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Globalization: War by other means

(Monday, May 24, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Ryan White, rabble.ca, 05/19/04:
Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned scientist, feminist and activist. In 1982 she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, an NGO that works on a wide range of issues affecting both India and the developing world.

Ryan White: Much of the work that you have done in India has centred around the protection of seeds. Why have seeds become a symbol of resistance?

Vandana Shiva: There are two reasons why, for us, seeds have become a symbol of resistance. The first is because we are literally within the midst of the third industrial revolution. The first was around mechanization and the combustion engine and that was what led to colonialism, slavery, control over the cotton trade. The second industrial revolution was a chemical revolution and that substituted safe products that nature gave us and had been evolved over millennia with hazardous chemicals without assessing what the hazards of those chemicals were.

We are now into the biotech era, where life itself is being industrialized and quite clearly life beyond the control and reach of corporate manipulation and monopolies becomes the freedom that has to be defended. That’s why the seed becomes the embodiment of resistance.

RW: You have described intellectual property rights and the agreements that protect them such as the Trade Rules on Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) as a new colonialism. What kind of an impact have they had on the developing world?

VS: Older patent laws were around industrial innovation; they had very clearly defined boundaries, very clearly defined exclusions, very clearly defined limitations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has imposed on the world an intellectual property regime linked to trade, even though intellectual property has nothing to do with trade. Therefore, they were forced to put the prefix “TR” before “IP” to drive it into a free trade treaty and thus the TRIPS agreement under article 27.3 B literally forces countries to start patenting life beginning with genetically modified organisms.

But the floodgates are now open and this is an imposition, a coercion; it has ended up colonizing life and the Third World in a number of ways. First, that which belongs to us — our basmati, our neem, our wheat — is now being patented by Ricetec for basmati, WR Grace for neem and Monsanto for an ancient Indian wheat variety, while they push on Canada genetically engineered wheat.

The second way it colonizes us is by making the very vital needs of production, basic needs — the seed, agriculture, biodiversity — controlled by literally three to four gene giants. We are reaching a stage where it is just like when the British tried to control the entire textile trade of the world and had to destroy India's tremendous textile production in order to sell us machine-made textiles while they controlled our land and the land in the United States to grow cotton and they did so under slave conditions.

In the very same way, under the new bio-colonialism, our genes, our seeds, are being used to control the production, to collect royalties from us for what belongs to us, and this has started to push thousands of Indian peasants to suicide. The control over the seed is a genocidal act; 25,000 Indian farmers have had to take their lives because of unpayable debts — if everything that was yours has to be bought from someone else, quite clearly everyone's life becomes indebted.

RW: A common myth is the idea that more technology equals more progress. What's wrong with this logic?

VS: More knowledge and more science would equal more progress because we would act more responsibly, we would know much more about what our interventions in the fragile web of life are doing. We would take steps that would improve the well-being of all — the well-being of other species, the well-being of the producers, of the farmers and the well-being of those who consume the produce of agriculture.

When technology becomes the optic and measure for progress, technology ends up being defined as an end, but it is merely a means. By changing the level of means to an end, the size, the magnitude, the complication, the bigness, the pulling capacity of technology starts to become a measure of progress even though on ecological and human indicators more control over people's lives, more destruction of freedom, more destruction of the environment and technologies that do that, would actually be assessed as regression.

RW: How is ecology linked to other social justice movements?

VS: Both women and nature have been “the subjugated others.” They have been rendered invisible, they have been rendered inert, they have been rendered into purely raw materials to be extracted. Creation and production have been located somewhere else, largely in capital controlled by men.

That is why I call the system that simultaneously dominates over nature and women the “capitalist patriarchy.” The connection between feminism and ecology is basically reclaiming the creativity of nature, reclaiming the creativity and productivity of women. Even today, 70 per cent of the food production in the world is taking place through women's labour. I would imagine that 90 per cent of food processing in the world, where there is good food still and not the industrial non-food and industrial waste products that are sold as if they are food, is in the hands of women.

