Fine print of the food wars

by Dr. Vandana Shiva –


Creating ‘ownership’ of seed through patents and intellectual property rights and imposing it globally through the WTO, the biotech industry has established a monopoly empire over seed and food

Monsanto and friends, the biotech industry, its lobbyists and its paid media representation continue to push for monopoly control over the world’s food through its seed supply.
This “empire” is being built on false foundations: that Monsanto is a creator/inventor of life and hence can own the seed through patents and that life can be engineered and machined like an iPhone.

Through ecology and the new biology we know that life is self-organised complexity — life makes itself; it cannot be “manufactured”. This also applies to food production through the new science of agroecology. Agroecology gives us a deeper scientific understanding of how ecological processes work at the level of soils, living seeds and living food. The promises made by the biotech industry — of increased yields, reduction of chemical use and control of weeds and pests — have not been kept. Last month an investment fund sued DuPont for $1 billion for pushing herbicide-resistant crops knowing fully well they would fail to control weeds and instead contribute to the emergence of “superweeds”.

Creating “ownership” of seed through patents and intellectual property rights and imposing it globally through the World Trade Organisation, the biotech industry has established a monopoly empire over seed and food. While they claim ownership of the seeds they sell and collect royalties, when it comes to checks and balances on safety, the biotech industry is systematically destroying international and national laws on biosafety claiming their products are “as nature made them”. It’s ontological schizophrenia!

Biosafety is the multi-disciplinary assessment of the impact of genetic engineering on the environment, on public health and on socio-economic conditions. At the international level, biosafety is international law enshrined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. I was appointed to an expert group to evolve the framework by the United Nations environment programmme to implement Article 19.3 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Monsanto and friends have been attempting to deny citizens the right to safe food by opposing Article 19.3 since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

Currently they are attempting to dismantle national laws on biosafety in India, Pakistan, the European Union, across Africa and Latin America. In the United States, they are distorting the Constitution by suing state governments that have passed labelling laws for GMO (genetically modified) foods by claiming that the citizens’ right to know what they eat is superseded by the biotech industry’s right to impose hazardous foods on uninformed consumers as the freedom of speech of a corporation, as if it were a natural person.

Their PR machine is deployed to unscientifically attack scientists working on biosafety, such as Árpád Pusztai, Ignacio Chapela, Irina Ermakova, Éric Séralini and myself. Many journalists, having no scientific background themselves, have become soldiers in this PR assault. Privileged white men like Mark Lynas, Jon Entine and Michael Specter, with no practical experience in agriculture, armed only with BA degrees and ties to corporate-controlled media, are being used to undermine real scientific findings about the impact of GMOs on our health and ecosystems.

Biotech industry uses its PR puppets to falsely claim that GMOs are a solution to world hunger. This denialism of real scientific debate about how living systems evolve and adapt, is backed by an aggressive and massive PR assault, including the use of intelligence agencies such as Blackwater.

In 2010, Forbes named me one of the seven most powerful women in the world for “putting women front and centre to solve the issue of food security in the developing world”. In 2014, Jon Entine, a journalist, wrote an “opinion” piece on the Forbes website, falsely claiming that I have not studied physics. While I have studied physics at a post-graduate level and done my doctorate on the foundations of quantum theory, I have spent 40 years studying ecology in India’s farms and forests, with nature and wise peasants as my teachers. This is the basis of my expertise in agroecology and biosafety.

Good science and proven technologies do not need PRs, intelligence agencies or corrupt governments to prove the facts.

If unfounded attacks on a scientist from a developing country by a non-scientist is one of their tools in shaping the future, they have got it all wrong. They don’t see the growing citizens’ outrage against Monsanto’s monopoly.
In sovereign countries, where the might of Monsanto and friends is limited, the people and their governments are rejecting their monopoly and failed technology. But this news is suppressed by the PR machine.
Russia has completely banned GMOs with deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev saying, “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food”.

China has banned GMOs in military food supplies. Italy has just passed a law, Campo libre, making planting GMO crops punishable with a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 10,000-30,000 euros. Italian minister of agriculture Nunzia De Girolamo said in a statement: “Our agriculture is based on biodiversity, on quality, and we must continue to aim for these without ventures that, even from the economic point of view, wouldn’t make us competitive.”

