| Style over substance|
“”Vandana Shiva would rather have her people in India starve than eat bioengineered food.
|—C. S. Prakash, Professor of plant molecular genetics, Tuskegee University|
Vandana Shiva 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). She is also a prominent member of the ecofeminist movement.
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. However, she claims to be a quantum physicist. Various environmentalism and left-wing websites also introduce her as a physicist. 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. But she never earned a PhD, and therefore cannot call herself a physicist.
Views and opinions
On biotechnologyShe 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:
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. Nature is weird like that.
During the aftermath of the devastating 1999 Orissa cyclone, Shiva wrote a letter to Oxfam, 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. 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 They then demanded that this "corn-soya blend" food be withdrawn immediately. 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.
In a Huffington Post interview published on 28 October 2010, she claimed to have in her possession letters from Chinese scientists proving that SARS was caused by a virus from a genetically modified plant crossing into animals.
In January 2013, Mark Lynas addressing the Oxford Farming Conference said that:
Shiva replied to this on Twitter:
But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt.
- 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 case 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.
On nuclear energy and fertilizers
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. She called for a ban on fertilizers which is a "weapon of mass destruction" according to her. 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, 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.
Her position with regards to nuclear energy is particularly surprising, given that she once worked at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, India's premier nuclear research facility.
On farmers' suicides
Shiva has argued that a non-food GMO, Bt-cotton, ruins poorer farmers and causes farmers' suicides in India. But the suicide rate among farmers actually had started rising more than 5 years before its introduction. 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. 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.
On economic policy and rape in India
Shiva has linked the rise in reported rape cases in India to the economic reforms 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.
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. Or at least, a greater chance of justice and reduced amount of social stigma.
- Who is Vandana Shiva and why is she saying such awful things about GMOs?, on the Genetic Literacy Project site, updated 20-Aug-2014
- Dr. Strangelunch, by Ronald Bailey, Reason, 1 January 2001
- Dr. Strangelunch, by Ronald Bailey, Reason.com, 1 January 2001
- The "Golden Rice" Hoax-When Public Relations replaces Science by Dr. Vandana Shiva
- Jasmin Sydee and Sharon Beder, 'Ecofeminism and Globalism', Democracy and Nature, July 2001, pp. 281-302.
- "Hidden variables and locality in quantum theory" by Vandana Shiva (microform). Department of Philosophy, Graduate Studies, University of Western Ontario, 1978
- Seed Monopolies, GMOs and Farmer Suicides in India – A response to Nature by Vandana Shiva, 12 November 2012
- Dr. Vandana Shiva, EcoWatch
- Vandana Shiva, South End Press
- Benjamin F. Shearer, Barbara S. Shearer: Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 364
- Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply By Vandana Shiva
- OXFAM's Support to GM Crops for the Third World, Gentech, 8 November 1999
- Bountiful Harvest: Technology, Food Safety, and the Environment By Thomas DeGregori, pp 193-194
- Foreign Policy Annual, 2001: Events And Documents By Mahendra Gaur, p 188
- A Visit to My Kitchen: Vandana Shiva, The Huffington Post, 28 October 2010
- Vandana Shiva Compares GMOs to Rape By Keith Kloor, 5 January 2013
- Seeds of Doubt, by Michael Specter, The New Yorker, 25 August 2015
- Koodankulam Must Be Stopped: Vandana Shiva, DiaNuke, 29 May 2012
- 10 inventions that owe their success to World War One by Stephen Evans (13 April 2014) BBC News.
- The 6 Most Surprising, Important Inventions From World War I by Simone M. Scully (Jul 07, 2014) Nautilus.
- The Selling of the Suicide Seeds Narrative, Discover blogs, 7 January 2014
- Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India, by Guillaume P. Gruère, 2008
- Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in India, by Jonas Kathage and Matin Qaim, 2012
- Political Economy of Suicide: Financial Reforms, Credit Crunches and Farmer Suicides in India by Anoop Sadanandan, 2014
- Vandana Shiva: Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women, Yes Magazine, 18 January 2013
- What enables rape reporting?, The Hindu, 25 April 2015