Friday, October 23, 2009

It’s been a week that I entirely switched to organic food – from rice to brinjals. It was really interesting to know how “the world’s majority of food producers [are being made into] new feudal serfs in bondage to three or four giant seed companies.” These massive foundations are incubators of such heinous ideas that they are making research so unethical. Especially, I found this pretty interesting:

“A crucial aspect driving the interest of the Rockefeller Foundation and US agribusiness companies was the fact that the Green Revolution was based on proliferation of new hybrid seeds in developing markets. One vital aspect of hybrid seeds was their lack of reproductive capacity.

“Hybrids had a built in protection against multiplication. Unlike normal open pollinated species whose seed gave yields similar to its parents, the yield of the seed borne by hybrid plants was significantly lower than that of the first generation.

“That declining yield characteristic of hybrids meant farmers must normally buy seed every year in order to obtain high yields. Moreover, the lower yield of the second generation eliminated the trade in seed that was often done by seed producers without the breeder’s authorization.

“It prevented the redistribution of the commercial crop seed by middlemen. If the large multinational seed companies were able to control the parental seed lines in house, no competitor or farmer would be able to produce the hybrid. The global concentration of hybrid seed patents into a handful of giant seed companies…”

A note about Norman Borlaug. He is slated to be someone who save billions and averted the doomsday scenario of a global famine. But as Amartya Sen pointed out famines can also happen where food is plentiful. And Borlaug’s Green Revolution didn’t completely rescue Punjab, for example. Vandana Shiva, the grass roots environmental activist, puts it beautifully in The Violence of the Green Revolution that after two decades of the Green Revolution, Punjab is:

“…neither a land of prosperity, nor peace. It is a region riddled with discontent and violence. Instead of abundance, Punjab has been left with diseased soils, pest-infected crops, waterlogged deserts and indebted and discontented farmers.”

Though this distressed state was painted as arising from “conflicts between ethnic and religious groups” they can be “traced to the "ecological and political demands of the Green Revolution as a scientific experiment in development and agricultural transformation."”

Shiva calls Green Revolution a short-term fix for a long-term challenge (cf. tragedy of commons) that has its solution in the foundation she started. Navdanya has spread to some 80 districts in 12 states and has collected more than 2,000 seed varieties. Pretty robust competition for Svalbard.

Shiva seeing the Green Revolution from the Punjab lens, concludes:

"The experience of the Green Revolution in Punjab is an illustration of how contemporary scientific expertise is politically and socially created, how it builds its immunity and blocks its social evaluation. It is an example of how science takes credit for successes and absolves itself from all responsibility for failures. The tragic story of Punjab is a tale of the exaggerated sense of modern science's power to control nature and society, and the total absence of a sense of responsibility for creating natural and social situations which are totally out of control."

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