Iowa farmer challenges activist Vandana Shiva after ‘myth-filled’ anti-GMO lecture

|

As a farmer, writer, and public speaker, I work very hard to dispel the myths of modern agriculture. Over 90% of certain crop farmers here in the US are growing GMOs for good reasons which I’ve previously outlined here. So when I heard that one of the world’s most famous anti-GMO activists–Indian philosopher Vandana Shiva–was coming to my area in Iowa to speak at Drake University, I felt I need to hear what she had to say and hopefully get the opportunity in a Q&A to speak up.

And, fortunately I got my wish! She had a Q&A and I nervously approached the microphone to speak up on behalf of farmers everywhere. Shiva is known for spreading misinformation about agriculture.

If you aren’t aware of who Vandana Shiva is, or what her views are, the Genetic Literacy Project has two backgrounders, a Biotech Gallery profile here and a news report here. This is a short summary from the GLP’s profile:

Vandana Shiva (born 1952) is an anti-globalization, anti-corporate, deep ecology and radical eco-feminism activist whose campaigns focus primarily on food and agriculture socio-economic issues and an opposition to GMOs, free trade and intellectual property rights. Shiva alternately promotes land redistribution, indigenous and peasant farmers rights, organic-only food production and ayurvedic health practices over conventional medicines which she characterizes as an “earth democracy” movement necessary to restore “harmony”, people and nature.

Shiva responds to allegations that her initiatives and views prevent peasants from moving out of poverty and lock them into a life of “subsistence” (while she enjoys a comparatively wealthy lifestyle) with the statement, “Resource scarcity is not that bad for it renews ones commitment to human quality.” And that poverty is a culturally perceived bias against indigenous rights to subsistence by Western elites.

Shiva claims there was no hunger in India prior to the Green Revolution, which she counters was the cause of poverty, indebtedness and despair for farmers. Her claim that there was “no hunger” in India prior to the Green Revolution (typically dated in the late 1960’s-1970’s) does not jive with the facts. The Green Revolution in India started in the late 1960s and with its success the country attained food self-sufficiency within a decade. It was focused mostly on wheat production and in the Punjab region. The second wave of the Green Revolution, beginning in the 1980s, involved almost all the crops including rice and covered the whole country, raising farmer incomes and alleviating rural poverty substantially. Shiva also ignores the fact that famines in India had resulted in more than 60 million deaths over the course of the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

While I appreciate Vandana Shiva’s passion for the environment and crop diversity, most of her claims have been readily debunked. Her campaigns are subsidized by millions of dollars of contributions by organic food companies to spread lies about conventional agriculture to push an agenda. In my opinion, it is admirable if someone chooses to be an organic farmer–there are many ways to address  food security issues as long as we promote cooperation and coexistence–but there is something wrong with lying to people for profit, such as her debunked claims that GMOs are vandanashiva1-1provoking Indian farmers to commit suicide. [Read GLP GMO FAQ addressing Shiva’s accusation]. She doesn’t back up her claims with reputable evidence and what she claims about conventional agriculture isn’t backed by science.

Needless to say, a huge percentage of what came out of Shiva’s mouth was myths and misrepresentations. She spent a lot of time tearing into Norman Borlaug, the scientist and ‘father of the Green Revolution–he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal before his death–and is credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, and accused farmers of being “the last caretakers of the land.” Seriously? Who does that? Shiva is no friend to modern farmers or technology. Her misinformation was appalling and needless to say I was not impressed.

It was painful to sit through her nonsense, and the whole time I was wondering if she has ever even ridden in a combine or ever been to a large scale farm a day in her life. While she railed against “industrial, chemically intensive agriculture,” I wish she knew that farmers today are using less toxic  chemicals than ever before. When complaining about soil and water quality, I wish she would connect with us and learn that farmers enroll in conservation programs and are the ultimate stewards of the land. Organic and conventional farms have a lot in common: both types of farms may or may not use chemicals, both types can do conservation methods like soil testing, crop rotation, cover crops, etc. This is not the agenda she had though. Apparently only organic farmers are concerned about sustainability, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Feeding the world requires all types of farms. Shiva went on to say that farmers today don’t feed the world. Women in their families do. Really? Why not men? And she thinks we are going to feed 9 billion people with small scale “garden” type organic farms? Of course, she never mentioned that organic farms use chemicals too, sometimes more of them. What do we do in winter when there is snow on the ground? What about busy people, people in cities? I was floored at her ideas, she made it sound like gardens can feed the world, all the while ignoring reality that we need grocery stores and restaurants to feed the world. Quite out of touch with reality, if you ask me.

Shiva also shared the myth that GMOs kill bees, all while completely ignoring the fact that GMOs eliminate our need to spray insecticides, which helps beneficial insects. GMOs cause suicides, Monsanto is trying to poison everyone, monocultures! Patents! Seed saving! The list of myths goes on. The reality is that farmers have hundreds of seed companies to choose from, all different types of crops can have patents including organic, and today’s farmers don’t want to save seeds. My head was spinning with how disconnected she is to modern farming and how much she really doesn’t understand our industry, while she gets paid to talk about this with no formal training or educational background in agriculture. Say what, now?

But there was hope! I was happy to know that there was a Q&A afterwards and I wasn’t going to sit back and let Shiva’s false accusations go without saying something. I was NERVOUS! I probably spoke too fast and I wish I would’ve actually asked a question, but the setting was a little intimidating and my nerves got in the way a bit. I did my best to try and find any little bit of common ground and  to not come off too brash. For a link to my video, click here.

I encouraged everyone to connect with us as farmers. I took issue with her referring to pesticides as “poison,” as organic production uses pesticides too, and they are sometimes more toxic and more frequently used than the chemicals used by non-organic farmers. By her definition ALL food would be poison, but as any scientist would tell you, it’s the dose that makes the poison. I mentioned that when we spray the herbicide glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup) on our fields it is at a rate of 22 ounces per acre, which is less than 2 soda cans over an area of land the size of a football field. We only spray two days out of an entire year. Simply said, the food conventional farmers grow is not scary. It’s thanks to biotechnology that we are using less chemicals than ever before and no longer having to spray insecticides, which HELPS beneficial insects like bees, and does not hurt them as she misleadingly claimed. Our farm holds the award for “Iowa farmers of the year” in soil and water conservation because, as a result of modern technology including the use of genetically modified seeds, we use no till, cover crops and crop rotation. Biotechnology is doing great things for farmers and allows us to grow more food on less land while using less water, fuel, and inputs.

