Coffee klatch, Growing good food, Seeds to table
Comments 4

Let’s Talk! How women and biodiversity feed the world–not GMOs

Inter-planted crops at Eatwell Farm, Dixon, CA - Copyright Sharon L Grace, used with permission

Coffee klatsch! Welcome. Grab a chair. Cream and sugar for your coffee? Now tell me, what’s on your mind? Me? I’m thinking of this question of biodiversity and small-scale farming versus Big Ag and GMOs. Dr. Vandana Shiva said something interesting about that recently.

Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations.

— Dr. Vandana Shiva in Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs

Interplanted crops at Eatwell Farm, Dixon, CA - Copyright Sharon L Grace, used with permission

Inter-planted crops at Eatwell Farm, Dixon, CA – Copyright Sharon L Grace, used with permission

You know who Dr. Shiva is, right? She’s a scientist, sure, and so much more. One of the world’s true heroes, Dr. Shiva makes peace, saves lives and speaks out, every single day to build a good world for everyone. Way back in 1993, she won the Right Livelihood Award, often called “The Alternative Nobel Prize.”

She’s a kind of super hero for the planet and for all of us.

For a whole week now, I’ve had her article, Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs, open in my browser.

I couldn’t let go of it. Had to follow the links, and to understand, at more than a passing level, just how women and biodiversity can and do feed the world.

These are some of the passages that grabbed me, and which I’d like to discuss with you, if you’re willing.

  • Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters.

    Could we lessen the impact of California’s drought by turning more of our farm land to organic farming methods? Permaculturists know it’s true. Shiva has seen it in action.

  • Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations.

    Is Shiva right that, in taking food production from our hands, global corporations substitute toxic commodities they alone control? The United Nations seems to think so. See their 2013 Trade and Environment Review titled “Wake Up Before It’s Too late” (pdf).

    Too much reading in the time you have today? For a brief overview of their report, see TechnologyWater’s UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World or this one, New UN report calls for transformation in agriculture, from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

  • Industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion.

    What does Shiva mean, when she says “biodiversity erosion”? In a nutshell: Big Ag farms, with their vast monoculture crops and soil-killing chemicals, destroy plant and wildlife diversity.

    She cites a study (she erroneously attributes to the United Nations) from the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). In 1983, they found that the world had lost 93 percent of its plant varieties.

    Note that Shiva’s link takes us, not to the United Nations, but to Fast Company, which reproduces a colorful National Geographic infographic. According to that infographic, RAFI conducted the study that produced this statistic. Although the data is more than 30 years old, it gives us pause.

    If that’s where we were in 1983, where are we now in terms of biodiversity?

  • In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing.

    Why are bees and butterflies so important? They are our chief pollinators. Without pollinators, our food supply diminishes drastically.Pollinators are not just important to our food supply.

    Losing them costs hundreds of billions of dollars, Shiva says. “The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually.”

    If $200 billion a year doesn’t concern Big Business, what does?

  • Monocultures . . . kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the ‘bathua,’ and the mixed cropping that produces more ‘Nutrition per Acre’ than industrial monocultures.

    When our Big Ag corporations convince small Indian farmers to convert to monoculture agricultural systems, Shiva says, the nutritional value of their food drops.

    For more, check out this report by her organization Navdanya: Health Per Acre: organic Solutions to Hunger and Malnutrition.

  • Industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos.

    Forty percent of greenhouse gases are a result of industrial agriculture practices, Shiva says.

  • Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.

    Isn’t that the truth? Eaten a factory-farm tomato lately? Native varieties, Shiva says, grown the traditional way, as women farmed them for millennia, taste better, and contain more nutrients.

    Many of today’s children and young adults don’t know that peaches should be soft and juicy. They’ve never bitten into a peach, so juicy the sweet nectar runs off their chin and down their arm, never smelled that deep peach scent, experienced the unique flavor bouncing off their taste buds.

    What they know are flavorless, near-apple-hard peaches, picked green and grown for their size, ability to withstand long cross-country journeys to market, and shelf-life.

Shiva’s big takeaway

The big takeaway from this article, in my view–and I’d like to hear yours, please–is this: Native plants grown in humus-rich soil, following ancient agricultural methods, provide more stable crops, more nutrition, and help mitigate the consequences of climate change. Having adapted through natural selection, they naturally resist local pests and blights.

Shiva ends with a beautiful, 4,000-year-old quote from the Vedas.

Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.

What do you think of Shiva’s assertions? Can women and biodiversity feed the world better than Big Ag and all its chemicals?

♥  ♥  ♥

Shared on:
Healthy, happy, green and natural blog hop #109


  1. Sp thought-provoking and insightful! I am so delighted that you shared this healthy, green and valuable information about how women and biodiversity feed the world–not GMOs at the Healthy Happy Green Natural Party! I’m Pinning and sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. melrootsnwrites says

    This makes a lot of sense to me. Biodiversity is the key to sustainability. It makes sense that small farmers are more invested in making sure that they can continue farming so they’d need to work to lessen things like soil erosion and they’d want to make sure the pollinators keep returning. If we give them the tools they need, they can feed their families, their communities, and beyond. There is an economic incentive. It helps lift people up.

    When you turn that roll over to big agricultural companies as we have, profit–not sustainability–becomes the main goal. I think we learned some of these lessons during the Great Depression in the 1930s. When you move away from traditional farming practices, you overuse the land.

    Your line about how people don’t know what produce should really taste and smell like hits home. For a few years, I was able to subscribe to organic produce delivery. It was all locally grown and shipped within a day or two of being picked. I remember when I opened my first box. The sweet smell of carrots hit me. I had forgotten how good fresh carrots smell!

    People should know that fruits and vegetables have odors and tastes that are delightful. Much of the stuff at the store has been out on the road so long that it doesn’t really resemble real produce.

    Thanks for writing this thought provoking piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read it and share your insights, Mel. You hit the nail on the head when you say that, for “Big agricultural companies . . . , profit–not sustainability–becomes the main goal. ”

      And yes, I agree. Produce that has been on the road awhile doesn’t resemble garden-fresh in smell, taste or texture.

      Thanks again for engaging on this important topic.


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