WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Shiva: Genetic Ag Fails to Yield Benefits

Macomb, IL – A world-renowned ecologist says organic seeds, biodiversity, and local farming are keys to ending the global food crisis.

Dr Vandana Shiva gave the presentation "Sustainability and Global Food Crisis" at Western Illinois University on March 30. She spoke with reporters beforehand. You can listen to that Q-and-A session by clicking on the audio button.

Shiva says there are many inefficiencies in agriculture today. She says 10 times as much energy is used for input as is produced in output in terms of food. In addition, the sun and soil are not being used to their fullest potential.

Shiva also believes genetically engineered seed patents are illegal and have not increased yields.

"There is a very good study called 'Failure to Yield.' It looks at all the GM crops produced from mid-90s, and not in a single case has there been a yield increase because of genetic engineering," says Shiva.

Shiva believes the use of pesticides has created more pests. She says increasing biodiversity will protect crops from pests while also increasing the rate of photosynthesis.

Shiva says she is a deep believer in local food systems.

"Local food systems get better food to people, they get what people want," says Shiva. "Every region in my country eats differently. It is wrong, I believe, to force everyone into a dependency on a singular grain."

She says local food respects the farmer, but adds it's okay to buy some food that is not local.

"Here in the Midwest, you'll never be able to grow coffee. You'll need to get it from central America. You won't be able to have the wonderful spices that add taste to the food," says Shiva.

"But I call that the 'spice of life' trade. Tiny volumes of the additional tastes that you need. But the staples must be local. It's the only way to manage the earth sustainably, it's the only way to have a vibrant farming community, and it's the only way for people to get food that is food."

Shiva grew up in India. She has a Ph.D. in quantum theory physics from the University of Western Ontario.

Shiva is the author of 13 books and more than 300 published papers. She received the Earth Day International Award in 1993 and the International Award of Ecology in 1997.

Shiva says her efforts have led to new policies by many governments. But she believes true change will come through grassroots movements.