That creativity is being ignored. A lot of reports on globalization talk about how societies like India have only one per cent processing, as if we are all living in forests collecting beautiful, nourishing fruits. No, we are engaged in creating tremendous diversity in our crops and in our food culture, but that is all an invisible domain of nature and women. We want to reclaim that creativity and that productivity because society needs it. We don't want to do it purely as our own liberation, because we believe the liberation of other species, the liberation of men, the liberation of society across the board and of nature is tied to being able to notice those amazing zones and spaces of creativity.

RW: You have described globalization as war by other means. This coming January will be the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). What kind of an impact has globalization had on the world?

VS: In Cancun [at the most recent meetings of the WTO], a fellow farmer from Korea, Mr. Lee [Kyang Hae], took his life and on the placard that he was carrying when he stabbed himself was written, “WTO kills farmers.”

I am undertaking for the National Commission of Women in India a government status report, a study on the impact of globalization on women and one of my field workers has just sent me a report with an interview with a woman totally unconnected to me. She hasn't read anything that I have written. She is living in a remote farm in Karnataka, in an area where people were prosperous growing spices, prosperous growing tea and coffee, and this woman has said “the WTO is killing us.”

The reason the WTO is becoming genocidal and globalization is war by other means is because honest, hard working people are being robbed of their very option to live and all their options of livelihood. We are not talking about a metaphorical denial of life, we are talking about real genocide. There are 25, 000 Indian farmers who have lost their lives in the last couple of years. That's just the tip of the iceberg. In these public hearings that I am doing for the National Commission in village after village, women come up to me and talk about how the new trade regime has distorted prices and wages so much that you can't make a living. Women are being pushed into prostitution. To me this is war.

RW: Much of your work has been done on a local level, working with farmers in India. What is the importance of local democracy and economic sovereignty?

VS: There are a number of reasons why local resistance is the most important resistance; after all, our embodied lives, the places where we live and die and love and cry is the local level. It is in the webs of relationships with nature, with a particular place on earth, with particular trees and streams and groundwater and wells with particular communities.

That is where the consequences of globalization are felt and that is where ordinances are best shaped. Globalization allowed a myth to be created that there was a global world through which new growth and new progress could happen. You could ignore who controls that global marketplace —l that it was a global corporation; you could ignore the institutions that they were making for themselves — the WTO, the World Bank and IMF. That they were neutral, that they were really about benefiting the south, the poor.

But the most important part about globalization was that it has robbed the very life of the local. It robbed democracy from the local. For example, in the issue of water, a local stream can best be protected by a local community. It had to be the local women of Plachimada, and Kerala who had the courage and guts to stand in front of Coca Cola for two whole years. April 22 will always be an anniversary for me. It was when I gave my commitment to help them every day of my life until we threw that company out.

It was that local resistance of women which called Coca Cola a thief because it was stealing five million litres daily and leaving a water famine in a region that had never had water scarcity. That is why we need local resistance. We need creation and a reclaiming of democracy at the local level. That is the change that is happening, that is the other world that is being built.

RW: What challenges lie ahead and are you optimistic for the future?

VS: You know the reason that I am really optimistic about the changes that are being made? It's not just because the states of the south have decided not to be collectively bullied by Europe and the United States and the corporations that back those two major power blocs. But they were able to say no more bullying, no more lying, no more deceitful imposition of false prices, dumping, convoluted trade systems and call it free trade. They called the bluff on free trade, especially on agriculture.

I think even more important in my view, is the fact that across the world, no matter where you are, you can be in Canada, you can be in India, citizens are coming to the same common conclusion. Everywhere people are saying our world is ours to shape and make. Our world is not for sale. We will not have five companies controlling water. We will not have three gene giants controlling seeds and pharmaceuticals and medicine and killing us for their profits. We will not have two or three grain traders destroying the rightful livelihood and earnings of hard working farmers around the world and selling junk food and hazardous food to the consumers.

I think this common consensus is amazing. You add it up, it is 15 corporations against six billion people. That is the real optimism.


Ryan White is a volunteer journalist with the Ontarion, the University of Guelph's Independent Student Newspaper.

Source: http://www.rabble.ca/rabble_interview.shtml?x=32306