Interviews with experts on the science, politics, and culture of food
“The world today is made, it is powered by science; and for any man to abdicate an interest in science is to walk with open eyes towards slavery.” —J. Bronowski, Science and Human Values
What inspired Jacob Bronowski’s classic science book, Science and Human Values resulted from his visit to Nagasaki in 1945. After witnessing the aftermath of that terrible destruction, he began to understand the power that science can unleash, and the responsibility of not only the scientist, and the scientific community at-large, but also it’s citizenry, to remain informed and actively engaged with the scientific decisions of the day. He did not view the scientist as a technocrat, nor a conjurer of magic, but one for whom the pursuit of science was to better understand nature’s laws, within a wider set of universal values, particularly the values of “tenderness, of kindliness, and of human intimacy and love”. These values were not to been seen as hard rules, they provided the foundation for a deeper understanding between just and unjust, between good and evil, between the means and the ends. Though his book was first published in 1956, it remains as important today, as then.
This 3-part series of interviews with Dr. Vandana Shiva about the future of food is one of the most contentious, revolutionary, profound, and important discussions of any, we have had to date on Food News. This is more than about the safety of biotechnology; it’s about the ability to have a choice of the foods that we eat, and for our farmers to be able to freely re-use their own seeds, and grow food in the manner that they choose. In developing countries like India, biotechnology introduces higher costs of production to the farmers, and makes them highly dependent upon a small number of companies to purchase their seeds, and required chemical inputs. Increasingly, farmers whose crops fail to produce anticipated yields are propelled into a cycle of debt that cause many to commit suicide. Food sovereignty of developing countries; ecological preservation of the biodiversity existing in nature; the ability of nations to feed their own people; the preservation of local culture entwined with past farming traditions; and the right of a people to have access to their own seeds, and to choose the traits they wish to propagate, these are all issues that require careful thought and discussion.
In part 1, Dr. Vandana Shiva explains the science of biotechnology (genetic engineering), and the dangers it poses to the world’s food supplies. Dr. Shiva is a scientist (a physicist by training); she is also a social activist, an environmentalist who believes in ecological sustainability (preserving biodiversity), and an internationally recognized leader in the sustainable food movement. As a woman, and as a pioneer, she has taken her stand among the peasant farmers of India, and indigenous people throughout the world as a defender of women’s and of nature’s rights.