(Fwd) Vandana Shiva On Pests, Weeds And Terrorists...
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Harmony and the agriculture...
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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
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
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
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
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Michel Dussandier http://ghanima.org
It's more fun to cooperate!
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