Thursday, August 21, 2014

Musings: Shivanized

While reading an article about anti-GMO activist Vandana Shiva in the current issue of The New Yorker, I suddenly understood what had happened to little Kauai: We were Shivanized.

The “take no prisoners, no co-existence, us against them” mindset; the disinformation campaign; the strategy of attacking and ostracizing critics; the characterization of the seed companies as “pure evil;” the messianic call to “expel them from your islands,” starting with Kauai; the war terminology, and most especially, the fear-mongering — it all began with Shiva at her Jan. 17, 2013 Kauai talk sponsored by Hawaii SEED.

As acclaimed reporter Michael Specter makes clear in The New Yorkers, that's Shiva's schtick. As part of her ongoing “pilgrimage,” Shiva unceasingly trots the globe saying stuff that ranges from not quite true to outright false, viciously attacking anyone who disagrees, simplifying the complex issue of food and agricultural production down to a single simple solution: If we just return to organic farming, eliminate any seed created in a laboratory, ban all fertilizers, everything will be OK.

Except, as Specter points out, it won't.

Specter is no apologist for modern agriculture. He is well aware of the damage that can be caused by an over-reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and water-sucking crops. He is cognizant of the dangers posed by pollen drift and insect-resistance, though he says both concerns can be addressed. He also recognizes that some 10 billion people will need to be fed by the end of the century:

Feeding the expanding population without further harming the Earth presents one of the greatest challenges of our time, perhaps of all time. For most of the past ten thousand years, feeding more people simply meant farming more land. That option no longer exists; nearly every arable patch of ground has been cultivated, and irrigation for agriculture already consumes seventy per cent of the Earth’s freshwater.

He addresses Shiva's claim that “If you look at the graph of the growth of G.M.O.s, the growth of application of glyphosate and autism, it’s literally a one-to-one correspondence. And you could make that graph for kidney failure, you could make that graph for diabetes, you could make that graph even for Alzheimer’s.”

And then debunks it:

Shiva had committed a common, but dangerous, fallacy: confusing a correlation with causation. (It turns out, for example, that the growth in sales of organic produce in the past decade matches the rise of autism, almost exactly. For that matter, so does the rise in sales of high-definition televisions, as well as the number of Americans who commute to work every day by bicycle.)

Specter goes on to point out how “Shiva’s absolutism about G.M.O.s can lead her in strange directions,” including condemning the Indian government for permitting the shipment of GMO grain and soy to feed the millions of starving homeless following a 1991 cyclone that killed 10,000 people.

He also questions her credentials:

Most of her book jackets include the following biographical note: “Before becoming an activist, Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists.” When I asked if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that I search for the answer on Google. I found nothing, and she doesn’t list any such position in her biography.

And while Specter agrees that there has been an increase in the use of herbicides, he disagrees with Shiva's assertion that genetically-modified crops are the culprit:

But farmers face the problem whether or not they plant genetically modified crops. Scores of weed species have become resistant to the herbicide atrazine, for example, even though no crops have been modified to tolerate it. In fact, glyphosate has become the most popular herbicide in the world, largely because it’s not nearly so toxic as those which it generally replaces. The E.P.A. has labelled water unsafe to drink if it contains three parts per billion of atrazine; the comparable limit for glyphosate is seven hundred parts per billion. By this measure, glyphosate is two hundred and thirty times less toxic than atrazine.

Specter discusses how “Shiva’s speeches are filled with terrifying anecdotes that play to that fear” of eating GMO foods, even though “humans have consumed trillions of servings of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, and have draped themselves in thousands of tons of clothing made from genetically engineered cotton, yet there has not been a single documented case of any person becoming ill as a result.”

Specter also addresses Shiva's claim that “294,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves because they cannot afford to plant Bt cotton.” He writes:

Shiva contends that modified seeds were created almost exclusively to serve large industrial farms, and there is some truth to that. But Bt cotton has been planted by millions of people in the developing world, many of whom maintain lots not much larger than the back yard of a house in the American suburbs. In India, more than seven million farmers, occupying twenty-six million acres, have adopted the technology. That’s nearly ninety per cent of all Indian cotton fields. At first, the new seeds were extremely expensive. Counterfeiters flooded the market with fakes and sold them, as well as fake glyphosate, at reduced prices. The crops failed, and many people suffered. Shiva said last year that Bt-cotton-seed costs had risen by eight thousand per cent in India since 2002.

