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Vandana Shiva

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Vandana Shiva in 2007.
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Vandana Shiva would rather have her people in India starve than eat bioengineered food.
—C. S. Prakash, Professor of plant molecular genetics, Tuskegee University[1]

Vandana Shiva (1952–) is an environmentalist from India. She is known for her opposition to good food genetically modified food, particularly golden rice (a variant of rice modified to contain beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A).[2] She is also a prominent member of the ecofeminist movement.[3]

Qualification[edit]

She earned her doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario in 1978 by a dissertation titled Hidden Variables and Locality in Quantum Theory.[4] However, she claims to be a quantum physicist.[5] Various environmentalism and left-wing websites also introduce her as a physicist.[6][7] To be fair, she did actually receive both a bachelor's and master's in Physics from Panjab University in Chandigarh in 1972 and 1974, and then briefly worked at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center.[8]

Gone Vananas[edit]

If you would pardon the unfunny pun, these are some of the rather unscientific stances of Vandana Shiva.

On biotechnology[edit]

She has several written books on GM foods. In them, she has said how GM foods could cause sterility in all plants and how it could destroy the world:[9]

The gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet.

This is of course, not even wrong. By the very definition, sterile plants don't reproduce, and thus wouldn't be able to spread throughout wild populations. GMOs do not produce anything that couldn't possibly be produced by natural means; it just does it faster. Injecting jellyfish DNA into corn might seem like something that's impossible, but such events do happen in the wild; in what is known as horizontal gene transfer, viruses can take DNA from one organism and inject it into an unrelated organism, allowing for genes to appear in an organism almost out of the blue.

During the aftermath of the devastating 1999 Orissa cyclone,Wikipedia Shiva wrote a letter to Oxfam,Wikipedia in which she pointed out Ofxam's position on GM and WTO policies, expressed disappointment and expressed hope that their food aid will be GM-free.[10] Shiva's group gathered grain donated for relief, apparently had it tested and then claimed that it was genetically modified. They then demanded that this "corn-soya blend" food be withdrawn immediately.[11] She also claimed that biotechnology companies were trying to use the people of Orissa as guinea pigs for products that had been rejected in Europe and Japan.[12][1]

In a Huffington Post interview published on 28 October 2010, she claimed to have in her possession letters from Chinese scientists proving that SARSWikipedia was caused by a virus from a genetically modified plant crossing into animals.[13] And 10 years later, this hasn't changed for the better. She now claims that the COVID-19 Coronavirus was caused by GMO animal feed. [14] During a panel at the "Real Truth about Health" naturopath summit in the US, joined by fellow crank Jeffrey Smith, she claimed that - according to "a lot of scientists and some people" - this is also true for viruses that caused the "new epidemics" in general; and she also implies that this is all connected to a sinister plot devised by Big GM and Big Pharma for their own financial gains.

The new epidemics of new viruses, a lot of scientists have said, are coming from the hybridisation of viruses that are used as promoters and the viruses in our gut. I got a letter from a Chinese scientist when the SARS epidemic broke, do you remember, and he said “We are feeding all our animals GMO soya and it could so easily be that this horizontal gene transfer is happening and the animals are developing super-viruses which are then jumping from animals to humans." This also, some people have said, is related to the H1N1 which are very lethal viruses compared to earlier viruses. Again, because the GM-chemical industry, the GM industry and the pharmaceutical industry is one industry for them it’s wonderful there’s more diseases. It’s a very good successful business model. But for the people … it’s not. [all said while wearing a gleeful smile ] [15]

In January 2013, Mark Lynas addressing the Oxford Farming Conference said that:

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt.