Shiva gave me the stink eye but didn’t say a word while I was speaking, other than “thanks.”

I really didn’t know what to expect from the crowd, but surprisingly, I was applauded! After I left I was approached by a group of people who thanked me. They said “You did a great job. I applaud your bravery. We appreciate hearing multiple sides of a story. You are welcome here,” etc. It was great. I was also approached by a security guard who wanted me to be aware that he would be following me around a bit to ensure my safety in case anyone tried to cause trouble. He even walked me to my car so that was nice. Surprisingly, not a single hater. None.

I want to share this story to encourage you all to stand up for the truth. For farmers, agronomists, scientists, etc speaking up HAS to be a part of our job description nowadays. We are the experts, we are the ones that have the most education and firsthand expertise on the topic. Don’t let misinformed activists tell our stories and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. A situation that looks intimidating could be the best opportunity to educate. If we all do our part to advocate for science and agriculture, we CAN make a difference.

Michelle Miller, Farm Babe (@thefarmbabe), raises sheep and beef cattle while helping on her boyfriend’s 2,000-acre crop farm in Northeast Iowa. She is a passionate agvocate and believes it is important to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers. In addition to running her blog, www.facebook.com/IowaFarmBabe, she does freelance writing and public speaking.

  • lauriloo

    Great job! I didn’t think you spoke too fast. I understood all that you said and think you said it in a very respectful way. Thanks for standing up for science and the people who need the food farmers like you provide.

  • Alex White

    Well put!

  • NcChuck

    GMO still require pesticides. That is a fact. To state that GMOs do not require pesticides is misleading. Bees are dying at an alarming rate and it is traced back to pesticide/herbicide usage. That is a fact. The “Suicide Belt” in India is directly related to Monsanto’s promises made to farmers if they used their GMO seed and the contracts the farmers signed to get the “magic” seed.

    The latest scientific longitudinal study that was internationally published very clearly stated that there was absolutely no benefit shown in using GMO crops. There has not been an increase in yield, nor a decrease in pesticide/herbicide usage.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      How is it a fact? There are dozens of them that don’t require pesticides in the slightest.

      • Robert Howd

        Sterling, only 8 GMO crops are significantly planted in the US, not dozens. I’m not aware of any that don’t require pesticides, but perhaps you could explain what these might be.

        • The Illuminati

          You do know that the US is not the only country in the world, right? Did Sterling even mention the US?

          • Robert Howd

            So is there one anywhere that doesn’t require pesticides? Or to be more specific, is there any GMO crop that is commercially cultivated without application of pesticides? (REM: the term “pesticide” includes insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.)

        • Sterling Ericsson

          If you are including Bt crops as “requiring pesticides”, that’s a non-starter argument, because then you’d have to acknowledge that plants already produce dozens of pesticides on their own, most of which are completely unstudied and (of the few that have been studied) more than half have been found to be carcinogenic.

          Source for that: http://www.pnas.org/content/87/19/7777.abstract

          • Robert Howd

            Of course I understand that plants produce pesticides to ward off predation. And my point – obviously poorly made – was intended to be that commercial agriculture practice includes the use of pesticides on all GMO crops. Planting Bt corn, for example, does not protect against all predation.

          • Sterling Ericsson

            I would counter argue that GMO crops only require pesticides in the manner that all crops, including those used in organic farming, require them. Not to mention the various herbicide resistant conventional and organic crops too.

            Anyways, the other crops I was referring to were the Arctic Apple and Innate Potato. Oh, and there’s the AquAdvantage Salmon, though I suppose that doesn’t fall under crops.

            And the Omega 3 Camelina is just about ready to be commercialized from Rothamsted.

            Oh, and various flood, drought, blight and other such GMO crops are already in use around the world, especially in China. China and South Korea have been pumping out new GM crops nonstop.

          • Robert Howd

            The Arctic apple and Innate potato resist browning. This has nothing to do with resistance to pests. I’d want to see info on other crops around the world. For example, the Bt-brinjal (eggplant) in Bangladesh requires maybe 70-80% less pesticides than the non-GMO version, but growers are not saying they don’t have to apply any…..

          • crush davis

            The salmon are not “crops” in the strict sense, but many are farmed, and fall under the definition of aquaculture. Regardless, rest assured that transgenic salmon are indeed on the black list for some sanctimonious activist group out there, somewhere.

        • Jason

          Robert, none require pesticides. Pesticides CAN be used if a pest problem exists severe enough to pose economic harm. That is the option of the farmer and that is no different for gmo crops than for any other crops anywhere. In fact, due to gmo Bt plants, it’s likely less of a concern for gmo farmers than for non. Some gmo crop allow a broader range of pesticides to be used than their non-gmo counterparts but to say they “require” pesticides not only implies others don’t, but it’s just false.

          • Robert Howd

            Good point, Jason. Yes, plants can be grown without pesticides, but being GMO does not mean that pesticides are not used on them. I think we agree on this.

          • Jason

            Yes… definately. Some people think that Roundup Ready plants can’t be grown without roundup when in reality, they just enable that herbicide to be used along with all the ones already used in conventional agriculture.

    • Scooter

      Please share a link of said study for me please.

      Yes GMO crops do require pesticides on occasion. However, the needs of pesticide applications are greatly decreased due to the introduction of GMOs. Having the ability to change a small portion of the genome of a plant to help combat insect or weed pressure not only reduces that amount of pesticides used on a crop but it also allows growers to use a larger portion of their capital for land improvements and sustainable agriculture without years of selective breeding.

      Since the implementation of GMOs I have personally seen the use of pesticides reduce. The types of pesticides being used has also changed. Most of the more dangerous chemicals have been banned and replaced with a more targeted and safer option. The farming industry as a whole is spending large amounts of capital researching chemicals that have to pass a very tedious and difficult process to become legal to use. Research on bees and other insects that can be effected is a major point of interest to these processes.

      Your second point that states that there is no benefit in using GMO crops is far from true in my opinion. Farmers would like nothing better than to not have to pay for traited seeds. The reality is that they are necessary to maintain a safe and profitable crop. The reduction in the amount of chemicals used and the yield gains from said technologies are what keeps them in business. I welcome further discussion to this matter as I feel it is a lack of understanding and a healthy amount of skepticism.

    • Dan

      [citation needed]

    • Robert Howd

      NcChuck, the bee deaths are being associated (inconclusively, so far) with neonicotinoid pesticides, which are not specifically intended for use on GMO plants. And the “longitudinal study” is mysterious. Are you perhaps referring to the recent NY Times article (Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops), which states that there has been no particular advantage found in planting GMO crops. The author is wrong, as summarized in the 2016 NAS report, Genetically Engineered Crops, which he refers to, but misquotes. A good summary of the issues is “Global farmers criticize Hakim’s NY Times GMO article, list crop biotech sustainability benefits,” by Terry Wanzek | November 21, 2016 | Global Farmer Network

    • jsvb1

      I recently wrote a research paper on this. The evidence suggests that bee deaths are due to multiple factors. Most of the bees studied are commercial bees not wild bees. Commercial hives are often overworked, and malnourished making them susceptible to disease and environmental factors.

      • crush davis

        jsvb1: yes, and who is contributing to hive stress, overwork, malnutrition, etc.? No farmer than I know. Thankfully, folks like you are starting to shed light on the real problem…irresponsible beekeepers who are completely ignorant of the entomological science required to manage a complex beehive ecosystem. If you ever see a swarm in the wild, the LAST person you call is the beekeeper. Doing so is a death sentence for that hive. I’m not exaggerating.

      • Damo

        Many people don’t understand that the stress of making honey and/or establishing a new hive is very detrimental to bees. The honey is for them, not us. I am not against beekeeping, but if a beekeeper is irresponsible and his hive dies, it is his fault–not a farmers.

    • Stuart M.

      She did not say GMOs do not require pesticides, why are you putting words in her mouth? There have been studies linking bee deaths to neonicotinoid pesticides which have absolutely nothing to do with GMOs. No scientific studies linking bee deaths to GMOs, however. Suicides by farmers in India long predated the introduction of GE plants, there is absolutely no connection. Your “latest longitudinal study” has already been scientifically debunked many times. It showed that French non-GMO farmers had dropping pesticide rates while American farmers were showing a steady rate. Good news for the Food Nazis? No, the French farmers were using FAR MORE pesticides than the American farmers to begin with, so their usage rate will have to fall even further to come close to the American usage rate. Comparing yields in Europe to America totally ignores environmental differences. Every comparison of yields within the United States shows GE crops have higher yields than conventional and organic. See http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/how-mislead-statistics-gmo-crops-edition and http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2016/10/the-tiresome-discussion-of-initial-gmo-expectations/

      • Damo

        So correct!!

    • Jason

      Chuck… GMOs “require” no more pesticides than any other crop. That’s is a total myth. Pesticides are a means to control pests. If a pest problems exist they may be used. Exactly like they may be used in conventional or organic agriculture. But they are no more rquired in gmo agriculture than they are in any other. In fact, due to Bt pest controls, they are less required.

      As for “no benefits”…that’s just a lie. Here are direct quotes from the report you’re referencing:

      Planting Bt crops tended to result in higher insect biodiversity than planting similar varieties without the Bt trait and using synthetic insecticides.

      Studies indicate that herbicide-resistant crops contribute to greater yield where weed control is improved because of the speci c herbicides that can be used in conjunction with the herbicide-resistant crop.

      Application of synthetic insecticides to maize and cotton has decreased following the switch from non-Bt varieties to Bt varieties, and in some cases, the use of Bt crops has been associated with lower use of insecticides in non-Bt varieties of the crop and other crops in the same area.

      Although the sum of experimental evidence indicates that GE herbicide resistance and insect resistance are contrib- uting to actual yield increases, there is no evidence from USDA data that the average historical rate of increase in U.S. yields of cotton, maize, and soybean has changed.

      At the farm level, soybean, cotton, and maize with GE herbicide-resistant or insect-resistant traits (or both) have generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops…

      So, it appears that the report DID find several substantial benefits… wouldn’t you agree?

      https://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/2016/05/17/report/

      • crush davis

        Jason…why ruin perfectly good old-fashioned knee-jerk activism with facts, even if they are from the activist’s own reference? As far as “Chuck” is concerned, this isn’t about science, or facts. It’s about his forcing his viewpoint on others, because he thinks he’s right.

        • agscienceliterate

          Just like Trump-think.

    • Jefe Mixtli

      And like brave Sir Robin, NcChuck has bravely run away.

    • Damo

      You state a lot that is incorrect. Please provide proof, or you will be dismissed.

    • agscienceliterate

      Lots of hogwash here. Pray tell, what do you read to come up with this garbage?

  • Lulu’s cupkake

    You did really well, altough first I expected a more personal interview type Q&A, but let’s he real, that would have been impossible to keep friendly. I don’t know wether or not she knows the facts, so she might just write you off as a shill, but if enough people like you speak up like this it will at least sway people who didn’t completely buy into the anti-GMO narrative.

    So just keep presenting facts, debunk their claims, call them out when they oversimplify things to fit their side of the story and last but not least be honest about the drawbacks of GMO and industrialized farming. The critical thinkers will notice that one side has a bit too much sugarcoat on it.

  • David Zaruk

    Well said Michelle. Shiva is smart enough to not engage in debate with someone who knows the subject better than she does. If more people stand up to her, maybe she’ll be more careful about what she says, maybe students will learn to be more critical and maybe, hopefully, universities will stop paying so much for her to spread her nonsense.

  • Marlene Suzuki

    Shame on your ignorance.

    • You know, a statement like that really requires some documentation. Unless you can provide evidence that she is ignorant, you’re just throwing around insults and making yourself look like a moron. (I can do insults, too.)

      • Marlene Suzuki

        do your research bud. scientific research is paid by the 1% and is all conspiracy. The truth is what you should seek out. Love and light be with you now and forever

        • The Illuminati

          Oh good grief, i think your tinfoil hat is too tight, it seems to be cutting of circulation to your brain.

          • Marlene Suzuki

            Stooge, I don’t wear the tin foil on my head, it’s on my knees. Learn the lingo will ya.

          • Guest

            Are you a Poe?

        • Robert Howd

          Most scientific research in the US is publicly funded. Initial studies on drugs and pesticides are of course paid for by the companies trying to develop them, but follow up studies, such as the Farmer’s Health Study which showed an increased cancer risk from exposure to various pesticides, are publicly funded.

          • Marlene Suzuki

            who are the public, relatives of the nonprofits?

          • Robert Howd

            All American taxpayers.

          • Marlene Suzuki

            “The IRS is a Private Company owned by the Crown ( City of London ) and is Incorporated in Puerto Rio.

            The IRS has nothing to do with the Government of People of the United States of America.”

          • Robert Howd

            Mental help is readily available for you, when you’re ready to accept it.

          • agscienceliterate

            Ah! Thank you for your example of a conspiracy theory. I’ll use that in my critical thinking skills class. You are a riot.

          • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

            Except that it is not. It is an agency of the federal government of the United States. You’ve fallen for scams, pranks, and misunderstandings.

          • Damo

            And how, exactly, did you come to this conclusion?

        • Jefe Mixtli

          So, when the Organic Lobby claims the studies they paid for show their food is more nutritious, you know to dismiss the claim, right?

          • Marlene Suzuki

            do your own research, you don’t need to get paid by the 1%. Just put an organic tomato and a commercially grown tomato on the widow sill and which what happens within a month. You be the scientist.

          • Jefe Mixtli

            Why? What will happen to the tomatoes?

          • Marlene Suzuki

            Try it for yourself

          • Jefe Mixtli

            This is your thing, eh? Spout ‘facts’ with with no evidence and don’t back down even when people question them.

            Did you work for the Trump campaign?

          • Marlene Suzuki

            ok, you need more evidence? how about cracking an organic egg and a commercial egg and compare them.

          • Jefe Mixtli

            What should I expect?

          • agscienceliterate

            One is white stuff with a yellow yolk. The other is a yellow yolk with white stuff around it.
            Both have around 6 grams of protein, and the same amount of fat and calories.
            Oh, and they both come from chickens.

          • Pogo333

            From which chicken breed? If they are from the same breed, you won’t be able to distinguish them regardless of how they are produced.

          • Damo

            Frankly, the egg down the street–that I get from my neighborhood farmer who has the chickens on pasture, they eat live bugs, grass, and my farmer neighbor’s homemade feed–is not organic (they use pesticides), but they are the best dang eggs I have had, Nice orange to pink yolks and tasty as all heck.

            When they aren’t available, I pay a lot more for the supermarket organic eggs (I know, I know, not really cool to trust those labels) because at least I know organic have access to pasture. They are not good tasting. They are not healthier. They are not as visually appealing. And they cost almost twice as much (did I say a little more earlier? I lied).

            My girlfriend has nagged me enough that I now spend about $4-5 less and just buy the white eggs in the carboard containers. And you know, she is correct. I have been to enough egg farms to know that the facilities are almost identical. I know, from talking to the farmers, that even though the chickens are given access to pasture they rarely take advantage of it. I know that their diets are controlled and they do not eat grass and bugs like my neighbor’s more wild flock.

            So, I will continue to take the backyard, non-organic eggs over your marketing hype anyday.

          • Pogo333

            But wouldn’t that be scientific research? You seemed to have an issue with any research. At what point in the ripening cycle would they both be picked, which variety, how far should they be transported and how should they have been stored prior to the start of this experiment?

            Do you consider taxpayer-funded research (USDA-AFRI, NSF, NIH, DOE, DOD, etc.) to be paid for by the 1%?

          • Damo

            The organic will rot and so will the conventional.

        • Jefe Mixtli

          Suzuki, I like your debating technique. “I’m not going to back up my statement! ! ! Do your own research and find the stuff I laboriously cherry-picked.”

          Pure genus.

          • Marlene Suzuki

            so funny

          • Jefe Mixtli

            Yes, it is a bit funny…. In a sad kind of way.

        • Mike

          Scientific research and what you describe here are exactly opposite things. If you choose to believe conspiracy theories please don’t confuse it with scientific research.

          • Marlene Suzuki

            conspiracies are the truth, scientific fraud is a conspiracy

          • Robin Day

            The irony of you typing that very sentence using technology created by science is quite remarkable.

          • agscienceliterate

            Love for you to point out one “conspiracy” that is the “truth.”
            By dint of the fact that something is a “conspiracy” pretty well takes it out of the running for representing fact.

        • The person making the assertion is responsible for providing research and evidence to back the assertion. *I* don’t have to do anything, except point out that you sound like a paranoid loser. Love and light!

        • You don’t understand logic: YOU made an assertion. Therefore, YOU are responsible for presenting rational and reproducible evidence of that assertion’s correctness. I don’t have to do anything you would call research, because there are very hard-working people out there doing it for all of us. Bye!

      • jemal

        you will be waiting a long time for that evidence, these people only have insults, not evidence

      • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

        After a little review, I see that Marlene believes:

        1. Vaccines are slaughtering children
        2. U.S. federal agencies are private businesses in London
        3. Chemtrails are real
        4. Diseased appendices and tonsils should not be removed because it’s “unnatural”
        5. She was naturally cured of cancer and mercury poisoning

        • I love that her idea of “research” means comparing two vaguely similar situations ONCE, in your home, with no controls.

          • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

            “Do your own research,” indeed!

    • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

      In other words,

      “Everything I believe is true, and all the evidence against it is false because:

      1. Shills and conspiracies
      2. Everybody knows it
      3. “I’ve done my research”
      4. YouTube videos and blogs say so”

  • Deb Donohoe

    Excellent presentation considering the circumstances.Thank you for having the grace and courage to speak up! I hope you also respond to Rekha Basu’s opinion article in the Des Moines Register last Sunday. She took Vandana’s bait and has now perpetuated these myths to readership across the state. :/

  • William

    Why is the video unavailable? Because I’m in Canada or ??

