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(Fwd) Vandana Shiva On Pests, Weeds And Terrorists...

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  • Michel Dussandier
    ... Hash: SHA1 Harmony and the agriculture... - ------- Forwarded message follows ------- Subject: Vandana Shiva On Pests, Weeds And Terrorists... Date
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2002
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      Harmony and the agriculture...

      - ------- Forwarded message follows -------
      Subject: Vandana Shiva On Pests, Weeds And Terrorists...
      Date sent: Sat, 30 Nov 2002 21:22:46 -0800

      November 30, 2002

      On Pests, Weeds And Terrorists: Weaving Harmony Through Diversity

      By Vandana Shiva

      Lack of harmony characterizes our times -- There is disharmony
      humans and nature, between religions, between cultures, between
      genders. Non-sustainability, injustice, war are different expressions
      of disharmony which has its roots in a world view that blocks out
      relationships and essentialises characteristics and properties that
      are relational properties.

      Insects become pests in agriculture when monocultures encourage an
      increase in their populations, and chemical farming and industrial
      breeding produce plants vulnerable to pests. Pests are a product of a
      disharmony within plants and in ecosystems. Weaving harmony in
      agriculture implies bringing back the diversity which creates pest -
      predator balance and organic methods of breeding and production which
      produce resilient plants.

      However, in the dominant paradigm of agriculture, pests are not seen
      product of disharmony but as reductionist, essentialised, absolutised
      undesirable entities which must be exterminated with the most potent
      and toxic methods. This non-relational absolutised approach
      the problem instead of solving it because it deepens the disharmony
      which creates pests instead of recovering harmony, the only lasting
      solution for preventing insects from becoming `pests'.

      The violence of the inappropriate methods is justified by
      essentialsing "pestiness", creating images of fear of attack. Fear of
      attack calls for a counterattack, even if the pesticides kill people
      instead of bringing down pest problems.

      While pests are not a problem in ecologically balanced agriculture,
      an unstable agricultural system, they pose a serious challenge to
      agronomy. The metaphor for pesticide use in agriculture then becomes
      war, as an introduction to a textbook on pest-management illustrates:

      The war against pests is a continuing one that man must fight to
      ensure his survival. Pests (in particular insects) are our major
      competitors on each and for the hundreds of thousands of years of our
      existence they have kept our numbers low and, on occasions, have
      threatened extinction.

      Throughout the ages man has lived at a bare subsistence level because
      of the onslaught of pests and the diseases they carry. It is only in
      comparatively recent times that this picture has begun to alter as,
      certain parts of the world, we have gradually gained the upper hand
      over pests.

      The war story described some of the battles that have been fought and
      the continuing guerilla warfare, the type of enemies we are facing
      some of their manoeuvres for survival; the weapons we have at our
      command ranging from the rather crude ones of the "bow and arrow" age
      of pest control to the sophisticated weapons of the present day,
      including a look into the future of some "secret weapons" that are in
      the trial stages, the gains that have been made; and some of the
      devastation which is a concomitant of war.1

      But the `war' with pests is unnecessary. The most effective pest
      control mechanism is built into the ecology of crops, partly by
      ensuring balanced pest-predator relationships, through crop diversity
      and partly by building up resistance in plants. Organic manuring is
      now being shown to be critical to such a building up of resistance.

      The Green Revolution strategy fails to see the ecology of pests as
      well as that of pesticides because it is based on subtle balances
      within the plant and invisible relationships of the plant to its
      environment. It therefore simplistically reduces the management of
      pests to the violent use of poisons. It also fails to recognize that
      pests have natural enemies with the unique property of regulating

      In de Bach's view,

      The philosophy of pest control by chemicals has been to achieve the
      highest kill possible, and per cent mortality has been the main
      yardstick in the early screening of new chemicals in the lab. Such an
      objective, the highest kill possible, combined with ignorance of or
      disregard for, nontarget insects and mites is guaranteed to be the
      quickest road to upset resurgences and the development of resistance
      to pesticides.2

      De Bach's research on DDT-induced pest increase showed that these
      increases could be anywhere from thirty-six fold to over twelve
      hundred-fold. The aggravation of the problem is directly related to
      the violence unleashed on the natural enemies of pests. Reductionist
      science which fails to perceive the natural balance, also fails to
      anticipate and predict what will happen when that balance is

      While pesticides are creating more pests by increasing disharmony,
      they are killing people who were to be protected by pesticides. Three
      thousand people died in one night in Bhopal, thirty thousand people
      have died since then because of a leak of a toxic gas from the plant
      of Union Carbide now owned by Dow.3

      Thirty thousand people were killed in Punjab due to terrorism
      resulting from the non-sustainability of chemical agriculture, named
      the Green Revolution.4, twenty thousand farmers have committed
      by drinking the pesticides that got them into debt 5

      As our generation of pesticides based on a war mentality fail, a new
      generation is being offered in the same reductionist approach, with
      the new techniques of genetic engineering. Putting Bt. toxins into
      plants to control the Bollworm is one of the two dominant products of
      genetic engineering in agriculture.