In fact, the prices of modified seeds, which are regulated by the government, have fallen steadily. While they remain higher than those of conventional seeds, in most cases the modified seeds provide greater benefits. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, Bt farmers spend at least fifteen per cent more on crops, but their pesticide costs are fifty per cent lower. Since the seed was introduced, yields have increased by more than a hundred and fifty per cent.

Shiva also says that Monsanto’s patents prevent poor people from saving seeds. That is not the case in India. The Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001 guarantees every person the right to “save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share, or sell” his seeds. Most farmers, though, even those with tiny fields, choose to buy newly bred seeds each year, whether genetically engineered or not, because they insure better yields and bigger profits.

Specter traveled to India to meet with farmers and found :

The first thing that the cotton farmers I visited wanted to discuss, though, was their improved health and that of their families. Before Bt genes were inserted into cotton, they would typically spray their crops with powerful chemicals dozens of times each season. Now they spray once a month.

Everyone had a story to tell about insecticide poisoning. “Before Bt cotton came in, we used the other seeds,” Rameshwar Mamdev told me when I stopped by his six-acre farm, not far from the main dirt road that leads to the village. He plants corn in addition to cotton. “My wife would spray,” he said. “She would get sick. We would all get sick.” According to a recent study by the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, there has been a sevenfold reduction in the use of pesticide since the introduction of Bt cotton; the number of cases of pesticide poisoning has fallen by nearly ninety per cent. Similar reductions have occurred in China. The growers, particularly women, by reducing their exposure to insecticide, not only have lowered their risk of serious illness but also are able to spend more time with their children.

The World Health Organization has estimated that a hundred and seventy thousand Indians commit suicide each year—nearly five hundred a day. Although many Indian farmers kill themselves, their suicide rate has not risen in a decade, according to a study by Ian Plewis, of the University of Manchester. In fact, the suicide rate among Indian farmers is lower than for other Indians and is comparable to that among French farmers.

Most farmers I met in Maharashtra seemed to know at least one person who had killed himself, however, and they all agreed on the reasons: there is almost no affordable credit, no social security, and no meaningful crop-insurance program.

Specter also dismisses Shiva's claim that Monsanto “control[s] the entire scientific literature of the world.” Nature, Science, and Scientific American, three widely admired publications, “have just become extensions of their propaganda. There is no independent science left in the world.”

Monsanto is certainly rich, but it is simply not that powerful. Exxon Mobil is worth seven times as much as Monsanto, yet it has never been able to alter the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the principal cause of climate change. Tobacco companies spend more money lobbying in Washington each year than Monsanto does, but it’s hard to find scientists who endorse smoking.

Perhaps most revealing — especially in terms of how Kauai has been Shivanized — is this quote by Britith environmentalist Mark Lynas, previously a staunch biotech opponent who reversed his stance after studying all scientific literature:

When you call somebody a fraud, that suggests the person knows she is lying,” Mark Lynas told me on the phone recently. “I don’t think Vandana Shiva necessarily knows that. But she is blinded by her ideology and her political beliefs. That is why she is so effective and so dangerous. She is very canny about how she uses her power. But on a fundamental level she is a demagogue who opposes the universal values of the Enlightenment.”

And on Kauai, she helped to create hundreds of little demagogues who are similarly blinded by ideology, and thus similarly dangerous.

Spector notes:

The gulf between the truth about G.M.O.s and what people say about them keeps growing wider.

And I recalled a dreadful article recently published about the Kauai GMO fight by some guy whose relatives belong Kauai Rising. It was so full of shibai that when I saw it on the site, I thought yes, he left the truth out.

A woman who has worked as an agricultural advisor in Hawaii for 25 years sent me an email with a link to the Truthout article, despairing over its falsehoods and asking, “How is this going to change?”

I wasn't able to give her much encouragement. It's hard to turn the tide once misinformation gets entrenched, and people who question it are bullied. But slowly, ordinary people and journalists like Michael Specter are beginning to speak up, and that gives me hope.

Specter ends his article — and I urge you to read it in his entirety — with this:

Genetically modified crops will not solve the problem of the hundreds of millions of people who go to bed hungry every night. It would be far better if the world’s foods contained an adequate supply of vitamins. It would also help the people of many poverty-stricken countries if their governments were less corrupt. Working roads would do more to reduce nutritional deficits than any G.M.O. possibly could, and so would a more equitable distribution of the Earth’s dwindling supply of freshwater. No single crop or approach to farming can possibly feed the world. To prevent billions of people from living in hunger, we will need to use every one of them.

Or to quote Frank Zappa: A mind is like a parachute. It only works when it's open.

And finally, a sincere mahalo to those who have contributed to Kauai Eclectic. Your support and acknowledgement means a lot!


ariajuliet said...

