On 5th November 1952, India received an erudite scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, seed conservationist, ecofeminist and anti-globalisation author, namely, Dr. Vandana Shiva. Her brain-child Navdanya, is an India-based non-governmental organisation which promotes biodiversity conservation, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving. The word Navdanya literally translates to “nine seeds”, symbolising the protection of biological and cultural diversity and the “new gift” i.e. seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds in
today’s context of biological and ecological destruction. Seedsavers are the true givers of seed. “Navdanya” is an Earthcentric, Women-centric and Farmer-led movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity. It advocates living and practicing the philosophy of Earth Democracy as ‘One Earth Family’ (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).
Dr. Shiva defines eco-apartheid as holding the illusion in our minds and lives that humans are separate from nature. She fore-warned that we remove such an illusion from our minds and lives because it leads to disharmony with nature, and finally to violence against nature and human beings. In a 2012 interview, Bill Moyers referred to Vandana Shiva as the “rock star” of the anti-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) movement, an activism that has earned her the title “Gandhi of Grain”.
It is not easy being a Dr. Vandana Shiva. Not easy, simply because attaining the kind of depth that she has acquired academically, that too from premier international institutes, specializing in fields that are just outside the limit of roads oft-travelled, is mind-boggling. She has argued that the Green Revolution, through its use of fertilizers and pesticides, has led to pollution, a loss of indigenous seed diversity and traditional agricultural knowledge, and a dependence of poor farmers on costly chemicals. She has been undeterred in her efforts to take up the fights for farmers in India, who buy expensive GMO seeds (Monsanto) on credit. They are at an increased financial risk and are disproportionately more likely to commit suicide in response to crop failures.
Her life and work has been admired by a number of organizations with awards like the Right Livelihood Award (1993), an award established by the Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, and regarded as an “Alternative Nobel Prize”. She has authored more than twenty books. Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization (with Jerry Mander, Ralph Nader, and Jeremy Rifkin), and a figure of the anti-globalisation movement.
The author is Research Director, Environmental Scientist, and Professor at St. Joseph’s University, Bengaluru.