An Isha moment at the Dr Vandana Shiva lecture at UVIC Part 1

The Growing of Food should be an act of love 

-Dr Vandana Shiva March 27, 2013

I dream of a world where we breathe healthy air and dig in healthy soil.  Where streams run clear and pure.  Where organic farmers cultivate with pride and dignity and freedom to plant the seeds they themselves sow and save for the future.

My daughter Diya holding a wild wee baby bunny.  The bunny didn’t hop out of her hands.

I will set up the first of this two-part post with an impressionistic portrait of Isha. She is my six year-old with a flair for the dramatic, like her older sister Diya.  You will remember Isha if you have ever had the – ahem – pleasure to have met her.  She is intense, loving, naughty, rambunctious (why is that so hard to spell?) and takes up a lot of energy.   She also has a iron sense of justice.  Did I mention that she is outspoken?  Even for a 6 year old.  On the ferry the other day, I met a fellow school parent who had hosted Isha at his daughter’s 7th birthday party.  “Oh, so you’re Isha’s mom?!”  he said with surprise – not quite masking his slightly apprehensive tone.  We hadn’t met.  He looked a little scared.

“HmmmUmm,” I smiled,  and murmured, brightly bracing myself and showing all teeth.

“Yeah, wow.  Hmmpf.  I know Isha, We know Isha” he said wyrly, “your daughter is a real character.”

Yyy-yep. ah.

I’m just putting that out there for you to digest while I set this up.  It’s called blunt foreshadowing.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how Dr. Vandana Shiva shifted something inside me.  I come from a pioneering organic family.  My grandad Rupert turned to organic methods loving the lowly-earthworm when his peers on Vancouver Island were turning to synthetic pesticides and herbicides.  Rupert also was a song-writer. He loved to write songs about the beauty of the Earth and farming.

Rupert Stephens, my song-writing, organic-berry farming, pacifist grandfather.

Having grown up in and around gardens, health food stores and vegetarian restaurants, I thought I was pretty informed about agriculture.  I’ve heard about GMOs for a long time in many capacities before they crept up everywhere in food.  When I moved to London in the 1990’s, I was invited to a special session in the British Houses of Parliament to hear the various sides debate GMOs.  I got dressed well (because there is a dress code, didn’t you know? I found that out the hard way alas – and will post about that another time).  In my fancy pumps and matching grey suit, I traipsed to the room where they were having the debate.  I sat, watched, listened to the speakers, made notes, saw the data.  I came with a relatively open mind.  And I actually wanted to see the data.  I have an honors BA and an MA in Biology and started a doctorate in Spain.  I have used pipettes, sequenced genes and even co-authored a scientific article once upon a time.  The original idea of GMOs wasn’t entirely devoid of merit, if you kept in mind the following :

1) a for-profit company owning patents to life (hmm)
2) organic is better = no pesticides and herbicides yay!
3) lack of biodiversity due to the flawed mono-crop theology (boo)
4) ethical concerns about the companies themselves promoting GMOs
5) (organics is still better)

The GMO-proponents at this British debate were arguing that they significantly reduced pesticide use through this technology.  Again I was thinking, how can you compete with organic?  In organic farming the soil is enhanced, not depleted.  Pesticides and herbicides not only kill biodiversity but kill farmers.  Big-agri food business sees that side as an unfortunate but necessary by-product of food production.  Again, I reminded myself that I was there with an open mind.  If they could radically reduce pesticides and herbicides use, I might be impressed.  But I wanted to see the data.  Better, if they went organic, of course, but I again I was going with a relatively open mind. Riiight? If they were invited to give their best arguments, dressed to their corporate best (like moi, of course) at the august Houses of Parliament, they had to be bringing some  pretty gosh-darn amazing data.

I held my breath waiting for the evidence to show up on the screen.

It came.

I frowned in consternation…

Did the well-heeled Brits and Americans see what I saw?   I zoomed in on the chart proudly titled something like ‘Reduction in Pesticides and Herbicides in GMO Crop Sample study’ .  I was looking for the significant difference.  Did they make a mistake?  Was this the ‘before’?  Nope.  I checked the title again and looked at the dots and lines.  This had to be their ‘great scientific evidence’?  But was this the very best they could do?  The reduction in pesticides from ‘conventional’ to GMOs production was *minimal*.  With the variance, it seemed hardly a difference to my eyes.  The GMO proponents kept using the words “statistically  significant” and pointing to the chart.  I squinted, turned my head this way and that way. Okaaaay, like significantly lower by a bit.  But not enough to my eyes.

Nor to British eyes.

Like me, they were not persuaded.

Fast forward to recent.

Confronted with all these screaming red warmings about GMOs, I had been getting more perplexed and wrestling with my disquiet.  I still didn’t want to write a blog about this.  I thought we were doing enough.  Others were doing enough.  I thought I was doing enough to support organic and local producers with each and every meal.  My family has been supporting organic farmers in several ways for years.  My father Arran was the first to found and certify an organic breakfast food company. First my grand-parents Rupert and Gwen, then dad Arran, mom Ratana, sister Jyoti, little brother Arjan, my sister Shanti and brother-in-law Markus all produce, market and manufacture organic foods.  It have never simply been a job to provide people with delicious nutritious foods.  My family ethos is steeped to further the agenda of our planet.  Socially responsible, Environmentally Sustainable, Financially Viable.  We have been leaving the soil better than when we found it for decades.

But I still wasn’t ready to write about this on a blog.

Fast-forward to about 2 weeks ago.  Drum roll please!!

Now, if you really and truly want to know what has given me a kick in the pants to write this blog, you need to hear this amazing lecture.  Right now.

Click on it below.

Dr Vandana Shiva distinguished lecture at the Univeristy of Victoria

Click on it above if you didn’t click on it above.

Listen to the lecture.  Share it with your friends, discuss it with your children, enlighten your parents.

You will really understand what GMOs are all about from the winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize.  Dr Vandana Shiva gave this lecture at the University of Victoria on March 27, 2013 where she was awarded an honorary doctorate.

This lecture changed me.  Whereas I was quietly doing my part, after this lecture, I wanted to turbo plant seeds of understanding, knowledge and stand up and wave my arms.  Her lecture has changed my life.

Me, Mom Ratana, Diya, Dr Vandana Shiva, Dad Arran, sister Jyoti

Part 2 coming next.  In which Isha surprises even me at Dr Vandana Shiva’s lecture

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s