I hold the unpopular opinion in my circle that Vandana Shiva is an irresponsible leader of whatever this environmental anti globalization anti gmo anti big ag movement is. I agree with her statement, on treads of the world “One: a trend of diversity, democracy, freedom, joy, culture—people celebrating their lives.” She paused to let silence fill the square. “And the other: monocultures, deadness. Everyone depressed. Everyone on Prozac. More and more young people unemployed. We don’t want that world of death.” I see that. But she gets it so wrong with the connection between that status of the world and “harm” that GMO is causing. I left her talk at the convention center last year quiet offended and really concerned that this was the voice that people were listening to. Unfortunately with so many voices talking in a crowed room, only the people who scream and shout and make a scene are the ones who get attention. Maybe instead of continuing to draw attention to the extremists who are blinded by ideology and so full of fear that they won’t drive past the Wailua Bridge with their windows down, you might shine some light on the many valid opinions to be found between them and the other extremists, who believe that the corn seeds that we are cultivating on Kauai do much more then just feed America’s addiction of factory farmed beef, pork and processed food.

Anonymous said...

Great article based on fact. Let's see how the antis try to disparage it. Keep it up Joan.

Anonymous said...

Great article and great post. I'm glad I took the time to read all your links in their entirety. Thank you!

I've been wondering lately if the rest of the world is as GMO obsessed (whether anti or not) as we are here on Kauai. This makes me feel a little better to know that this is a world wide obsession, and it's not just Kauai that's crazy, but then again it makes me feel worse to know that other people and communities are likely experiencing the same negative social impacts, confusion, unnecessary community divisions etc.. I'm still trying to figure out in my mind what to do about all this hate, fear, and lies. Staying quiet doesn't work. Being reasonable doesn't work. Presenting proven scientific facts that should ease their fears doesn't work. Pointing out their hypocrisy doesn't work....And I don't think it's going away. But if you say one thing that's anti- antigmo, you get attacked and humiliated. It's baffling! But this is so interesting to learn about this shiva lady. Because it makes me realize the mindset of the anti's and where they are getting some if their information that they regurgitate all over the internet. I can see how easy it would be to just believe it all and get caught up it it and fooled.

Anonymous said...

The solid waste fee proposal is a increase in fees with a decrease of container size. Yukimura does not understand that the 96 gallon size can that people have now will be charged the same rate at the 32 gallon can proposed. The 96 gallon can will increase in cost to 18-21 dollars monthly.

Their revenue chart is flawed because it's only for the automated refuse pick up that is occurring now. Which they stated is at 50 percent. When they implement this bill they want to do it island wide so the increase is double of what the chart was reported.

This is a quadruple tax for the same service people were receiving when people was forced to be double taxed on solid waste fees from $6 on property tax and $6 on automated refuse pick up.

Basically the county is increasing fees to nickel and dime it's citizens. They are also proposing green waste pick up every other week. The county is creating more jobs for nepotism and they need a way to pay for their cronyism.

Why is Yukimura trying very hard to sell this program?

Anonymous said...

Professor Ron Herring of Cornell gave a talk awhile ago at Oregon State, regarding the myths of GMOs, called "Playing God? Monsters, Miracle and the Politics of Genetic Engineering." It explains a lot about the Indian farmers embrace of the technology, and exposes Vandana Shiva's wild claim that Indian farmers are committing suicide because of GMOs.

Here is link:

Anonymous said...

Michael Specter published a short follow up in the New Yorker "Daily Comment" yesterday entitled "The Problem with G.M.O. Labeling.

Left out of this short article was how this can and will be a device for Greenpeace to isolate and target individual food producers.

Pete Antonson

Edward Coll said...

Specter wrote - "Tobacco companies spend more money lobbying in Washington each year than Monsanto does, but it’s hard to find scientists who endorse smoking."

The tobacco industry does not care if scientists endorse smoking. Their target in Washington is politicians enacting tobacco legislation and trade sanctions that could affects their bottom line.

Here are stats from WHO

"Tobacco epidemic death toll 100 million dead in the 20th century

Currently 5.4 million deaths every year

Unless urgent action is taken:
By 2030, there will be more than 8 million deaths every year

By 2030, more than 80% of tobacco deaths will be in developing countries

One billion estimated deaths during the 21st century"

Sounds like effective lobbying to me. They may be fighting a war of attrition in the US but can export death worldwide to regain market share. If Vandana Shiva comes remotely close to such effectiveness I will be shocked. She like the Tobacco industry (and big AG) may be engaging in propaganda but given the enormous asymmetry in resources between her and big Ag, they like the tobacco industry have little to worry about. From my observations it looks like big AG sends out "experts" for example Entine and Von Mogul chasing her around to do mop up and damage repair wherever she goes.

