Vandana Shiva on Diversity and Freedom

What to do when a Sunday afternoon brings rain and grey skies? One thing would be to take a pen and paper and map out this years vegetable garden… (Spring has arrived!) Another option would be to dive into books and learn and find inspiration from great thinkers and activists. I picked up Vandana Shiva’s* Earth Democracy again and feel the urge of sharing the next quote:

 "The Green Revolution is an exemplar of the deliberate destruction of diversity. New biotechnologies are now repeating and deepening these tendencies. Furthermore, the new technologies, in combination with patent monopolies being pushed through intellectual property rights regimes in GATT, the biodiversity convention, and other trade platforms, are threatening to transform the diversity of life forms into mere raw material for industrial production and profits. They simultaneously threaten the regenerative freedom of diverse species and the free and sustainable economy of small peasants and producers based on nature’s diversity. 

The seed, for example, reproduces itself and multiples. Farmers use seed both as grain and for the next year’s crop. Seed is free, both in the ecological sense of reproducing itself, and in the economic sense of reproducing the farmers’ livelihood. This seed freedom is a major obstacle for seed corporations. To create a market for seed the seed has to be transformed materially so that its reproductive ability is blocked. Its legal status must also be changed so that instead of being the common property of farming communities, it becomes the patented private property of the seed corporations. 

The seed is starting to take shape as the site and symbol of freedom in the age of manipulation and monopoly of life. The seed is not big and powerful, but can become alive as a sign of resistance and creativity in the smallest of huts or gardens and the poorest of families. In smallness lies power The seed also embodies diversity. It embodies the freedom to stay alive. Seed freedom goes far beyond the farmer’s freedom from corporations. It represents the freedom of diverse cultures from centralized control. In the seed, ecological issues combine with social justice. The seed could play the role of Gandhi’s spinning wheel – a symbol of freedom during India’s independence movement – in this period of recolonization through free trade." (Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy, p.91)

So, for your garden this year: use seeds that can reproduce again next year, are not genetically modified and even better, keep local varieties alive! Worldwide these kinds of seeds are saved, shared and exchanged, a beautiful movement to join!


 * Vandana Shiva is a leading environmental leader and thinker. She is the author of many books, including Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. In 1993, Shiva won the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award).