Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Review of Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva is a physicist by training and an environmental activist who has done massive work in preservation of traditional cultures and farming techniques. In an age of multinational corporations taking over of traditional cultures, their lands, their means of livelihood, this book is an eye opener to the range of exploitation done by these corporations on the name of free markets and liberalization.
One gets a sense of being robbed by these corporations the people’s commons and deprivation of nature’s ability to regenerate and flourish. There are several ways these corporations plunder the environment and the lives of the poor. Vandana first takes up the case of seed security in third world countries. Corporation like Montaso try to get patents for breeding techniques that have been in existence for centuries in these cultures. These corporate try to usurp the traditional practices and aim at dependency of the farming communities on their seeds that are genetically modified. Traditionally different varieties of seeds are exchanged between farmers but the corporations with the help of the WTO offend such practices as crime to the free trade policies. This causes dependency of farmers on genetically engineered seeds and also use of herbicides and pesticides made by the same corporations heavily. The latest seeds sold by Montaso cannot be reusable and can only be used once. They are genetically modified and not reusable.
The corporate greed to make money has no boundaries and the exploitations of nature’s resources and livelihood of the poor has no limits. The corporate supports monoculture of farming like soybeans which are dumped from United States to third world countries. The poor who depend on local industry and local farming are displaced of livelihood. She explains in detail with several examples how the cost of local commodities is reduced with this import of foreign goods. The farmers are plundered.
Vandana makes an important point about the dependency of farming land for manure from livestock and in turn their on the straw of the harvest. This chain is broken when we import foreign food which is unsuitable to people and cattle alike. She takes a strong anti-globalization stance by taking several examples like the excessive farming of shrimp on coastal areas that has eroded the land and made drinking water salty. Also excessive fishing in the last couple of decades has reduced the fish and turtle population and destroyed the biodiversity of the sea. Not only is the land and the sea no spared by the corporate greed, the cattle are looked upon as huge udders for milking money. They are given all kinds of chemical, antibiotics to grow fat for meat and eat the meat of cattle as a source of protein. She states that not giving them the right to subjectivity and slaughtering them is causing animal rights violation, suffering and disease to humans alike. BSE is a well know example of how the scientific community hid the facts of the dangers of its transfer from cattle to humans. Corporatism controls everything with their money power and the WTO policies. Genetic engineered seeds and plants are claimed to be more efficient than traditional farm varieties but they are in reality not that promising as they are advertised.
She gives compelling evidence of destruction to nature, people, environment, animals and the sea by the globalization and WTO policies. Her initiative Navdanya is an organization where seeds of biodiverse varieties of plants are collected and preserved so that the farming community is not deprived of diverse seed bank and enslaved to corporate control of seed production and monoculture. This monoculture has several disadvantages which the book goes in detail.
It is a right of the people to be able to sell and trade freely and also to be able to preserve their culture and livelihood. Free trade in agriculture can cause starvation and poverty the opposite of what it claims not to do. The reality is different from what is propounded in economic policies. Economics, culture and farming are interlinked hence the importance to local and decentralized economies.
All in all, the book makes strong points about the disadvantages of globalization and the exploitation of corporatism on third world countries. Luckily there is a lot of people’s awareness and movements in this direction due to concerned scientists and farming organizations around the world. The same theme of exploitation can be seen is all countries. Corporate monoculture pitted against diversity of nature is the fight of this age. This book can be beginner guide to corporate and WTO hegemony and the fight of the people against it.