PR pieces in Forbes and the New Yorker cannot stop the awakening of millions of farmers and consumers to the very real dangers of genetically-modified organisms in our food and the shortcomings and failures of the industrial food system which is destroying the planet and our health.

The Hindus facing eviction by Pakistan’s army

A poor Hindu community is facing eviction from an area in Pakistan’s garrison city of Rawalpindi where its members have lived for more than 80 years.

The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), an engineering branch of the army, plans to build a barracks and educational complex by demolishing the main Hindu temple that serves the minority community and 53 slum dwellings.

With the help of a minority member of parliament, Isphanyar Bhandara, the community has been able to win a temporary stay on the eviction – the army has offered resettlement.

However, the community is reluctant to leave the well-guarded Gracy Lines area, given the threats to minorities in Pakistan, and because of an association that goes back generations.

The BBC tried to get in touch with the Pakistan army’s media wing for comment but calls were not returned.

retired government servant Allah Ditta 85 and his mother

Allah Ditta, 85, is a retired government worker who says his father and forefather were buried in Gracy Lines. With him is his mother, Sharfo Bibi, who is estimated to be about 100. Allah Ditta says his mother became senile after his father’s death in the 1971 war between India and Pakistan.

In her broken speech, she told me: “I have washed dishes for the army, cleaned up after them, worked for them, why do they want to kick us out?”

Welcome sign at Gracy Lines

There are 52 Hindu families living in small homes at Gracy Lines. They live among Muslims who converted after partition, and Christians. The area is surrounded by shiny new buildings built by the army’s Frontier Works Organisation.

Leaders of the community say that they could have left for India in 1947 but chose to remain here and served Pakistan by fighting in the wars with India in 1971 and 1965. They showed me a copy of the lease in perpetuity for the temple which was given to the Hindu community and which can be extended after 100 years.


Shakuntala, 60, came to the settlement 40 years ago from Abbottabad when she got married. She says: “My in-laws have been living in Gracy Lines while the British were here. I used to travel to the Hindu temple by scooter. We don’t earn enough money to pay rents – where will we go?” The community says the average income is 8,000-10,000 Pakistani rupees ($78-$98) a month.

Ashok Chand

Ashok Chand is the father of three children with learning difficulties. He says: “We are being mentally tortured by certain officers. To put pressure on us, sometimes they cut off our water, or threaten to cut off electricity. We don’t want to get in the way of the army, because the army has protected us for so many years.”

Pandit Mir Chand Khokhar

Pandit Mir Chand Khokhar of the Maharishi Valmik Swamiji temple is standing next to the portion of the building that remained intact after it was set on fire in 1992 in retaliation for the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in India.

The government of Pakistan helped rebuild the temple – its foundation was laid in 1935 and it serves as the main temple of Hindus living in Rawalpindi.

Khurrum Shehzad

Khurrum Shehzad is a Christian whose family converted from Hinduism. “The founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah promised safety and security to minority communities in Pakistan, and a portion of the Pakistani flag is white representing us, the minorities. We want to continue to live here, near the temple, which serves as a focal point for the community.”

40 year old Farzana Ashraf

Farzana Ashraf, 40, is a Muslim who says that if the settlement is demolished, their community’s way of life will end.

“We all attend each other’s religious festivals – Eid, Diwali and Christmas. The Hindus come with us to our shrines and we come to their temple. Even if we are given a place elsewhere, this model of harmony will be broken.”

A barbaric incident

A woman was declared kari after she shook hands with her maternal uncle in rural Sindh. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE

Due to the inquisitive nature of humans, there are many questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis — what is something called, where does something come from, what is the history behind a certain idea or concept? In Pakistan, one of the things the humanitarians in us question very frequently is how does someone come to develop a certain mindset — the mindset of cruelty, injustice and superiority over another race or gender? This is the same question we ponder upon a recent story appearing in this newspaper about a woman being declared kari after she shook hands with her maternal uncle in rural Sindh.

It is appalling that tribal elders — who for so long have been given authority over people without following any just process of law — ordered the woman’s husband to deal her harsh treatment after she shook hands with her uncle. The only heinous crime here is the abuse committed by the husband over the woman in the past five years. Furthermore, tribal elders should be banished for their dictatorial practices without any knowledge of state law.

