The approach of Earth Day 2016 offers a reminder that planet Earth is our home and the source of the resources that nourish our bodies. Earth provides an abundance of food that sustains our health and well-being, although many people suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and effects of environmental pollution. Acclaimed author and environmental activist Vandana Shiva has a new book soon to be published called Who Really Feeds The World? This book challenges the myths that biotechnology and agribusiness are working to better feed the world and alleviate hunger and poverty. She exposes how the corporate influences are actually functioning to foster these problems and how they often destroy communities and ecosystems.
Shiva’s book has chapters which answer the question in the title, explaining how healthy food production comes from agroecology, living soil, bees and butterflies, biodiversity, small-scale farmers, seed freedom, localization, and women. She describes how each of these are essential to a system that nourishes life and feeds the people of the planet. Corporate globalization and chemical-oriented agriculture are being shown to produce the opposite effect – leading to crop failures, economic destruction of small farmers, toxic foods, and increasing centralization of wealth at the expense of the local populations.
The book, published by North Atlantic Books, will be available in paperback and ebook versions, and is scheduled for release in June 2016. Shiva says that the way forward for our society must include several transitions. She states that we need a transition “from fiction to reality,” where the fiction of corporate personhood is replaced wit the “reality of real people who grow, process, cook, and eat real food.” Another transition that Shiva sees as essential is one “from mechanistic, reductionist science to an agroecological science based on relationships and interconnectedness.” Shiva also points out that seeds should not be seen as human “intellectual property,” but as “living, diverse, and evolving.”
Her advice is that we “make the transition from chemicals and toxins as the main input into agriculture to chemical-free, agroecological systems.” She says we need to move from “pseudoproductivity to real productivity” by creating sustainable systems rather than seeking to exploit nature and people for short-sighted profit. Another key transition advocated is one from “fake food to real food, from food that destroys our health to food that nourishes our bodies and minds.” Shiva observes that we need a shift from the “obsession with ‘big’ to a nurturing of ‘small,’ from global to local.” She points out how currently food prices are often manipulated and don’t reflect the “real” and “just” prices that would exist without the manipulation. Finally, she suggests that the idea of competition is one that must be replaced with the greater reality of cooperation.
As we take time this year to appreciate the planet on Earth Day, it would be wise to heed the guidance of Vandana Shiva. With increasing threats to human health and survival it would be wise to shift toward living in harmony with the planet rather than seeking to compete for control of resources and monopolization of the food supply. Each one of us can take steps to support this shift. Buying organic, non-GMO foods, supporting local agriculture, choosing leaders who put human health and ecosystems before corporate profits, home gardening, and creating an environment free of unhealthy chemicals in our homes and workplaces are all steps toward this Earth-friendly future.