Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide
There is no reason why India should face hunger and malnutrition and why our farmers should commit suicide. India is blessed with the most fertile soils in the world. Our climate is so generous we can, in places, grow four crops in a year—compared to the industrialized west where sometimes only one crop is possible per year. We have the richest biodiversity of the world, both because of our diverse climates and because of the brilliance of our farmers as breeders. Our farmers are among the most hardworking, productive people in the world. Yet India faces an emergency, in our food and agricultural system. This emergency is man-made.
Firstly, the poor and vulnerable are dying for lack of food. According to the Deccan Herald, Lalita S. Rangari, 36, a Dalit widow and mother of two children of the Gondiya tribal belt, allegedly died due to starvation. Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Indu Jain of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court have served notice to the government of Maharashtra seeking its reply to the starvation death of a Dalit widow.
Photo credit: Nourishing Revolution
Even as India gets richer, we have emerged as the capital of hunger and malnutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 42.5 percent of children under five years old were underweight. This is more than double the African average of 21 percent, which until recently was the face of hunger.
The second tragedy is that our food producers, the small farmers who have provided food to more than a billion Indians and hold the potential to provide healthy food for all, are themselves dying because of agriculture and trade policies which put corporate profits above the rights and well being of our small farmers. More than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995, when the rules for the globalization of agriculture of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were implemented, transforming food into a commodity, agriculture into corporate business and shifting control over seeds and food from farmers to a handful of giant multinational corporations.
The third tragedy is that even those who get food are being denied their right to healthy and nourishing food. The explosion of junk food, of pesticides and toxics in our food, have created a disease epidemic that is a human tragedy and an economic burden. There is an epidemic of diseases related to our lifestyle and food, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, infertility and cardiovascular diseases.
The recent Maggi noodle scandal highlights the rapid invasion of junk food in the Indian diet. We are what we eat. When we eat food full of toxic chemicals, we pay the price with our health. India has emerged as the epicenter of diabetes.
In 2004, 8.2 lac Indians were diagnosed with diabetes and 2.6 lac succumbed to the disease. In 2012, the diabetes numbers jumped to 180 lac diagnosed and 7 lac dead. In 2010 alone, India spent 32 billion dollars on diabetes care. Cancer has also seen an increase by 30 percent in the last 5 years, with 180 million people affected in India. At 10 lac treatment per cancer victim this multiplies to 300 billion dollars, or 18 lac crores in rupees.
In extensive studies reported in “Poisons In Our Food" by Navdanya, elevated levels of PCBs, DDE and DDT have been found in the blood of women suffering from breast cancer. Studies show that 51 percent of all food commodities are contaminated by pesticides.
India Today I#ndependence Day special on #Hunger and the #GreenRevolution. Nothing Green in the Green Revolution http://t.co/BJeqqyzqFw
— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) August 14, 2015
My research over the past three decades on food and agriculture systems in India and across the world, informs me that the three tragedies are not separate, they are related and are, in fact, different dimensions of the food and agriculture crisis linked to promotion of an ecologically, economically and socially non sustainable model of food production and distribution referred to by various names, such as the Green Revolution, Industrial Agriculture, Chemical Farming. Solutions to all 3 dimensions of the crisis lie in shifting from the focus on an unhealthy, nutritionally empty, toxic, high cost food system to a healthy, nutritious, low cost and sustainable system which improves the health and well being of the earth, of the farmers and all citizens.
The industrial model relies on intensive consumption of energy, water, chemicals, capital and fossil fuel, inflating costs of production to much higher levels than the price farmers get for their harvested crops. This high cost system, which neither the farmers nor the nation can afford, is artificially kept afloat with a huge subsidy burden which only benefits the agrichemical corporations selling toxic chemicals. Financially, it is a negative economy, vulnerable to a chaotic climate in times of climate change and a manipulated commodity market. The debt and suicides of farmers are related to this feature of economic non-sustainability.
In 2014-15, the government procured 51 million tons of wheat and paddy, which is 30 percent lower than the previous year. With farmers now selling their food grains in the open market, wholesale prices of paddy and wheat crashed by 16 percent and 6 percent, respectively. In several parts of Bundelkhand and Western U.P., farmers sold wheat at a much lower rate than Minimum Support Price. In Punjab and Haryana, farmers were dumping stocks in front of government procurement centers. The farmers crisis is related to exploitation and injustice. Ecologically too industrial, chemical agriculture is a negative economy, using ten units of energy as input for every one unit produced as food.
The same system that drives farmers into a debt trap also creates malnutrition. Chemical monocultures and commodity production displace biodiversity which is a source of nutrition. The Green Revolution, which only works as monocultures, has destroyed our pulses and oilseeds—which were always grown as a mixture along with cereals. Today, in the land of urad and moong, tuar and chana, gahat and naurangi, we are importing “yellow pea dal," having removed them from our fields to grow Green Revolution monocultures. In the land of til and sarson, alsi and coconut, we are importing GMO soya oil and palm oil. If we avoid growing nutritious biodiverse crops, malnutrition is a predictable outcome. If we grow or food with toxic chemicals then diseases related to these poisons are bound to increase. A recent field survey by Navdanya revealed that in a single village, Gangnauli (Bagphat), there are 100 patients suffering from various types of cancer.