  • Robert Howd

    A good article by Ashok Chowgule in an Indian publication celebrates the success of Bt cotton in India. See: http://swarajyamag.com/economy/celebrating-the-success-of-the-indian-cotton-industry

  • Wolvarine

    Well its good to read such plausible arguments, both sides lack conclusions, here in India we struggling on multiple faces. We face lack of irrigation facilities, poor rains, sound agriculture policy, uneducated farmers, poor prices etc etc. May be vandana shiva claims are not 100% right but she is pro farmer at least in Indian conditions. Farmers have lost their centuries long seed bank due to HYV. In india we never face lack of agriculture production since independence even if we didnt moved to HYV what we didnt have is “effective distribution system”. You may be wondered that we are producing 252 million ton grains every year, which means every person must get 2000kg grain (his annual requirement is 75kg) ,,, so gerden agriculture could be sufficient for us.

    • Prof. Shanthu Shantharam

      Oh! Every Tom, Dick and harry in India claims to be a pro-farmer which is the politically the correct thing to do. Farmers in India, with or without his/her permission have been co-opted by all sorts of politicians and activists and yet their conditions have been deteriorating continuously for decades. Agricultural production was the reason for famines since independence as it was the organic production system. Green revolution came to help India and also caused many environmental problems. going back to organic farming which is really good for kicthen gardens is not the solution. 252 million toons of grains india prodyuces is nto due to organic farming but due to mdoern mehtods.

      • Wolvarine

        which green revolution,, it was just a lobbying scam by swaminathan and lal bahadur shastri, which make punjab agriculture monopoly and greatly hit eastern and south india,, bt crops have been introduced by multinationals in irrigation less areas, crops have been failed year after year, who is responsible for that..

        • Guest

          Citation?

    • Glenn Phillip Nix

      Some 30% + of grain is eaten in the paddock by rats . What they lack is a modern bulk storage & transport of grain .You even have castes of rat catchers .Garden agriculture is a shortcut to being a peasant .

  • Paul

    GMO defenders will not convince one single “Anti-GMO” person, if they do not accept and cater for the fact, that there is a billion dollar industry behind their science and reasoning. A huge lobby designed to make people believe that GMO is not harmfull at all. And that in itself makes some people doubt it. I read things about “definetely not killing bees” and “no pesticides at all”. The not killing of bees is not proven, as is the killing. And no pesticides at all is simply bullshit. It does not matter if you apply them from above or if they are produced in the plant cells. It still is a pesticide. There is almost no money (except if you make it high enough like the indian lady here) in disproving the science done for GMO. No grands, no funds. Except for the slowly starting organic industry, there is no economic driver. So of course there is a huge difference between the number of studies for each side. That being said, I am still “agnostic” about it. The process of GMO has conviced me of not “producing demons out of thin air”. It can, but it does not have to. I think the GMO side should start by trying to disprove their own theories. And the followers should keep the scewed financial basis between the two sides in mind and argue with it. But this is the reason there are so many conspiracy theorists, because the real science behaves to arrogantly towards them and does not account for their doubts. Through that it becomes a completely useless discussion.

    • jsvb1

      The sad thing is that people look at these corporations as one evil entity rather than a collective of well educated farmers, scientist, and businessmen/women.Not every country has a lobby system (remember there are countries outside of the USA).

      • Paul

        That is very true and I agree. There is alot of demonizing that helps no-one at all. I wrote my master thesis about a topic mixing philosophy and AI. The philosophy part was about Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil”. I personally think if everybody would check himself against it, it would help the world.
        Now of course this idea of this one big monster that wants, this whole one-world-government conspiracy is complete bullshit – and it is usually the end of the line for “such people”. However, we should on the other hand not forget about that “not doing evil does not mean that the consequence of ones actions might not be evil” and this is true for national politics and cooperations alike. Oh and I do not know where you live, but I envy you for not having a lobby system. In Germany, where I am, it is by far more subtle and therefore maybe not as powerful as in the US, but still going strong. Not sure if the EU will help with that, because then lobbiest only need to convince those guys and not every national house of commons 😉

        • Paul

          Damn it, error in an important sentence: “not doing evil does not mean that the consequence of ones actions might BE evil”

        • jsvb1

          Should we debate the idea of evil? 😉

          • Paul

            Why not? I can send you my thesis 😉
            In short: Good and evil differ in terms of the longevity of the observations of the result of your action. I can do good now, but the results turns into real evil in a few years…. I could bread the next hitler but be a good father to him 😀

    • Jason

      …if they do not accept and cater for the fact, that there is a billion dollar industry behind their science and reasoning.

      Just as there is a $60+ billion dollar organic industry trying to convince you they are harmful. The only real difference is that one side has mounds of science and a global consensus of experts on their side.

      • Paul

        Well Jason, if you really want to tell me, that the “organic industry cooperations” are more powerful than the classic ones, than you lost me. Or we have a completely different classification of “organic”. And I really think you should check this opinion of yours.

        • Jason

          I’m not sure what you mean. What are you defining as “classic ones” and “organic ones”? What I’m telling you is that industry backed advocacy groups like the Organic Consumers Association and Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association fund campaigns to spread fear and misinformation about genetic engineering in an effort to support the image that allows them to charge higher margins for similar foods. That is not an opinion of mine. That’s a simple fact.

          As for what’s “more powerful”…I don’t see how that’s in the least bit relevant. In the majority of cases, organic brands are owned by the exact same companies that the conventional ones are. See this illustration for evidence:
          https://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Organic-chart-Jan-2016.jpg

          And even when they are not, “power” is not the issue. One position is backed by science and evidence. One is not. It is really that simple.

          • Paul

            Let us say this:
            When you say science, you probably mean results of studies done. At least in every discussion about GMO you read “link the studies you are basing your statements on”. Now a study can be reproduced or it can be a single study. Later ones are pretty weak. Only the repetition of studies increases their validity. Just because one person found that climate change is not real, it means next to nothing if the experiment done is not repeated by another group of scientists. And in current science, there is no obligation to do peer review and especially there is no pressure to do the “oposite study”. Why? It is simply not funded!
            There are always more perspectives to a scientific topic.
            For example the EU did 2 studies about glyphosat. One tried to prove that glyphosat is carcinogenic and another tried to prove that it is not harmful for humans. The first one came back positive. Glyphosat is carcinogenic, but the second came back positive as well: Glyphosat is not dangerous for humans because there is not enough present in the food we eat.