      However, Bt. crops create pests, they do not control them. The
      experience of Bt. cotton in the first year of its commercial planting
      in India confirms that an approach that deepens disharmony instead of
      recovering harmony will deepen the pest problems arising from

      In three major states Bt. cotton has been wiped out completely
      farmers in great economic and livelihood crises. Not only have new
      pests and diseases emerged, the Bt. cotton has failed to even prevent
      bollworm attack for which it has been designed. While Bt. cotton is
      sold as pest resistant seed in India, it has proved to be more
      vulnerable to pest and diseases than the traditional and conventional

      Madhya Pradesh, the heart of the cotton-growing belt in India,
      witnessed total failure of genetically engineered Bt. cotton. The
      farmers of Khargoan district where Bt. is a 100% failure are up in
      arms against Monsanto-Mahyco that supplied these GM seeds and are
      demanding compensation from the company for the failure of their
      The failure of the Bt. cotton has devastated the farmers since they
      have spent five to six times to buy seeds of Bt. than the normal
      The economics that was worked out by the Indian Council of
      Agricultural Research (ICAR), Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
      and Monsanto-Mahyco to promote this unsustainable technology has
      turned out to be untrue.

      Bt. cotton has been afflicted with the 'leaf curl virus' in the whole
      of northern states of India. Dr Venugopal, ex-project coordinator of
      the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Coimbatore told
      Business Line that while some of the private hybrids and varieties
      released earlier were resistant to LCV, Bt cotton was found
      susceptible to LCV.

      In Maharashtra, the adjoining state of Madhya Pradesh, the same story
      has been repeated. In Vidarbha, primarily cotton growing area in
      Maharashtra, Bt. cotton crop has failed miserably. The first GE crop
      has been failed in 30,000 hectares in this district alone, completely
      devastating the already poor farming community. The farmers of the
      area are demanding a compensation of Rs. 5000 million (500 crores
      rupees) to meet their economic loss lest they would take a legal
      action against the Government of Maharashtra and Monsanto-Mahyco for
      allowing sale of inadequately tested GM seeds.

      The Bt. cotton crop in Vidarbha has been badly affected by the
      root-rot disease, a disease of roots. It is believed that this
      is caused due to wrong selection of Bt genes developed in America and
      brought to India. Many farmers have recorded only upto 50%
      of seeds and many others had poor germination, which is suspected to
      be caused by both, drought and poor seed quality. While other cotton
      varieties have also been adversely affected by the drought, they
      report a failure rate of only around 20%.

      President of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, Mr. Kishore Tiwari,
      a legal notice to Ministry of Agriculture demanding the recovery of
      loss of Rs. 500 (5000 million rupees) crore incurred by the farmers
      due to sowing of Bt. cotton seeds.

      The main idea behind approving genetically engineered Bt. cotton as a
      commercial crop was that this would increase farmers' income by
      reducing expenditure on chemical pesticides, which accounts for 70-
      of the total expenditure on hybrid cotton due to the heavy
      of pest, mainly American Bollworm in last 3-4 years and the increased
      evolution of resistance to the chemical pesticides.

      However, in Gujarat there is a heavy infestation of bollworm on the
      Bt. cotton in the districts of Bhavanagar, Surendranagar and Rajkot.
      Initially Bt. Cotton was found resistant to Bollworms in the early
      phase of plant growth, but as soon as the formation of boll has
      started, the worms started attacking them. The Department of
      Agriculture, Government of Gujarat has written to the Gujarat
      Agricultural University to submit a status report providing detailed
      information about the kind and intensity of the damage.

      Instead of yields going up they hae come down. Instead of farmers
      incomes increasing by Rs. 10,000/per acre, farmers are running losses
      of Rs. 6000-7000/per acre.

      GMOs are creating superpests instead of controlling pests.