Chemical monocultures are pushing our farmers to debt and suicide, they are depriving our children of the nourishment that our fertile soils and hard working farmers could be growing and they are spreading an epidemic of cancer. To address the triple crisis of farmers suicides, hunger and malnutrition and disease epidemics, Navdanya is starting a five year campaign—Anna Swaraj (Food Sovereignty) 2020—to make the growing and availability of healthy, nourishing food the foundation of a resurgent India where no child goes hungry and no farmer commits suicide.
Our work over the past 3 decades has shown that when measured in nutrition per acre, biodiverse, organic, natural farming produces more food (health per acre). And food is supposed to provide nourishment and nutrition. We can grow enough nutrition for two India's, if we cultivate biodiversity without chemicals. Our farmers are small and ecological agriculture is better suited for them. Ecological farming also gets rid of toxics from our food crops and thus reduces the risks of diseases linked to those toxics (poisons in our food). Since hunger and poverty go hand in hand, we need to promote an agriculture that does not create poverty by haemorrhaging the scarce resources of the agrarian economy (to multinational corporations) for purchase of costly seeds and toxic chemicals.
Our research in Wealth per Acre has assessed that farmers who have their own seed, practice chemical free, ecological agriculture and shape fair trade markets are earning 10 times more than their counterparts who dependent on costly corporate seeds, chemicals from the same companies and forced dependence on exploitative commodity markets. If wheat farmers shifted from monocultures to growing diversity their net incomes would increase two to three fold. The crisis of pulses is a result of the Green Revolution monocultures of wheat and can be overcome through growing mixtures. And we would not need to import low quality dals. Pulses grown with cereals provide free nitrogen to the soil and healthy protein to us.
The Anna Swaraj agenda for a food and agriculture revolution and food democracy with the participation of citizens and all levels of government, from the local, to the state, to the national level:
We must stop treating food as a commodity, to be wasted, contaminated and profited from. Article 21, of India's constitution, guarantees the Right to Life of all citizens. Food is the basis of life, the right to food is a basic human right. The National Food Security Act is a step in this direction and needs to be implemented with full commitment. Our culture teaches us “Annam Brahman"—food is divinity. Commodification of food is a violation of food as sustenance.
We need to promote chemical free organic farming, not as a luxury, but as an imperative for the well being of our land, our farmers and our health. Chemical free ecological agriculture reduces costs of cultivation, reducing the debt burden for farmers as well as the malnutrition and disease burden for all citizens .
We need to move away from centralized, chemical and fossil fuel intensive monocultures accompanied by long distance transport (including dependence on imports) towards promotion of local Anna Swaraj food circles for direct consumer—producer links, bypassing the exploitative 'middlemen', like giant corporations which exploit, both, farmers and consumers. These circles will promote biodiversity on our farms and biodiversity on our plates, which is vital for nutrition. Thereby, also promoting economic diversity, creating employment and cultivating food democracy.
We need to shift the use of public tax money from subsidising toxic, nutritionally deficient commodities as food for the vulnerable—who do not have adequate purchasing power to buy healthy, safe, diverse, nutritious food—by removing subsidies offered to multinational chemical corporations that only add toxicity to our food system. There is no justification for using crores of tax money to subsidise bad food when that money could promote a healthy and sustainable food system for Mid Day Meal schemes, PDS and ICDS through people's participation, specially that of women who would like to bring nutritious food to their children.
We need to grow more food and nutrition everywhere, in villages and in cities—in communities, in schools, in backyards, on roof tops and terraces. These Gardens of Nutrition and Gardens of Hope can contribute to creating a malnutrition and hunger free India. Gandhi Ji had started a Grow more Food campaign and Lal Bahadur Shastri encouraged turning lawns into edible gardens. That spirit needs to be cultivated again to free India from the clutches of global agrichemical corporations.
From Meerut, the sacred land of our first freedom movement of 1857, a new freedom movement for Food Freedom—Anna Swaraj—was launched on August 2 by Navdanya.
Food freedom is based on the liberation of the earth from ecological destruction and toxic pollution, the liberation of the farmers from suicides due to debt created by dependence on the purchase of costly chemicals and seeds and the liberation of the citizens from malnutrition and disease caused by those toxic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.
The Anna Swaraj Abhiyan was launched with a campaign on Food Smart Citizens for Food Smart Cities—connecting producers to consumers and the village with the town in direct links through safe, fresh, local and fair food.
Navdanya has started to create Food Smart Cities to address the food and nutrition emergency we face. Food Smart Cities connect citizens directly to the farmers in their foodshed area, allowing direct access to healthy, local, fresh, fair food for the cities and access to a fair market to the farmers. If we join in the mission of Anna Awaraj 2020, India can become a land of good food for all. The Taitreya Upanishad has said the growing and giving of good food is the highest Dharma—Annam Bahu Kurvitha—let us all be reminded of this duty on this, our Independence Day.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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