            Now your graph picture is a funny one. I personally try to think of the money motivation, when I try to understand how economy works. And GMO is economy. The science is just used to increase monetary gains in the end. This is capitalism, not socialism and we need to accept that. You show alot of “classic food cooperations” that also have an organic brand. But they would never start to “harm” their other products by implying that their organic subsidies are healthier. That would lower their income and never ever would they risk that. So these simply do not count as organic! Have a look at Germany for example (where I am). We have a few real organic companies (Demeter, Bioland…) who have no connection to classic agriculture. These are the only ones you can count towards the organic group, because these ones have a real interest in diminishing the yield of classic food producers. And some quacks, some illusionists who are tricking people into buying their aloe vera because it cures cancer and that bullshit. But never ever do they have like 60 $ billions in market value 😀

            Now both sides are funding studies to prove their point. But saying there are simply no studies done against GMO is wrong. There have been some, but they are mostly not done very well. Still, they call them studies. The same goes for the other side. Not every study is a good one. And you can ask any honest nature science PhD about his studies he did for biology or chemistry. Without peer review and reproducability the validity of a study is very low. And your usage of the word “science” as something that is always true is simply wrong. Quantum mechanics is “science” only since a few decades. Before that wrong physics models existed and everybody called them “science” and “true”. So dont be so arrogant. Try to develop some empathy. Try to disprove your own theories. Try to develop some measure. Only then you can convince people of GMO.

          • Robert Howd

            Paul, I think you do a disservice to the IARC panel on glyphosate by saying that they “tried to prove that glyphosat is carcinogenic.” Not at all. They reviewed the data, and made the conclusion they thought the data demanded. And I don’t think any of them think the data “prove” that glyphosate is carcinogenic. The data show a statistically significant, slightly increased risk for non Hodgkins lymphoma among farmers who use glyphosate, confounded by co-exposure to other pesticides. So the panel members felt that prudence demanded the probable carcinogen label. I disagree, but respect their review. The other evaluation, from the European Food Safety Agency, that glyphosate exposure from food (much lower than the farmers’ exposures) would not cause a significant cancer risk, is completely consistent with the data available – and does not, in my opinion, contradict the data or interpretation of the IARC panel. Actually many chemicals we eat every day, natural and synthetic, are carcinogens, but that does not mean that we should be particularly frightened about them.

          • Jason

            Your reply is essentially a very long winded way of saying that you don’t really understand the topic.

            And in current science, there is no obligation to do peer review and especially there is no pressure to do the “oposite study”.

            This is simply not true. For a study to be read and used, it needs to be published. And in order to be published in a reputable journal, it needs to be reviewed by peers. And there really isn’t such a thing as the “opposite study”. You develop a hypothesis and try to disprove that hypothesis. In this case, literally every single study peformed is trying to disprove the hypothesis that these products are safe. And when no evidence that they are unsafe is found, it leads one to draw the conclusion that they are most likely safe.

            And your usage of the word “science” as something that is always true is simply wrong.

            I said nothing of the sort. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

            The science is just used to increase monetary gains in the end.

            Well this is just nonsense and your attempt to rationalize your personal biases.

            So dont be so arrogant. Try to develop some empathy. Try to disprove your own theories. Try to develop some measure. Only then you can convince people of GMO.

            Its not arrogance to correct misinformation when it’s seen. And it’s not up to me to disprove anything. That’s what science is for and what scientists do. That is why I rely on the conclusions of the world’s experts on issues such as these. Could they all be wrong? Sure…. but after 30 years without any evidence of that, it seems pretty unlikely.

          • I have difficulty to comprehend the concept of a study designed to confirm safety as opposed to study designed to confirm toxicity. This is not how it is Done. The study design has to be neutral, is there an effective of some treatment or not. Also it is not comprehensible to mě to understand why would government fund studies to prove some predetermined outcome. That would be waste of money. Also safety studies paid by companies should be highly credible. The last thing any company wants is to have liability for failed products.

          • Paul

            You have a good example here on this page. This: https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/11/13/10-studies-proving-gmos-are-harmful-not-if-science-matters/
            Why not also do it for the Top 10 wrong studies done in favour of GMO?
            There are no wrong studies in favour? You hopefully do not believe that. But this is exactly the arrogance I mean.

            For example the article mentioned above says that monsanto themselves said glyphosate is not carcinogenic. Great! Heckler and Koch say their guns do not harm nice people…
            To simply state this and not allow room for the fact that even the http://www.iarc.fr had it on the list of carcinogenics is simply skewing the information and manipulative. That leads people to believe in conspiracies.

            Oh, here the link to the meta-study they did with the result of “probably carcinogenic”.
            https://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol112/mono112-09.pdf

          • Jason

            There are no wrong studies in favour? You hopefully do not believe that. But this is exactly the arrogance I mean.

            There may be studies with poor methods that have shown no issues with gmo foods. Who cares? We don’t rely on individual studies. We rely on the body of evidence. And this body of evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of no unique risks from gmo foods. There are literally thousands of studies on this issue and the only ones showing any unique risks are a handful of activist funded junk studies.

            To simply state this and not allow room for the fact that even the http://www.iarc.fr had it on the list of carcinogenics is simply skewing the information and manipulative.

            It not manipulative in the least. Literally every single safety assement ever conducted has concluded that glyphosate is not likely to poses a cancer risk in humans save one…and that one purposely excluded much of the data and just said “probably”. That includes the EFSA, EPA, WHO, BfR, Australia, Canada…etc, etc, etc… So…if you are basing your opinion of off the body of evidence, what are you likely to conclude?

            And regardless of your opinion of glyphosate, it has nothing to do with gmo crops. It is a herbicide. It is not an organism.

        • Aguirre15

          How about Whole Foods Market. They alone are much bigger than Monsanto and their stores are living and breathing anti GMO propaganda.

        • crush davis

          Organic farming is a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s not “the little guy” anymore. It’s big ag, and it sure is promoting an anti-conventional ag message. Why wouldn’t it? Come on guy, don’t be so naive. Or go ahead and be naive. I really don’t care what you do. I’ll post this is forget about it, and you.

      • Aguirre15

        ooops just read your post. I guess great minds think alike 😉 I really wasn’t trying to plagiarize your great post.