      Just as pests are products of disharmony, plants become weeds which
      threaten crops in a context of imbalance. Planting mixtures, rotating
      crops in effect, preserving biodiversity is the most effective
      approach in preventing plants from becoming "weeds". Instead, the
      reductionist, essentialised approach declares useful plants as
      essentially weeds and creates a toxic arsenal for the extermination
      biodiversity. Instead of approaching weed control in the context of
      creating harmony, a war is declared against "weeds" -- often plants
      which are used by Third World women for food, medicine, fodder.

      The most widespread application of genetic engineering in agriculture
      is herbicide resistance i.e. the breeding of crops to be resistant to
      herbicides. Monsanto's Round up Ready Soya and Cotton are examples of
      this application. When introduced to Third World farming systems,
      will lead to increased use of agri-chemicals thus increasing
      environmental problems. It will also destroy the biodiversity that is
      the sustenance and livelihood base of rural women. What are weeds for
      Monsanto are food, fodder and medicine for Third World Women.

      In Indian agriculture women use 150 different species of plants for
      vegetables, fodder and health care. In West Bengal 124 'weed" species
      collected from rice fields have economic importance for farmers. In
      the Expana region of Veracruz, Mexico, peasants utilize about 435
      plant and animal species of which 229 are eaten.

      Monocultures and monopolies symbolize a masculinization of
      agriculture. The war mentality underlying military-industrial
      agriculture is evident from the names given to herbicides which
      destroy the economic basis of the survival of the poorest women in
      rural areas of the Third World. Monsanto's herbicides are called
      "Round up", "Machete", "Lasso" American Home Products which has
      with Monsanto calls its herbicides `Pentagon', `Prowl', `Scepter',
      `Squadron', `Cadre', `Lightening', `Assert', `Avenge'. This is the
      language of war, not sustainability. Sustainability is based on peace
      with the earth.

      After monocultures created weeds, and weedicides increased their
      resilience, genetic engineering of "herbicide resistant crops" is
      being offered as the new miracle of weed control. However, GMOs are
      creating super weeds instead of reducing weeds.

      What is happening in nature is happening in society. Economic
      globalization is creating economic inequality and exclusion. It is
      increasing inequality, disharmony and conflicts in society. Just as
      insects and plants are not essentially pests and weeds (under all
      conditions) but are transformed into pests and weeds because of
      ecological imbalance, people are not essentially terrorists and
      extremists. Terrorists are made, not born. Terrorists are the
      of societies in imbalance due to injustice, exclusion and inequality.

      Creating sustainability and justice is the only effective strategy
      controlling the emergence of terrorism. The war mentality has failed
      to reduce pests and weeds in agriculture. The war mentality will fail
      in preventing youth from becoming extremists and terrorists. It will
      in fact create more resilient super terrorists just as pesticides,
      herbicides and genetic engineering have created super pests and super

      It is time to learn from the mistakes of monocultures of the mind and
      the essentialising violence of reductionist thought. It is time to
      turn to diversity for healing.

      Diversity creates harmony, and harmony creates beauty, balance,
      and peace in nature and society, in agriculture and culture, in
      science and in politics.

      The violence and disharmony in our world today that threatens both
      ecological and social web of life is arising from the destruction of
      diversity - and diversity is being destroyed because the dominant
      worldview based on "monocultures of the mind" sees diversity as a
      threat, and its eradication as the pre-condition for peace and
      security. However, the destruction of diversity creates disharmony
      instead of creating peace and security, it deepens violence,
      discordance and insecurity.


      1. W. W. Fletcher, "The Pest War", Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974, p1

      2. De Bach, "Biological Control by Natural Enemies", London:
      University Press, 1974

      3. Dominique Lepierre, "5 minutes after midnight in Bhopal"

      4. Vandana Shiva, "The Violence of Green Revolution: Third World
      Agriculture, Ecology and Politics", Zed Books, London and The Other
      India Book Store, Goa, 1991

      5. Vandana Shiva, Afsar H. Jafri, Ashok Emani, Manish Pande, "Seeds
      Suicide: The Ecological and Human Costs of Globalizatin of
      Agriculture", Research Foundation for Science, Technology and
      New Delhi, 2000

      *** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this
      material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
      prior interest in receiving the included information for research and
      educational purposes.***

      - ------- End of forwarded message ----------
      Michel Dussandier http://ghanima.org
      It's more fun to cooperate!

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