Vandana Shiva is one of the worlds foremost anti-globalization activists. She was born in northern India at the foothills of the Himalayas. Although she is a trained nuclear physicist, her exposure to the ill effects of economic development in India led her to question traditional assumptions about trade and economic progress. What particularly affected here were the plight of poor Indian farmers and the destruction of forests near her home.
Her basic premise is that globalization and freer trade do not at all necessarily mean better lives for the worlds poor. On the contrary, she believes that they are most often oppressive and severely detrimental to peoples ability to subsist in developing countries. For example, she asserts that the international agricultural economy has destroyed poor farmers capacity to make a living off of what they produce. She also believes that large western corporations use international patents to steal bio matter such as seeds, and then charge poor farmers for using them.
She is against the Genetically Engineered/Modified Organism (GEO-GMO). She advocates that western countries modifies and controls agricultural products that in turn produce greater yields and faster growth. Negatively, these products need more advanced agriculture infrastructure and yield higher prices for the Indian farmer. Since, often, the seeds need to be planted each year, the farmers become dependent on the seeds producer. The result is that small farmers are now more in debt forcing them to sell their fields to pay their debt.
In India, seed production and cultivation have always been part of their culture, and is usually done by the women. The women cultivate 5 seeds in five different pots. Several days later, the women compare their seeds and decide which one is the best. It is than distributed to the whole family and village. This seed is used for the next planting season. Shiva strongly believes that the practice of agriculture is women-oriented.
Vandana Shiva strongly believes that globalization and free trade are not good for the less-developed world. They have and will continue to generate a gap between the poor and the rich countries. She argues that it is actually a reversal in development, pushing the less-developed countries backwards in development and not forward. She is leads the campaign to protest against the WTO. She believes that the WTO is a tool for multi-national corporations in their globalization campaign, or in other words, to colonize India. She is not alone; numbers of other activists are strongly against globalization. The WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999 erupted in riots due to the impact of these activists.
When contemplating the validity of her statements, it is important to acknowledge some criticisms that have been voiced concerning her stance. Vandana Shiva can be accused of negative progression. Vandana Shiva feels strongly against the Green Revolution and wishes to move toward traditional agricultural practices again. She fails to remember that the Green Revolution has helped eradicate famine in India and has led to increased crop production, which can withstand predictable periods of drought, which harshly affects farmers. If India is to go back to traditional farming methods, it may be seen as regression as opposed to positive progression.
Another question that can be asked is, Is Vandana Shiva actually a voice for many, or only a few? Vandana Shiva is a driven individual with a definite following but who exactly is she speaking on behalf of? Her voice has been heard lately, but it is important to question the numbers that are a part of her following. Her views are very strong and tend to address womens issues when dealing with agriculture. You have to question how many of the small farm farmers she seems to want to protect, actually know who she is but more importantly, see the bigger picture. Living in rural India doesnt allow for a view of the world. Multinationals and the use of harmful pesticides may have a different impact on a rural farmers life, a person who is attempting to survive the next day. A person working on a rural farm is attempting to attain a lower level of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, a level of survival. Vandana Shiva can be accused of having differing priorities than those of a rural farmer and therefore is not a realistic voice of the masses.
When looking at Vandana Shivas position on certain issues, including globalization and agriculture, it is also important to look into counter-arguments to come up with your own conclusion.
Though her arguments are not perfect at times, Vandana Shiva has emerged as a leader in the anti-globalization movement. She is a passionate and committed woman. She has made the made the problems of hundreds of millions of people her own. She is fighting on behalf of people who do not traditionally have a voice. A Gujarat farmer has no real representation or access to the world scene. It is also important to consider where she is from. Top date, the anti-globalization movement is dominated by western protesters. She has her origins in the developing world, the world that the western protesters are fighting for. More is needed like her to combat or make a say on the world scene.
Most importantly, she has found an audience. People are listening to her. More and more governments, multilateral institutions and corporations are consulting her and her activist organization the New Delhi- based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. What is important to consider is it is the business people that are listening to her. Last year, she spoke on behalf of the protestors and the Officials listened. More and more executives are turning to her for explanations.