    • Aguirre15

      ” there is a billion dollar industry behind their (GMO) science”

      Yeah so. There is an even larger multi billion dollar organic industry trying their best to convince you that GMO’s are terrible. Welcome to free market capitalism. Nope, GMO is a question of science, not propaganda either way. When the science is followed its a non issue.

    • agscienceliterate

      A “billion?” Surely you jest. You certainly must know that the organic industry is worth $60 billion. Sixty. So, to quote you, “…the followers should keep the scewed [sic] financial basis between the two sides in mind….”

  • Lorinc Del Motte

    I think she wants you dead now. That said, she was surprisingly civil. I half expected her to go on an abusive tirade.

  • jsvb1

    While I applaud Farm Babe and agree with her (I currently am employed in agriculture and grew up on a farm as well) she needs to be careful in her statements to avoid logical fallacies and be aware of her own bias. This is something ALL farmers need to be more aware of. Agriculture has a lot of work to do in becoming environmentally friendly. I probably would have never admitted that two years ago, I was blinded by my own bias.Finishing my bachelors of science forced me to admit that I might be wrong about a lot of things I would have fought against before. The evidence that agriculture needs to improve is in the hypoxic state of the Gulf of Mexico. Is this caused 100% by agriculture? No, it is not. Although it is a leading contributing factor. My hope is that we can use crop and animal biotech to mitigate this. This is why we need to speak out against people like Shiva. My hope is that Farm Babe continues on her path, but remembers that it important to remain skeptical about the things we hold dear and to never stop learning.

  • Stuart M.

    Hooray, Ms. Miller! And to think this Shiva ding-a-ling gets $40,000 a speech! She would probably be dead now or might have never been born if it hadn’t been for Norman Borlaug.

  • It was about time that someone would challenge Vandana Shiva. She has no intellectual integrity at any level. As a philosopher of science, I am ashamed that she is in my academic field.

    • R Craven

      As an ex-philosopher (my PhD topic was modality, so not quite science, but all the same …) well said! Vandana Shiva has demeaned the profession.

  • Jose f Blanco

    I’m BP challenge global legal the united States of America citizen l want help anything people from idea want . I Dising idea pipe ternogia stop the oil spill the gorfo the Mexico in 2010 l save the life the all people in the world in 2010 l going to try help. Thank in God bless people from India

    • Jason

      Uhhh…. whuuuut?

      • Michael McCarthy

        Google translate malfunction?

      • Aguirre15

        Roger Rodger. We’ve got clearance Clarence. Whats our vector Victor? Huh…whaaa?

      • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

        I like to think that the ending means “From: India” and that Jose is the representative

    • Ken S., As Seen On Watch Lists

      Thank you for your service!

  • kj

    Excellent. And it was nice to hear at leas a few people applauding you!

  • Monsanto’s studies have already been debunked by many. When are you farmers going to start listening to your consumers instead of companies that want to sell you more chemicals? The organic food movement is booming. My farmers are getting rich.

    • crush davis

      Hahaha. Yes, thank you for verifying that organic farming is “big ag.” And thank you again, but I will continue to support conventional growers, who sell me the same fruit and veg, for a price I can afford.

    • Damo

      The consumers want safe, cheap food not a marketing label. People are voting with their wallets, and organic is losing.

  • Aguirre15

    My compliments to Michelle for giving voice to farmers, a voice which is all to often drowned out in this argument. When GMO seeds were launched about 20 years ago I don’t think anyone could have predictied the speed with which the technology would be taken up by farmers. It is worth keeping in mind that it was farmers who made this one of the most rapidly adopted technologies in history. Why? Because it filled needs and provided great flexibility in dealing with the sometimes extreme vagaries of dealing with weeds and insects on a broad acres basis. Shiva is a shameful and detestable hack who has devoted her life to insulting the integrity of these good farmers and she should be stood up to. Thx!

  • H. Miller

    Another excoriation of Shiva: http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2014/07/16/a-wealthy-activist-is-a-poor-advocate-for-the-poor/#185c8335ad9d. In addition to taking Shiva on, it’s important to try to prevent her appearances at universities (for outrageous fees); it’s like inviting a serial perpetrator of fraud or theft into the academic community.

    • Mathewos

      I see most of researchers and academicians where I also belong are worried of Shiva’s advocacy against GMO. But to me it is good to see its short term and long term impact on human needs. Good we see that Green Revolution has made a significant change in life of Indians. But my question is if that is only due to GMO. In most countries the state governance puts black curtail on the national economy (like Agriculture) to keep it down from flourishing and expressing its potential; so does the people culture. Back to GOM, its long term impact is undeniable, unless a genetically improvement is given to growing crops in the form of injection.

      Therefore, researchers and academicians may think of improving productivity with organic science than use of GMO. To this end, I would say insulting Shiva has no use than appreciating what she said and working with her to look for alternative ways of getting our farmers into sufficiency and abundances.

      • Damo

        No. She is factually incorrect, and until she admits that, there is no working with her.

      • Aguirre15

        The Green Revolution was a product of CIMMYT and IRRI under the visionary guidance of Norman Borlaug. You are right that it has made a big difference to wheat and rice farmers around the world. Before his death Norman Borlaug expressed great hope for GMO technology. Shiva, on the other hand, is a hack with no training in the field and who is blind to the real problems of agriculture in India which relate much more to the way it is financed and structured generally. At the on farm level BT cotton has performed remarkably in India, of that there is no dispute.

  • No Nonsense

    Farmers are awesome!!

  • agscienceliterate

    Kudos for speaking up and telling her what she clearly didn’t want to hear, in front of an audience that appreciated farming facts. Well-done!

