New Yorker Buggers Vandana Shiva

In the scientific or media world, to slam a person’s positions on a sensitive subject as that of a end-of-days mystic is tantamount to calling him/her a blithering idiot.

And that’s precisely how New Yorker buggered Vandana Shiva.

Vandana – Vocal Opponent

Worship her or dismiss her as a rabble-rousing idiot, it’s hard to ignore Vandana Shiva.

A noted environmentalist and vehement opponent of genetically modified crops, Vandana Shiva is a hugely popular figure in Europe and Asia, particularly among those fighting against globalization, genetically modified seeds and crops and giant seed corporations like Monsanto.

Vandana is perhaps the single person most responsible for India banning genetically modified food crops.

The New Yorker recently did a lengthy piece titled Seeds of Doubt on Vandana Shiva and her pet subject, genetically modified seeds.

Bottom line, the New Yorker piece is more favorable to genetically modified crops than to Vandana Shiva’s position on the hotly debated subject.

Here’s a key excerpt from the New Yorker piece:

When Shiva writes that “Golden Rice will make the malnutrition crisis worse” and that it will kill people, she reinforces the worst fears of her largely Western audience. Much of what she says resonates with the many people who feel that profit-seeking corporations hold too much power over the food they eat. Theirs is an argument well worth making. But her statements are rarely supported by data, and her positions often seem more like those of an end-of-days mystic than like those of a scientist.

Vandana did not cooperate with the author (Michael Specter, a supporter of agricultural biotechnology) and denied him an interview.

In Vanadana’s worldview, there’s no independent science on the subject of genetically modified crops any more because Monsanto has planted false stories in the media and controls the scientific literature.

Monsanto for its part responded that it’s a “science-based company.” Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant told the New Yorker – “I feel very strongly that you need to be grounded in the science or you lose the drift.”

God knows who’s right!

GMO – Safe or Dangerous?

Given the claims and counter claims on genetically modified crops, it’s hard for laymen to make educated choices.

I still am unable to decide one way or the other if genetically modified crops are a boon to humanity or a curse.

Living as I do in America (hospitable terrain for agricultural biotechnology), I’m sure that yours truly consumes a lot of genetically modified crops daily even if a lot of my purchases are from Patel Brothers, Apna Bazaar or Subzi Mandi.

So if at any time you find any of my positions objectionable you can always blame it on SI overdosing on GMO. 😉

I strongly encourage all of you to read the New Yorker piece on Vandana Shiva (link below). By the way, the article also touches upon the distressing subject of farmers’ suicides in India (Vandana blames the deaths on Monsanto).

Related Vandana Shiva Posts:
Seeds of Doubt – An activist’s controversial crusade against genetically modified crops

2 Responses to "New Yorker Buggers Vandana Shiva"

  1. Aswin_Kini   September 15, 2014 at 2:39 am

    I am no expert on Biotechnology, but I do have some knowledge on the subject, especially Genetically Modified crops. I am not sure about the other concerns, but some US companies introduce a Gene (For those who do not know, a Gene is a fundamental building block that decides a trait such as eye color, face structure, pointed ears etc), called as SEED TERMINATOR. The biggest problem is that if Farmers procure this crop, they will harvest a huge amount of yield in the first year, but the seeds that are obtained from the harvest will be sterile because the Gene is programmed to ensure that the offsprings of the plants are sterile.

    This will create a dependency on the Biotechnological companies and create a new market, where Agriculurists will be forced to buy from these folks. Over a period of time, there will be no natural seeds.

    Also, some genetically modified Cotton plants contain gene from bacteria such as Bacillus Thuringensis (Now known as the Bt Gene). This is used as a form of biological pesticide, which protects the plants against natural pathogens. However, that being said, it also has side effects on humans, who consume plants that contain this gene.

    To say shortly, GM ain’t good for us, humans. Responds:

    You write: it also has side effects on humans, who consume plants that contain this gene…GM ain’t good for us, humans.

    Not sure if you read the New Yorker piece in full (they refer to genetically modified cotton plants as well).

    Here’s the New Yorker Response:

    For years, people have been afraid that eating genetically modified foods would make them sick, and Shiva’s speeches are filled with terrifying anecdotes that play to that fear. But since 1996, when the crops were first planted, humans have consumed trillions of servings of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, and have draped themselves in thousands of tons of clothing made from genetically engineered cotton, yet there has not been a single documented case of any person becoming ill as a result. That is one reason that the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, the U.K.’s Royal Society, the French Academy of Sciences, the European Commission, and dozens of other scientific organizations have all concluded that foods derived from genetically modified crops are as safe to eat as any other food.

    The article acknowledges some instances of correlation but says no evidence of causation has been found yet.

  2. Aswin_Kini   September 16, 2014 at 4:14 am

    “The article acknowledges some instances of correlation but says no evidence of causation has been found yet.”, I understand your point.

    Genetically modified food normally refers to Fruits, Seeds, Vegetables obtained from crops that are genetically modified. When we say genetically modified, it need not be always harmful. For example, if we mix the genes of two plants (One from a short plant, which gives sweet fruits and another plant that provides huge quantity of fruits), we get a plant that provides a huge quantity of sweet fruits.

    However, the problem starts when you start mixing genes like the one from the bacteria, Bacillus Thuringensis, which kills plant pathogens. Here, you are entering a gene from a totally different species (Bacteria) to another species (Plant). While the results may seem harmless in the short run, you never know how it effects the human body in the long run.

    For instance, gene damage happens over a period of decades. While the symptoms may not be somatic(No differences in external features such as appearance), internally, there is a slim possibility of the gene causing unwanted mutations that get carried on to future generations resulting in defective offsprings.

    I am not a big science buff, but I do understand the basics of how genetics works. GM food is good for us as long as the scientists who develop these stuff know the repercussions clearly.

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