Anonymous said...

Recycling is a joke on this island. Studies have shown that you will never recover your investment with the amount of product that Kauai can produce. Recycling is a black hole that will make us pay n pay n pay n pay and when the County realizes they have been chasing a Yukimura dream they will make us pay n pay n pay again and again and again. I believe in dreams but for crying out loud get a new dream.

Waste to Energy is looking better and better and better. Think about it. Trash to cash. The clean air act is extremely strict and the particulates coming from a power plant would be under the highest scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

AG sends out "experts" for example Entine and Von Mogul chasing her around to do mop up and damage repair wherever she goes.
Bam, seems that may be the case. Maybe it is more like Shivitis

Anonymous said...

"AG sends out "experts" for example Entine and Von Mogul chasing her around to do mop up and damage repair wherever she goes."

No way. Shiva travels the world and they do not.

"but given the enormous asymmetry in resources between her and big Ag, they like the tobacco industry have little to worry about."

She does not disclose her funding so how do you know what her resources are?

Anonymous said...

Shiva charges $40,000/lecture. What a huge waste. Where is Hawaii SEED getting all its money?

Anonymous said...

August 21 at 7:30 it's automated trash pick up, which means less jobs.

Anonymous said...

Shiva me timbers. A short walk in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh will alert the walker that there is more than GMO on the farmer's mind. Like drinking water, a little food and a place to eliminate human waste, (though the roadside does work for most of the farmers).
It is always the little guy that gets punched by the so-called do-gooders.
Like all the renters who will get punched by Tim Bynum's tax increases. Or the hundreds of Ag employees that can get the boot if Gary Hooser, Bynum, Chock, Jay and Yuki get their way.
Gary's big hammer is to scare tourists away with his "There's poison in the air" hogwash. Gary will have a cushy job with Mainland Anti-groups, Tim has his money he took from the Kauai taxpayer, JoAnn has the couple million she made on her personal AG CPR sales in Kalihiwai, Jay has at least 2 pensions....The little guy has higher rent, higher taxes and fees, more traffic, bad roads and higher trash pick up charges....thank to these five well off politicians.
C'mon you guys, try to think of the working person for once. Get back to basics.
Time for Kaneshiro, Perry, Kagawa and Mel Rapozo to take the reins of power...Time for the people to have a say. Shucks, Ma'am all I want to do is raise my family and have a job. I don't want a bunch of rich fistees a runnin' my life.

Luke Kambic said...

"But on a fundamental level she is a demagogue who opposes the universal values of the Enlightenment.”

Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety has repeatedly stated that Isaac Newton and Galileo should have been jailed, and that "we must simply devolve our technological systems" to solve most of humanity's problems. Like Kimbrell, Shiva doesn't adhere to the enlightenment "cult of objectivity".

Wealthy neo-luddites have found fertile ground for their activism in Hawaii. The blessed benignity of our natural surroundings makes it easy to be entranced by the naturalistic fallacy.

Chuck Lasker said...

Edward Coll said... "She like the Tobacco industry (and big AG) may be engaging in propaganda but given the enormous asymmetry in resources between her and big Ag, they like the tobacco industry have little to worry about."

In other words, lies and misinformation are okay if you're one of the "good guys." That sounds like Geoff Morris' "what they were doing wasn't pono, so to start a riot was pono" mind bending justification. At least every now and then an anti admits their willingness to be immoral for the sake of their "cause."

Edward Coll said...

Chuck Lasker said "In other words, lies and misinformation are okay if you're one of the 'good guys.'"

I never said it was okay. It is not. The "other words" were yours. Anyone who admits a willingness to be immoral for the sake of their "cause" discredits that cause. Trying to associate me with Geoff Morris (whomever that is) is a also propaganda technique called "guilt by association." Don't know him. Don't agree with him and finally where did you get he idea I was anti Ag?

Kevin M. Folta said...

And do not forget that she fully endorsed the murder of scientists and journalists that are following the scientific consensus.

She endorsed and reposted Mike Adams' sick rant, and after he was busted for the fake "Monsanto Collaborators" site, she took it down.

However, it shows that she fundamentally accepts that it is appropriate to defy science, deny evidence and kill those that adhere to science, if it means achieving her goals (and check).

Edward Coll said...

Kevin M. Folta said - "And do not forget that she fully endorsed the murder of scientists and journalists that are following the scientific consensus."