Shiva replied to this on Twitter:[16]
  1. MarkLynas saying farmers shd be free to grow #GMOs which can contaminate #organic farms is like saying #rapists shd have freedom to rape

This tweet was in the immediate aftermath of the much publicized Delhi rape and murder caseWikipedia that happened in December 2012. She has also "discovered" links between increased use of GMOs and glyphosate, and rise in autism, as there is a one-to-one correspondence between their graphs. Remember correlation does not imply causation.[17]

On nuclear energy and fertilizers[edit]

Shiva hates nuclear energy and fertilizers, as both were originally "designed for war". She often compares fertilizers with nuclear energy. She has argued that anything with "origins in war always has the potential for war". She has pointed out that fertilizers are being used by terrorists to make explosives.[18] She called for a ban on fertilizers which is a "weapon of mass destruction" according to her.[17] This is an absurd argument since many everyday objects are the result of wartime inventions, e.g., vegetarians sausages, modern feminine hygiene products, stainless steel,[19] air traffic control, nylon and other synthetic fabrics, most of the field of aviation, satellites and the rest of the space program, computers, the internet, and portable X-rays.[20]

Her position with regards to nuclear energy is particularly surprising, given that she once worked at Bhabha Atomic Research CentreWikipedia, India's premier nuclear research facility.

On farmers' suicides[edit]

Shiva has argued that a non-food GMO, Bt-cotton, ruins poorer farmers and causes farmers' suicides in India.Wikipedia[21] But the suicide rate among farmers actually had started rising more than 5 years before its introduction.[22] In fact, a long-term study released in 2012 on the economic impacts of Bt-cotton in India showed that Bt-cotton has increased yields, profits, and the living standards of smallholder farmers.[23] Another 2014 study found that high suicide rates were also observed in states which don't even cultivate cotton. The study found that suicides were caused by indebtedness due to lack of access to formal banking, and lack of irrigation facilities which could have prevented crop failures.[24]

On economic policy and rape in India[edit]

Shiva has linked the rise in reported rape cases in India to the economic reformsWikipedia introduced in 1991. She has pointed out that were 10,068 reported rape cases in 1990 and the number jumped to 24,206 cases in 2011. She has blamed it on the economic reforms carried out by India in the early 1990s. She argued that the traditional patriarchy and "capitalist patriarchy" has combined to form a hybrid. She has called the growth-focused policy "myopic" and GDP a "patriarchal construct". She has argued that it disregards the contribution of women towards their family and community, and makes them economically vulnerable. She has argued that limitless economic growth is not possible without the powerful grabbing the resources of the vulnerable, which subjects the women and the planet to a culture of rape.[25]

However, the increased reported rapes in India and other developing parts of the world is, perhaps counter-intuitively, a good thing; it means that rape victims are able to speak up about it with the assurance of justice and without the fear of social stigma.[26] Or at least, a greater chance of justice and reduced amount of social stigma.

On Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation[edit]

Shiva has accused the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of “attempting to impose ‘food totalitarianism’ on the world.” because of Bill Gates’ investment in genetic modification in foods. In her book “One Earth, One Humanity vs. the 1%”, she states that “Bill Gates is continuing the work of Monsanto” and also targets other billionaires’s (comparatively lame) philanthropy such as Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. Due to her cult-like following in India, these poor accusations have not been viewed in much critical lens. She also states:

They cause all this destruction in the name of feeding the world, but has the world been fed? We need to take a step back to understand the true meaning of economy and ecology”.

The benefits of his investment in GMOs are discussed at the GMO page.

Open Letter[edit]

Vandana Shiva was to speak at Stanford and the University of California, Santa Cruz on “equitable and sustainable” farming methods in late January, 2020.[27] This outraged several members of the scientific community in Stanford.[28] 39 scientists co-authored an open letter, reproduced below in full,[29] talks about Shiva and her “use of anti-scientific rhetoric to support unethical positions.”[30]

In a nutshell[edit]

Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. In the aftermath, CARE and the Catholic Relief Society distributed a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to thousands of hungry storm victims. Oddly, this humanitarian act elicited cries of outrage.

[...] Shiva not only opposes the food aid but is also against "golden rice," a crop that could prevent blindness in half a million to 3 million poor children a year and alleviate vitamin A deficiency in some 250 million people in the developing world. By inserting three genes, two from daffodils and one from a bacterium, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology created a variety of rice that produces the nutrient beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. [...]

