Monday, October 20, 2003

Corporate Control of Agriculture

This brief article is a reminder that oil is not the only natural resource being co-opted by large corporations in this world. summarizes Dr. Vandana Shiva's recent lecture in London. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, located in New Delhi.
    Dr Shiva has long campaigned against the globalisation and corporate control of agriculture. Her talk explored the political and economic conditions that have led to changes in agriculture and food production but concentrated on three main areas—intellectual property rights, a development she termed "biopiracy," and the commercial controls and manipulation of research.

    Large corporations are using intellectual property rights to patent indigenous medicinal plants, seeds, genetic resources, and medicines and are depriving local communities of food, resources, and livelihoods. Through the use of such rights, she said, "biopiracy" was occurring, whereby biological resources were being taken without permission from one country to build up global economies in another. She cited the examples of the transfer of basmati varieties of rice from India to build up the rice economy of the United States, and the free flow of neem seeds from the farms of India to large corporations who export them.

    "Biopiracy" deprived indigenous communities by not only excluding them from global markets but also allowing corporations to have monopoly control over scarce biological resources and what was once their traditional knowledge, she said. All these factors were pushing the poor to starvation.
I recalled Dr Shiva was interviewed by Bill Moyers on NOW in September. While the article above focused on corporate control of agriculture, on the show, she presented a larger picture, not just of agricultural biopiracy but of the connection between democracy and globalization. I don't know how the transcript would translate her incredible presence and intelligence but here is a snippet of her remarks:
    I think all the world's democracies are in jeopardy. And my own thesis is that this is connected to the trade liberalization and globalization...
    ...I've never talked about the West being repulsive. I've talked about the colonizing West trying to present itself as the liberator being a bit of a falsehood. I have never been against interaction. I've never been against-- internationalism. I talk about Earth's democracy, about all of us being citizens on the planet.

    And we need a globalization that is based on countries making their decisions, communities making their decisions. The current globalization is trying to build a roof by eating out the foundations. And there is panic because it's a false building. It's a building that's going to crumble. It is already crumbling.

    And there is no reason to not have international trade. There's no reason not to have international interaction. There's no reason not to have international democracy. But an international democracy is a genuinely democratic only if national democracies are in tact and local democracies are vibrant.