American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Talking with Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food
Supply, South End Press, $14, 2000
Our genes have become commodities to be patented, bought, and sold in the market place. Our food supply is rapidly coming under the total control of a handful of agriculture giants. Our seeds and animals are not what they seem but something jerry-rigged for profit. Our food is no longer nutritious, culturally acceptable, or locally produced. Our farmers are rapidly disappearing -- most importantly, for India and other southern nations, the women farmers who fed their families and the world.
All of this, minutely detailed by Vandana Shiva in her new book Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply is a call to arms for all the folks in the world who believe in nature, in the sanctity of all beings, in control over what one eats and feeds one's children, a call to arms for all who think that life, as we have known it, is worth preserving. Shiva, an Indian physicist and leader in the International Forum on Globalization along with Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin, is winner of the 1993 Right Livelihood Award. Hers was a strong voice for the environment during the months leading up to Seattle and A16.
Shiva chronicles the consequences of the whole process of economic change called by various names: the new world order, the global economy, and -- by those of us in the trenches -- globalization. The new economic order created by a series of trade treaties requires the privatization and deregulation of the national economies of member states. This means that the sorely won regulations progressive groups have fought for on food safety and environmental pollution are removed. Public sector enterprises -- like water, healthcare, our natural resources -- which have protected our basic needs from private exploitation must now be sold to private bidders, regardless of their nationality. We have already seen in this country the results of turning health care over to private entrepreneurs. Other disasters are soon to follow.
The global rules on agriculture imposed by the World Trade Organization deny the idea of self-sufficiency in food that has always been a mainstay of any nation. Instead, it is assumed that countries will concentrate on exports and buy their food on the international market. But the cost of food on the international market (particularly with subsidized agriculture in the northern countries) undercuts what poor countries must charge for their products. The main result has been the elimination of small farmers and peasant agriculture to make way for commercial export crops. Hundreds of thousands of displaced peasant women have migrated to the cities where they become cheap labor for transnational manufacturing enterprises. The transnational corporations benefit three ways: first, local food is driven from the market; second, cheap land becomes available for commercial crops; and third, the low paid labor of displaced people enhances the profits of foreign capital.
The result is loss of local control over food and the placing of control of the economy in the hands of transnational corporations. As a result of this process, just five corporations control the global trade in grain. Ten corporations control 32% of the commercial seed market (including 100% of the genetically modified seed). This process is not without impact on the United States' food supply as well. It becomes increasingly difficult and very expensive to eat natural, nutritious food. Small farms have all but disappeared, and pesticides, herbicides, and commercial fertilizers are polluting our bodies, our water, and our atmosphere.
Vandana Shiva's book documents well what is happening in India and it is not hard to see the impact on the rest of the world. The story of the Stolen Harvest is the story of the transfer of all beings and their actions and environments into fodder for the global market.
Jean Grossholtz teaches in the Women's Studies Department
at Mount Hoyoke College, South Hadley, MA,
From an April 16, 2000 interview with Sheri Herndon <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Q: How would you describe what these policies are doing in India?
A: Let me run through four examples of the kind of destruction the World Bank and IMF policies cause.
In 1984, we had a drought; India needed a little bit of money to deepen our wells for drinking water. The World Bank said they would only give the money if it was conditional to turning the entire state into a cash crop state to grow sugar cane, creating a recipe for water famine within five years and forcing the country into debt.
In 1966, the World Bank forced India with its loans linked to the chemical revolution called the Green Revolution to introduce a very, very destructive and centralized agriculture. Today it is withdrawing the very subsidies it imposed on India and wanting the agriculture system to collapse with a recipe that this agriculture now be handed over to corporations. Inefficiencies of that centralized system were not created by autonomous sovereign decision within India; they were created by World Bank policy and pressure.
The World Bank is forcing India to privatize water resources. There have been situations, for example, a lake in Mahahrash, built by the tribals, taken over by Coca-Cola, which is preventing the tribals who built it from having access to drinking water. All across India's 7000 km coastline -- and this is what I was working on just before I left -- World Bank financing has created a cancerous growth of industrial shrimp farms creating a saline desert, devastating coastal ecosystems and coastal people who have been protesting against these policies. We reached the Supreme Court; we got a victory in the Supreme Court. The Indian Supreme Court ruled that this activity was so destructive it must be stopped. And then the World Bank and its national credit agencies applied pressure on the government to try and undo the laws on the basis of which we had won Supreme Court victory. That is the battle we are fighting right now.
So, no matter where you look, the World Bank is basically taking away the resources of the people, putting them in the hands of global capital, destroying the livehoods of people in the name of efficiency, and forcing destitution on millions and billions of people. Its policies are nothing short of genocide.
Of course the World Bank and the IMF officials visit the Third World, but they do not know the realities because all they look at is the returns on investment calculations that they have already made in Washington before they made their trips.
Q: You alluded to self-determination and this is an incredibly important principle as we are dealing with the trend of privatization everywhere. How would you describe efforts that are currently happening in India and other places with which you are familiar, toward self-determination?
A: Last year we started a movement of village communities having sovereignty over their biodiversity and biological resources. And this year because of the kind of pressures the World Bank is putting on water, on forcing India to raise the prices of food through removal of food subsidies, what we have is "Agenda 5 for Freedom." Basically saying we will control these sectors and economies, they belong to the people, we will run them on our terms, and we will create zones that are totally free of control of these international systems. And the 5 for Freedom are:
1. Freedom to seed and therefore freedom from patenting and genetic engineering;
2. Freedom to water and therefore no privatization of water but rather community control over water;
3. Freedom of food, to have access to food, to be able to be free to grow food according to nature's sustainability and livelihood necessities;
4. Freedom of the forest so that in countries like India, where 80% of people get their fodder and fuel and medicinal needs from the forest, they can continue to meet them; and finally
5. Freedom to entitlement to land because the World Bank policies are undoing our land reform and moving land out of small peasant holdings into large corporate holdings and we have had again and again in history movements to keep land in the hands of the tiller.