By Florence Scialom
“From the seed onwards our whole food system has been colonised; but from the seed we can reclaim it” Vandana Shiva told a rapt audience in Totnes Civic Hall last Tuesday evening. The hall itself was packed with people, all keen to hear the words of wisdom bound to come from this well-known activist and academic. And they weren’t disappointed. Vandana took the audience on a journey with her words, exploring how the language of ‘development’ has been stolen from nature and hijacked by mainstream economics. She explained the many ways the call for ‘development’ continues to enable damage to our food systems; being used to justify harmful patent controls over seeds, dangerous genetically modified crops, and the kind of monoculture farming that erodes the natural diversity.
Vandana is particularly known for her work fighting against the stronghold agricultural corporations have on the world’s food systems, having written many books and engaged in numerous valuable campaigns on this topic. She has always fought on the side of biodiversity, and battled against the distortions of nature in the name of profit and greed. She is well-known internationally for this valuable work, and it was certainly a privilege to see her in person and hear her passionate critique of the violent processes dominating mainstream global agriculture.
The talk itself was organised by Schumacher College and Transition Town Totnes. Vandana is currently in the South West of the UK to teach a short course at Schumacher, entitled Beyond development: Creating diverse paths to wealth and wellbeing. Although the majority of Vandana’s Totnes-based talk focused on understanding the depth and shape of the problems facing us, she also touched on some of the diverse paths to wealth and wellbeing which can be taken. I came away feeling hopeful about some of the solutions highlighted, and about the many people out there currently working for positive changes – taking measures to gain more control over our own food systems and fighting to make the wider system more accountable. Perhaps my optimism was also a response to Vandana’s closing remarks that “it’s not only crops which need cultivation; we have to work to cultivate hope, and freedom, and every virtue that makes life worth living”.
To find out more about some of Vandana Shiva’s latest work she advised people to visit http://seedfreedom.in/, and you can also keep an eye out for her latest book; Health Per Acre: Organic Solutions to Hunger and Malnutrition.
If you would like to connect with the author of this post, Florence, you can do so via Twitter: @Flo_Sci or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org