  • HappyCoconut11

    It’s funny that Ms. Miller claims “I wish she knew that farmers today are using less toxic chemicals than ever before” and points to a link where the author wrote “I don’t actually know whether GMO crops have increased or decreased herbicide use”. Figure 1D of this article shows that pesticide use decreased after the introduction of GMO crops and it is now going up again likely due to the development of resistance (glyphosate-resistant weeds, Bt-toxin resistant-corn rootworms, etc…) https://enveurope.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s12302-016-0070-0

    • hyperzombie

      pesticide use decreased after the introduction of GMO crops and it is now going up again likely due to the development of resistance
      Not really, the original drop was due to GMO corn in the soy rotation lowering the weed pressure, then farmers switched from a herbicide that was applied at 2oz per acre to glyphosate that is applied at 16 oz per acre. But glyphosate is far better for the environment than the other herbicides, even though they are applied at a lower dose. Kind of like switching from Meth to Pot, both are drugs but even though pot weighs far more it is far better for the human environment. Measuring herbicides by weight is a useless metric, just like measuring alcoholic beverages by volume is useless if you want to stay out of the hospital. One gallon of beer is not the same as one gallon of Vodka.

      development of resistance

      Farmers dont use more because of resistance they just switch herbicides. Just like if you had penicillin resistant STDs they would not use massive amounts, they would use a different antibiotic. Antibiotics have 5 modes of action (different ways to kill) and herbicides have 8.

      Bt-toxin resistant-corn rootworms

      Herbicides kill plants they have no effect on root worms.

      I hope I helped you to understand the issue, because it is not as simple as the activists make it seem.

      PS if you are a HappyCoconut it might be because your farmer is using glyphosate to kill all the weeds around you without harming your roots or the coconuts. Glyphosate is almost magic to nut and fruit farmers all over the world

      • HappyCoconut11

        Hello hyperzombie, I am not an activist; rather, I am Ph. D. scientist and I work full time in pesticide regulation. I understand the differences in acute and chronic toxicity among various pesticides; however, farmers are definitely using more herbicides to control weeds and the trend can be shown using number of active ingredients per application, input dollar, and other metrics distinct from weight. If you care to review the application rates of glyphosate in 1997 and now, you will clearly see that glyphosate is being used in higher amounts and simultaneously mixed with other active ingredients.

        If you read what I wrote, I said “pesticide use” and not herbicide use. I did not imply at any point that herbicides were used to control corn rootworms. I simply offered examples of well-known cases of resistance that have evolved after the introduction of GMO crops. Glyphosate use dominated weed control plans for many years and it resulted in selective pressures that gave us today’s glyphosate-resistant weeds.

        “the original drop was due to GMO corn in the soy rotation lowering the weed pressure”

        I have not seen any peer-reviewed papers supporting this claim. Do you have any? In fact, Iowa had higher levels of crop rotation in the past and alfalfa, oats, etc… were taken out of the picture over the years due to market pressures and other factors. This resulted in corn-soybean-only rotations that lead to today’s weed management challenges.

        “Antibiotics have 5 modes of action (different ways to kill) and herbicides have 8”

        This is factually wrong because the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has defined 27 modes of actions. http://www.weedscience.org/Documents/ShowDocuments.aspx?DocumentID=1192

        • hyperzombie

          First of all, thanks for your well thought out reply.

          I am Ph. D. scientist and I work full time in pesticide regulation.

          Well I find that to be a bit scary, judging from your statements below. I am a farmer with no PhD, but I do understand farming and herbicide use.

          however, farmers are definitely using more herbicides

          What kind of farmers? All farmers? Here is the biggest problem with most people’s comments on Ag issues, there is a huge difference between an Orchardist in WA and a wheat farmer in the Red River Valley, between a Corn farmer in Iowa and a cattle rancher in Northern Alberta.

          Are farmers overall using more herbicides? Yes, but not because GMOs.

          Using herbicides gives farmers far more options for weed control and it allows for better land management options (Min/strip/no till). Herbicides also lower costs (fewer tractor passes and less tillage) for the farmer and it helps to produce cleaner crops increasing the quality($/ac). Herbicides also increase productivity, farmers no longer have to not plant anything for a growing season and plow the crap out of the field just to get control of the weeds, this is a good thing.

          If you care to review the application rates of glyphosate in 1997 and now

          As far as I can determine the application rate has been the same since glyphosate was introduced in 1974, 8-32 oz per acre. (as high as 42 but only for forestry work). There has been no change.

          well-known cases of resistance that have evolved after the introduction of GMO crops.

          Well glyphosate resistance evolved before GMOs, with or without GMOs, resistance will happen, as it happens with all weed control methods. (even hand weeding)

          Bt-toxin resistant-corn rootworms

          No such thing. There is documented cases of resistance to a couple of individual Cry proteins, but that is not Bt. Once the seed companies became aware of this issue they added the refuge seed to the seed bags and stacked more than one Cry trait into the seed eliminating the problem. Go science.

          This is factually wrong because the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has defined 27 modes of actions

          Nope, it goes to 27, but many of those modes of action have no approved herbicides in that class. So, it is really 18, sorry for the typo.

          Here is a fancy herbicide map for you showing modes and the associated herbicides.

          http://www.weedscience.org/Summary/HRACPoster.aspx

        • hyperzombie

          I have not seen any peer-reviewed papers supporting this claim.

          Well i don’t know if there are any, but it is common sense. Less weed pressure = less need for herbicides. In my opinion this is what lead to many resistant weeds. In an effort to save money, farmers used less than the recommended amount of herbicide, leaving a tiny fraction of resistant mutant weeds. Then they ignored the advice from Agronomists and kept using the same mode of action over and over again, selecting for even more resistant weeds.

          In fact, Iowa had higher levels of crop rotation in the past and alfalfa, oats, etc… were taken out of the picture over the years due to market pressures and other factors.
          Other factors? Like that there are no more horses plowing the fields in Iowa, so no need for that much oats? Oats is a low value crop, most land in Iowa is far too expensive to make money growing Oats. Even in Canada where farmland is far less expensive, oats is a money loser.
          In Saskatchewan an Oats farmer makes about 25 dollars per acre after expenses, so you would have to farm about 1000 acres of Oats to get to the poverty line.

          You can’t just rotate into alfalfa, it is a perennial . Alfalfa needs a minimum of a 5 year commitment to the crop or you will lose a crap ton of money. Also you need to have a reliable close by customer for your alfalfa, or you will also lose a crap pile of money.

  • Keith hunter

    A non lethal dose of poison can still cause health problems …I’m very impressed with a new innovative modern way of growing Organic pesticide free food yr around with high yields A Aquaponic water efficient growing system.

    • Guest

      Organic does not mean pesticide free. What inputs are required for the aquaponic growing system that you are citing?