(MintPress) – Dr. Vandana Shiva, an Indian scientist and author, has emerged as a vocal opponent to the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) market, specifically calling out Monsanto for not only its widespread sale of GMO seeds, but the false advertisement that is leading to a toxic climate for animals, native plants and people.
“The biggest corporate takeover on the planet is the hijacking of our food system,” she wrote in a recent Grist column, “the cost of which has had huge and irreversible consequences for the Earth and people everywhere.”
Monsanto: India’s big problem
Monsanto’s presence in India, Dr. Shiva’s homeland, has been substantial, but not without protest from the Indigenous population. In 2012, India sued Monsanto for biopiracy, claiming Monsanto stole native plants to re-engineer them into the company’s patented type, according to Natural News.
Shiva’s work has been done on the grounds in India where companies like Monsanto and Dow have flooded the market, perpetuating false promises and painting a picture of a more hopeful future. While she is only one small woman standing up against multinational business giants, she has science, passion and people on her side — and she’s not giving up her quest for GMO freedom.
Genetically modified seeds are created to sustain high levels of herbicide, killing “unwanted” plants and pests and allowing the intended crop to flourish. Monsanto has been vocal in its claims that this type of farming is safe for human consumption.
While Shiva disagrees with that assessment, pointing to studies and her own research, she also claims native plants — used to feed livestock and treat human illnesses — are destroyed through the widespread use of RoundUp and other Monsanto herbicide used on GMO crops.
Shiva tells the story of a Monsanto advertisement circulated in her native country of India. The propaganda included a woman whose hands were overtaken by what Monsanto would refer to as “weeds.” Next to the graphic, the statement was made: “Liberate Yourself.”
The advertisement is used as an example by Shiva, who points out that what Monsanto doesn’t realize is that those “weeds” are native plants for cattle and a medicinal source for the people — poisoning those plants has a negative, domino impact, and it’s hurting the people of India.
She contends Monsanto is creating a global climate that not only perpetuates a cycle of illness among humans, but one that is becoming dependent on the company for a source of patented protected seeds, a move that is economically enslaving farmers.
“This is not being done to improve the food supply or improve nutrition, it’s being done to control food,” Shiva said in the Future of Food. “Because without genetic engineering, companies could not have patented seed.”
She sees it not only as an environmental and health issue, but one relating to social justice. And she’s not giving up in this life without a fight. Following the philosophy of Gandhi, she claims she is being the change she wants to see in the world.”
The life behind the passion
Born in India in 1952, Shiva grew up learning the native methods of farming. Fascinated with science, her educational journey took her to the University of Western Ontario in Canada, where she earned a PhD in nuclear physics.
Her understanding of the scientific realm of life led her to dig deeper into what was being done on what she calls the “dark side” of science, which is where companies like Monsanto have emerged from.
Her unapologetic campaign to inform the public regarding the devastating health, environmental and social impacts of GMO farming has resulted in more than 300 publications produced and the founding of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), an organization dedicated the study of biodiversity conservation and the “protection of people’s rights from threats to their livelihoods and environment by centralised systems of monoculture in forestry, agriculture and fisheries.” It’s based in Dehra Dun, Uttar Pradesh.
Her work has produced more than 111 seed banks, with the intent of spreading pure, organic seeds to more than 5 million farmers — Navdanya, the name of the program, is considered the largest like it in the country.
While Monsanto continues to operate in India, Shiva represents a source of knowledge and activism for the people of the nation — farmers included — showered with propaganda. Without that voice of opposition, the nation would be without its seed banks and farmers who have been given the support to continue on in their traditional ways, to the benefit of the environment and those they feed.
Shiva doesn’t see the benefits from pumping poisonous chemicals into the earth’s soil. It’s that simple.
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