I followed the link (to Folta own site) but did not see any proof that Shiva "fully endorsed murder of scientists and journalists" as Folta claims. Posting is not "endorsing" nor is it proof that she "fundamentally accepts that it is appropriate to defy science, deny evidence and kill those that adhere to science."

What Folta claims may be true or it may not be true but Folta's remarks are themselves propaganda.

Anonymous said...

What cushy job will Gary Hooser get from the anti gmo groups?

Anonymous said...

10:16 Gary is President of HARP. A new group that claims to be Home Grown.
This group will have major funding from the mainland anti-GMO groups.
Remember, Gary in one of his many shrills, claimed that the little island in the middle of the sea, Kauai is the center of the GMO debate.
The big boys in the anti movement know this too. If you think Gary cares about the people of Kauai you have been snorting Bolivian magic marching dust.
Tim and Gary, a seemingly innocuous couple of overweight minor politicians have raised taxes on all renters and businesses, targeted businesses they do not like and slid $290,000 in to Timbo's pocket. They also in a midnight miasma put their water boy CHOCK into office.
Gary is smart and will have a good job and/or backdoor funding. Look at Gary's history. Taxes, using his partners life-savings and his lies in pursuit of greatness in the GMO conflagration. Ethics? What are they? Oh wait, they are in Tim's rice cooker.

Anonymous said...

Using his partner's life savings? What is that about?

Anonymous said...

Ed Coll said....and finally where did you get he idea I was anti Ag?
Perhaps its because you seem to be playing "White Knight" to Andres Brower's anti chemical publicity blitz. No one is anti ag,.... some are only anti "conventional ag", that is using herbicide, chemical fertilizers, fungicides and other non organic but legally approved methods.
I admire your non anonymous status.
However as a user of legal techniques of agriculture I feel at risk of vandalism, ostracism and legal persecution by those "Aina Warriors" who in cascading comments on those anti GMO websites threaten to purge the island of all chemical poisons.
Total hypocrisy..., simply stand in any checkout line and affirm that at least 95% of all sales are conventional ag related.
The demonization promulgated by the anti gmo groups is not limited to the big GMO corp's, but any farmer who uses "conventional" techniques. The anti gmo /organic ag theorists have decreed that all ag on Kauai shall be "organic" and any deviation shall be punished by scare tactics, health smears and possible legal action.
So where do you stand ? Is a farmer/ nurseryman who uses herbicide or chemical fertilizer/ fungicide (AKA poison) in a legal approved way evil and subject to prosecution for using "poison"?

Edward Coll said...

5: 48 Anonymous said…
White Knight! Hardly. Joan wrote of Brower “you branded local farm workers "ecoterrorists," and Folta said of Shiva, "And do not forget that she fully endorsed the murder of scientists and journalists that are following the scientific consensus." I pointed out both of these statements are incorrect. As far as I know Brower never said local farm workers were “eco-terrorist” and as far as I know Shiva never endorsed “the murder of scientists and journalists”. Guilt by association does not constitute proof. I didn’t think I needed the protection of anonymity to point out factual inaccuracies.
To directly answer your questions “So where do you stand ?” I stand for the right to point out propaganda regardless of who uses it. “Is a farmer/ nurseryman who uses herbicide or chemical fertilizer/ fungicide (AKA poison) in a legal approved way evil and subject to prosecution for using "poison"? I can’t speak to “evil” as that depends on an individual's motivation, and I do not know yours, but as to being prosecuted for acting within the law your question is rhetorical one cannot be prosecuted for obeying the law.

Joan Conrow said...

And I disagree with your assertion that my comment about Andrea was incorrect, or propaganda. My contention was that when Andrea denounced the Kauai chem companies as ecoterrorists she was similarly branding the workers, since they are the ones who do the jobs and they very much took that allegation to heart. You consider that guilt by association, but I don't. So it's not a "factual inaccuracy," it's just your opinion, and we differ.

Edward Coll said...

12:20 Joan, If I said "corporations are immoral" and you said, "Ed Coll says people that work for corporations are immoral" and I denied saying what you said I said -- which of us would be factually accurate and which of us would be expressing an opinion?
My statement may be my "opinion" that "corporations are immoral" but claiming I said "people that work for corporations are immoral" would be a factual inaccuracy.

Anonymous said...

Edward Cole said crap! Because if a corporation or company is immoral and the employees still agree with the company by being employed, the employee is still doing an immoral activity at their discretion. Which makes the employee a part of the corporation. Which makes them just as immoral..