BS Reporter / New Delhi October 15, 2008, 0:31 IST

http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=337412

Madhya Pradesh, which reported deaths of malnourished children last month, has the most severe level of hunger in the country and ranks between African countries Ethiopia and Chad, according to a global hunger index released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute in conjunction with Welthungerhilfe (formerly known as German Agro-Action) and the University of California, Riverside.

MP is followed by Jharkhand and Bihar, according to the first-ever India State Hunger Index, which was released along with the global index. Punjab and Kerala scored the best.

The Indian state hunger index analyses hunger levels in 17 major states and scores range from “serious” to “extremely alarming”. It measures hunger on three leading indicators and combines them into one index. The three indicators are prevalence of child malnutrition, rates of child mortality and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient.

The index for India found that not a single state in India fell in the “low hunger” or “moderate hunger” categories. Twelve states fall in the “alarming” category, and one state — Madhya Pradesh — falls in the “extremely alarming” category. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fall in the ‘serious‘ category.

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