Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I'm here

Nov 15
So I don't think I've actually ever explained to most friends or fam what I am actually DOING at the navdanya farm. Let's see if I can boil it down to it's choice bits:

The global food system is a wreck. Currently, large corporations such as monsanto and cargill are trying patent seeds - patent LIFE as it were - and prevent farmers the world over from saving seeds for the next years harvest, by forcing them to buy this patented seed every year. This is wrecking lives and livlihoods amongst the worlds poor. These companies have gone so far as to take natural pesticide plants (the neem plant, indigenous to India) and patent it to sell back to farmers at a cost then suing them and putting them out of business should they reuse to pay! (even though Indian farmers have been using this plant for years and years). They also take seeds for corn that have been honed and selected over thousands of years by seed keepers (usually grandmothers), add one little genetic tweek to it in a lab, and then patent it as their very own to sell back to the farmers! What was the modification they added in the lab? To make the seed require monsantos very own brand of chemical (toxic) fertilizer to stay alive! Great business plan. Oh and if the farmers don't comply by paying each year for the seed, the court systems intervene and make them. This has happened in the US and in Canada as well. 

If there was any doubt as to the intentions of these seed corporations (actually they are chem corporations- the ones who gave us agent orange) they have now created the "terminator" seed. What does this technological innovation do? It up and dies after 1 generation of harvesting. So instead of being replanted every year like has been done since the beginning of the agrarian age, this seed acts as monsanto's own little patent enforcer and keeps the farmer from being able to use it again. He must instead by more from monsanto. What do you think this terminator seed does for world hunger??

The us supreme court has ruled that life can be patented and the WTO tries to enforce these patent laws world wide. There is a giant campaign funded by these chemical companies to make us believe that these patented and genetically modified seeds will save the poor of the third world and anyone who disagrees is a Luddite and an environmental nut who does not care about the starving in Africa. 

Chem company represnetatives write for influencial publications such as foreign affairs magazine. They contribute MILLIONS to universities so that they can influence the research that comes out, such as one scientist who was denied tenure for his work against gmos at berkeley. Yes we'd all like to hope that the university is the last bastion of independent thought, but research needs funding, and corporations are increasingly the ones providing the dough.  

The yields are not necessarily bigger with the new seed and the monoculture destroys the variety that is needed to keep healthy soil for future generations of harvests. 

There is so much more to this that I can't fit on a blog post and that I don't yet understand. The thrust of the reasearch navdanya does is to show that poverty is a result of political choices, and cannot be solved with a scientific fix. The planting and seed keeping on this organic and sustainable farm is actually very scientific and based on thousands of years of knowledge passed down through the women of India. 

Many students are here to learn how to farm organically - to make potent fertilizer from cow dung and worms instead of chemical fertilizer (which by the way uses a ton of fossil fuels to make.) this farm teaches farmers how to take these sustainable practices back to their own farms. My particular interest is in the politics of agriculture globalization, and in particular the extent to which the World Trade Organization acts as a patent enforcer and what that does to third world farmers. 99% of economists would argue that the principal of comparative advantage means that if one country produces grain best, another should produce corn and yet another cotton and thentrash trade through the market. But does this really make sense to do with with food when you have communiies who cannot even afford to buy food at the local market and all they grow is cotton that they cant then sell becuase the US subsidizes its cotton to make it cheaper than african cotton? Not to mention the enormous waste of fossil fuels that it takes to ship the stuff around. These are areas I am examining.

We have a tendency in the West to think that the Global South is backwards - that progress means creation in a lab and that reductionist science can cure all ils. The navdanya organization attempts to view the entire system - the politics, the ecology and the PEOPLE to come up win real solutions to hunger that do not include destroying the earth with chemicals or putting the wealth of a third world county in the hands of multinational corporations.

Anyway that's my little tirade. I worked for two hours last night preparing this mornings breakfast (naash-TA) so I am not going to miss it! Tootles.   

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