Last June, at a Capitol Hill seminar on biotechnology sponsored by the Congressional Hunger Center, Shiva airily dismissed golden rice by claiming that "just in the state of Bengal 150 greens which are rich in vitamin A are eaten and grown by the women." A visibly angry Martina McGloughlin, director of the biotechnology program at the University of California at Davis, said "Dr. Shiva's response reminds me of… Marie Antoinette, [who] suggested the peasants eat cake if they didn't have access to bread." Alexander Avery of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues noted that nutritionists at UNICEF doubted it was physically possible to get enough vitamin A from the greens Shiva was recommending. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that poor women living in shanties in the heart of Calcutta could grow greens to feed their children.
—Ronald Bailey, reason.com[31][32][33]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Dr. Strangelunch, by Ronald Bailey, Reason.com, 1 January 2001
  2. The "Golden Rice" Hoax-When Public Relations replaces Science by Dr. Vandana Shiva
  3. Jasmin Sydee and Sharon Beder, 'Ecofeminism and Globalism', Democracy and Nature, July 2001, pp. 281-302.
  4. "Hidden variables and locality in quantum theory" by Vandana Shiva (microform). Department of Philosophy, Graduate Studies, University of Western Ontario, 1978
  5. Seed Monopolies, GMOs and Farmer Suicides in India – A response to Nature by Vandana Shiva, 12 November 2012
  6. Dr. Vandana Shiva, EcoWatch
  7. Vandana Shiva, South End Press
  8. Benjamin F. Shearer, Barbara S. Shearer: Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 364
  9. Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply By Vandana Shiva
  10. OXFAM's Support to GM Crops for the Third World, Gentech, 8 November 1999
  11. Bountiful Harvest: Technology, Food Safety, and the Environment By Thomas DeGregori, pp 193-194
  12. Foreign Policy Annual, 2001: Events And Documents By Mahendra Gaur, p 188
  13. A Visit to My Kitchen: Vandana Shiva, The Huffington Post, 28 October 2010
  14. The Germination of Outrage: How Vandana Shiva Fabricates Conspiracy Theories, The Riskmonger", 27 February 2020
  15. What The - not actual - Experts Want You To Know About GMO's? Real Truth about Health", 20 February 2020
  16. Vandana Shiva Compares GMOs to Rape By Keith Kloor, 5 January 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 Seeds of Doubt, by Michael Specter, The New Yorker, 25 August 2015
  18. Koodankulam Must Be Stopped: Vandana Shiva, DiaNuke, 29 May 2012
  19. 10 inventions that owe their success to World War One by Stephen Evans (13 April 2014) BBC News.
  20. The 6 Most Surprising, Important Inventions From World War I by Simone M. Scully (Jul 07, 2014) Nautilus.
  21. The Selling of the Suicide Seeds Narrative, Discover blogs, 7 January 2014
  22. Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India, by Guillaume P. Gruère, 2008
  23. Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in India, by Jonas Kathage and Matin Qaim, 2012
  24. Political Economy of Suicide: Financial Reforms, Credit Crunches and Farmer Suicides in India by Anoop Sadanandan, 2014
  25. Vandana Shiva: Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women, Yes Magazine, 18 January 2013
  26. What enables rape reporting?, The Hindu, 25 April 2015
  27. Vandana Shiva Is A Shameful Choice For University Lecturer, I&I
  28. 39 biotech experts’ open letter protests anti-GMO activist Vandana Shiva’s ‘anti-science’ talks at Stanford and UC Santa Cruz (January 14, 2020) GLP
  29. From Letter regarding Dr Vandana Shiva’s anti-scientific and unethical stances
  30. Scientists write to US universities for inviting ‘anti-science’ activist Vandana Shiva by Sandhya Ramesh in Science (17 January 2020 5:41 pm IST) ThePrint
  31. Dr. Strangelunch by Ronal Bailey in the Jan 2001 issue
  32. Vandana Shiva Is One of the World's Worst People (7.29.2014 3:21 PM) reason.com
  33. The Myths of Vandana Shiva by Steven Novella