The woman who has been facing trauma at the hands of these men would be better off without the animosity of her in-laws. However, who will take the responsibility of her safety and protection from the threats of her in-laws? Certainly, this type of story, once again, calls for the attention of the authorities and the human rights commissions to ensure that women are not treated as objects whose fates and futures are decided by men. We need to empower our women. Instead, we propagate ideologies of women being the lesser, weaker being — both physically and mentally. We have examples of women being made to stand in queues separate from men and being treated differently only to question, why it is necessary. The rural cultures of our country’s provinces are, indeed, backward. They severely impinge on women’s rights and it is time that the state took action to root out these antediluvian mindsets and ideologies.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.

In Pictures: Pakistan’s street children

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera
There are two types of street children in Pakistan. Those who start and end their day on the streets while the latter live with their families but are sent to the streets to make money.
/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

About 25,000 children daily defy the weather and physical restraints and wander on Karachi’s roads to sell tissue papers, clean windscreens or just knock on car windows begging.

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

Street children are vulnerable to sexual abuse on a daily basis. More than 90 percent have been sexually assaulted and the biggest culprits are police officials, according to Asif.

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

Only eight percent of children living on the streets in Pakistan are female. Most of them are picked up when they arrive on the streets and then sold off into prostitution for about Rs 25,000 each ($250).

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

Apart from a huge number of Afghan migrants, about 45 percent of street children in Pakistan are Myanmarese and Bengalis, with those communities having 58 settlements in Karachi alone.

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

Shrines, where these children visit regularly to fill up their stomachs, are the most popular places for the mafia to recruit them. These locations also act as hotspots for children to acquire cheap drugs and heroin, costing around 20 cents ($0.20).

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

The hustle-bustle of the city life enticed Ali to leave his village home. The video game shops, the sight of “better” food, the availability of cheap drugs and glue-sniffing, made him forget his “plain and stagnant” life at home.

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

There is no law against internal trafficking in Pakistan, Asif said, as children from the north often end up in Pakistan’s metropolises.

/Faras Ghani/ Al Jazeera

Rotherham abuse scandal shows poor treated as worthless


The girls in Rotherham were not listened to, or even seen as children.

 The bigger picture is not, as the right claim, about ethnicity but systematic abuse of girls and boys by powerful men.

Have you ever tried to explain to a 14-year-old girl that she does not have to have sex with all her boyfriend’s friends to show that she loves him? That she has, in fact, been raped? Have you taken her on the bus to get her contraception, only to watch her throw the pills out of the window on the way back?

I had to do this, when young myself and working as a residential care worker. It was my duty to report a child missing if he or she did not come back to the home at night. For some girls, that was most nights. The police and my co-workers cheerily referred to these girls as “being on the game.”

If you want to know about ethnicity – as everyone appears to think this is key – these girls were of Caribbean descent, as were their pimps. The men who paid to rape these children, they said, were mostly white.

That was London in the 80s, so the whole “child protection is in tatters” number is not news. Child protection services have not worn down: they have been torn apart. Care has never been a place of safety, and anyone who wanted to know that could do so. Just look at who is in prison, who is homeless, who is an addict and ask how good our care system has ever been.

I had wanted to stay in social work, but after a placement answering calls on what was known as the frontline I realized that most of my work would be sorting out emergency payments for food and heating. People needed money, not cod psychoanalysis. It was also obvious that social work systems were not only failing, but under attack. First they came for the social workers (bearded do-gooders), then they came for the teachers (the blob) … this is how neoliberal ideology has been so effective in running down the public sector.

Now we are to feign surprise that the victims of this failure emerge, and they turn out to be girls of the underclass. Slags, skets, skanks, hos: every day I hear a new word for them.

The report on Rotherham is clear-eyed about who targeted the girls: men of Pakistani and Kashmiri descent, working in gangs to rape and torture girls. The men called the girls “white trash”, but white girls were not their only victims. They also abused women in their own community who had pressure put on them never to name names.

Certain journalists, including Julie Bindel, have been covering this story for years and have never shied away from describing the men’s ethnic origin. Ethnicity is a factor but there is also a shared assumption beneath the police inaction and the council workers’ negligence: all of them deemed the girls worthless. The police described them as “undesirables” while knowing they were indeed “desired” by both Pakistani and white men for sex. They were never seen as children at all, but as somehow unrapeable, capable of consensual sex with five men at the age of 11.

