Support Biodiversity not Biofortification

In another shortsighted attempt to combat malnutrition, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted more than 8 million dollars to Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for the development of genetically modified and nutrient-fortified bananas. Professor James Dale heads the QUT fortification project which plans to bring the engineered bananas to malnourished populations in Uganda and India. However, according to Dr. Vandana Shiva, the answer to malnutrition lies in increasing biodiversity rather than industrially engineering or “fortifying” crops. As history has shown, GM crops resulted in the proliferation of monocultures and the depletion of biodiversity– biodiversity which naturally supplied crops rich in iron and nutrients. As Shiva explains, “Any woman will tell you that the solution to malnutrition lies in growing nutrition, which means growing biodiversity…we don’t need these irresponsible experiments that create new threats for biodiversity and our health; we don’t need nutrient solutions imposed by powerful men sitting in distant places, who are totally ignorant of the biodiversity in our fields and who won’t have to bear the consequences of their destructive power…”

To learn more, see Vandana Shiva’s article Bill Goes Bananas!


IRRI Sets Record Straight on Golden Rice

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has granted the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines $1.3 million to help develop Golden Rice, a genetically modified strain of rice containing beta-carotene which the body may be able to convert to vitamin A.

In recent weeks, two news stories broke hyping up the expectations of Golden Rice.
In a response to the exaggerated news stories, the International Rice Research Institute issued a clarifying statement.
Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, has also discussed the hype regarding Golden Rice’s claim to combat vitamin A deficiency. According to Hansen, there have been three versions of the genetically modified rice varieties to date. The first version (GR1) had low levels of beta-carotene– a precursor to vitamin A–so low in fact, that a report by Greenpeace exposed that an individual would have to consume TEN pounds of the rice in order to get the desired levels of beta-carotene. Although the second version (GR2) had higher levels of beta-carotene, the real issue, Hansen states, was that because the genes were easier to insert in japonica varieties of rice, people in South Asia (who were accustomed to indica rice) would not eat the new variety. “It wasn’t until 2010 that they had been able to cross GR2 with local indica varieties and get plants out into the field to test. We still don’t know the levels of beta-carotene in the GR indica varieties. In addition, they still haven’t done the proper safety testing…” says Hansen.

Furthermore, according to Vandana Shiva, in one village she is familiar with, over 350 varieties of plants grow (dismissed as “weeds”) which are dietary sources of vitamin A. It is also likely that without other nutrients in a balanced diet, the child’s body may not be able to manufacture vitamin A from the precursors.

Regrettably, if an adequately nutritious and safe to consume variety of Golden Rice is ever developed, it would be foolish to assume that this technology would be made available to those who need in most, without prioritizing corporate interest. In a piece posted on GM-Free Cymru, Dr. Brian John writes, “The idea that Golden Rice is being ‘given to the world’ as a grand humanitarian gesture, with the high-profile support of the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, is a scam — as realised by many observers even in the early days of the project. Syngenta owns the patents and the commercial rights in Golden Rice. It is not ‘giving away’ the technology but sub-licensing it with very specific conditions…So Syngenta keeps ownership, spreads the financial risk, accepts no liability, undermines the regulatory system, puts moral pressure on those who stand in the way of its ambitions, and still stands to make a killing if anybody (other than a small farmer) grows any Golden Rice hybrid in the future.”

Shiva Explains How Industrialized Ag Leads to Loss of Nutrients in Crops

ImageIn her article, Vandana Shiva argues that hunger and malnutrition are being perpetuated by the industrialization of agriculture, the same system that is claiming to have the solution to these problems. She notes that the industrialized food system is too focused on increasing yields, and is not addressing the loss of nutritional value in crops grown as monocultures. Because nutrients in crops are derived from nutrients in the soil, crops grown in an industrialized setting where chemical pesticides have degraded the soil end up nutritionally empty. While the addition of synthetic fertilizers help to keep the soil from complete degredation, they do not account for all of the micronutrients found in organic soil. As a result, a person would be required to eat much more of a given crop in order to receive the same nutrients found in its organic counterpart. Because of this, Shiva argues that biodiverse, organic farming is the most effective and low-cost strategy for addressing world hunger.

Read the full story here:

Bill Moyers and Vandana Shiva Discuss the Global Consequences of GMOs

ImageCheck out Bill Moyers’ interview with Vandana Shiva as they discuss the consequences of GM seeds on small-scale farmers and the environment, as well as the impact that globalization has had on the food industry so far.
Shiva founded a movement to protect native seeds in India, and has been a leader in the global struggle against GMOs. She explains what seed privatization means in India and the rest of the world, and covers the actions of Monsanto, Cargill, and the Gates Foundation.
%d bloggers like this: