Times Argus, 4 November 2014
SOUTH ROYALTON — An anti-GMO activist said Vermont’s new labeling law is the only choice Americans have if they wish to oversee the bioengineering industry.
A wall-to-wall, standing-room-only crowd packed Vermont Law School’s Chase Center on Monday night to hear a lecture from Vandana Shiva, an anti-GMO activist who sang the praises of Vermont’s GMO labeling law.
“I’ve come all the way to congratulate this law school,” Shiva said. “What you’ve done in Vermont and what the law school has done is — in our times, in the year 2014 — path breaking.”
A physicist by training, Shiva is the author of 20 books, including “Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply.” She was drawn to issues surrounding agriculture following the Bhopal disaster of 1984, when pesticide gas vented by Union Carbide killed thousands.
On the world stage, Shiva is a controversial figure whose assertions have not always aligned with science. While she didn’t make the claim Monday night, in the past she has cited high suicide rates among farmers in India being due to the farmers having to purchase expensive GMO seeds.
The science journal Nature found no correlation between buying GMO seeds and rising suicide rates among Indian farmers, and according to the medical journal The Lancet, suicide rates among farmers in India are one-third the rates among the unemployed and those employed in professions not related to agriculture.
However, Shiva’s claim that GMO crops do not result in higher yields is supported by a 2009 study from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Shiva called GMO crops “Descartes’ ultimate victory, when food is measured by weight and yield, instead of by taste and nutritional quality.”
“It’s not producing nutrition. It’s producing commodities for trade and profit,” Shiva said.
Shiva asserted that GMO fertilizers are borne out of war efforts, made in the same facilities that once made explosives. Noting the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Shiva claimed the CIA distributed potentially explosive fertilizers to keep up with efforts by the Soviet Union.
“It’s an anti-food system based on the mentality of warfare and the tools of warfare, and of course it can’t make peace with the Earth,” Shiva said.
Shiva noted a central paradox to companies that produce GMO seeds: A GMO seed is “novel” and therefore proprietary, while at the same time a part of nature, leaving the creator of the GMO blameless for any negative effects — either environmental or nutritional — that the modified food might have.
Shiva also noted the lack of laws in the United States governing genetic engineering, and said Vermont’s GMO labeling law is the only recourse the public has to oversee the industry.
“This challenge will make a difference to the whole world,” Shiva said of the GMO labeling law.
Related post: Now Available: Dr. Vandana Shiva Vermont Talk Videos