Heroin use, self-harm, attempted suicide, unwanted pregnancies, all of this was reported to the authorities. Meanwhile, “care” was being outsourced and some of these girls were moved to homes outside the area. This just meant the rapists’ taxis had to go a bit further.

The running down of children’s services to a skeletal organization in an already deprived area is spelled out in the report, which talks of “the dramatic reduction of resources available … By 2016 Rotherham will have lost 33% of its spending power” compared with 2010. Buckinghamshire, by contrast, will have suffered a 4.5% reduction.

It is as if everyone has agreed who is worthless and who isn’t; who can be saved and who can’t. The police, the local authority, the government, and indeed the grooming gangs, appear to share the same ideology about sexual purity – and its value.

The rightwing likes the cheap thrill of an underclass woman, drunk and showing her ….. and now blames rape on political correctness gone mad, as though a bit of robust racism is the answer to misogyny.

OK. So let’s join the dots to Savile and the other recent sex-abuse scandals. We have the police in on the case; we have institutions basically offering up the most vulnerable as victims; we have a protection racket centered around fame rather than ethnicity. At the top we have abusive men, at the bottom powerless young girls and boys. So the bigger picture is the systematic rape of poor children by men. Not all men – I have to say this to be politically correct, don’t I?

The right can make it only about race. I have no problem in calling certain attitudes of certain Muslims appalling. I just can’t see them in isolation from class and gender.

The macho environment in which the girls were not listened to, or even seen as children, is part of a continuum of thought in which girls, once deemed sexually active, even if it is against their will, are seen as damaged goods. Thus they can be bought and sold in a market that has made it apparent it no longer considers them worth protecting. Where is the profit in that?

Whatever resignations are proffered, what is horrifying is this wholesale resignation to an economic caste system. Our untouchables turn out to be little girls raped by powerful men.

YUNGA is looking for an intern!

YUNGA is looking for individuals interested in undertaking an
internship at the FAO headquarters in Rome for 4 months from
September 2014. We are looking for someone who:
1. Has a background in educational, environment or science education.
2. Has been working for at least 2 years in non-formal educational environments (for example as a Scout or Guide leader).
3. Has experience in developing educational materials and resources in English and other languages.
4. Has undertaken community work.

Excellent written and spoken skills in English are essential. Knowledge of additional languages are an advantage.

FAO internships provide US$700 per month.

If you are interested, please send your CV and a one paragraph e-mail on why you would be interested for working for YUNGA with in copy.

The deadline for applications is 15th September 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Call for strict enforcement of laws on religious rights


The government was urged to take appropriate measures to the satisfaction of the minority community for the sake of a peaceful coexistence. — Photo by AFP
The government was urged to take appropriate measures to the satisfaction of the minority community for the sake of a peaceful coexistence. — Photo by AFP

LARKANA: Speaking at a consultative workshop held at the Larkana District Bar Association office on Saturday, lawyers and activists of various civil society organisations called for strict implementation of international covenants on religious rights in order to ensure communal harmony and check extremism in the country.

“We have to work as a team to bridge gaps to promote religious harmony,” representatives of the host organisations, the Civil Society Support Programme (CSSP), Right to Expression, Association and Thought (REAT) Network, as well as those of the human rights organisations and leaders of the lawyer fraternity declared at the workshop Iqbal Detho, a human right activist, observed that religious intolerance in society was growing. He called for the abolishment of laws discriminatory against any religious minority. He stressed the need for building a society where followers of all religions and faiths could live together in peace and harmony.

He referred to Article 2, 6 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Religious Right 1966 of which Pakistan is a signatory. He said that Article 20 of the country’s 1973 Constitution guaranteed human rights.

Mr Detho called for an effective implementation of the laws on ethnic, linguistic and religious rights.

The participants discussed the issues of alleged abduction of Hindu girls and their conversion by way of marriage, kidnapping of members of the community for ransom and other such grievances.

They urged the government to take appropriate measures to the satisfaction of the minority community for the sake of a peaceful coexistence.

The participants in the workshop included CSSP manager Afzal Shaikh, Safdar Bhutto, Narendar Kumar, Ashfaque Abro, Saeed Shaikh, Abdul Rehman Bhutto and Tariq Naeem Awan.