The Teen Talking Circle Project

The Violence of Globalization: India Fights Back

Vandana Shiva

The biggest issue we face in India is the destruction of sustainable small scale economies such as agriculture and food production. Most small farms in India are one-half acre to one acre where framers grow one hundred to two hundred crops – large amounts for subsistence use and sale. Not just for food, but for all of the fiber, color dyeing, fertilizer, pest control, and medicine. Out of that the economy runs.

The entire threat of globalization is basically wiping out these diverse, localized systems- wiping out their biodiversity. It’s all being turned around on its head. It’s like we’re turning the world into a child born prematurely who must be kept on life support systems. The global economy is becoming a life support system for the smallest microorganism, for the street or stream, for the village. And it’s creating a threat both to the earth and livelihoods, creating insecurity on a scale we can’t imagine.

It’s not true that just because more ships go around the world and more jets fly around the world that we’re somehow getting more in life. We are not producing richer more satisfying lives. We’re certainly not producing more food, at least not good food. We might be producing more junk food, but we are not producing more nutrition. We are not producing more biodiversity. We are not producing more water- the basic things that make us live.

We’ve got to get out of the mythology of growth that keeps everyone intoxified. We need to start recognizing the knowledge and productivity of the past. We need to start listening to the voices of the small producer, the small vendor, the small retailer, the small farmer, and the small fisherman – which is a majority of the world. It’s also a majority of the women. Out of that comes the truthful resurrection of diversity that gives us the possibility of small scale, low impact economies for the earth and extremely high impact economies for human security and the future. A majority of the voices, which is the largest sector is actually being ignored just because individually they are small. But without them this world cannot be supported.

Don’t listen to the voices of global corporations. Monsanto, for example, came to India about four years ago and started to buy up local seed companies. The result of all that concentration and deregulation has been that farmers are buying more costly seed, buying more pesticide and have become more dependent on external inputs. They are getting into such deep debt that hundreds and thousands of small farmers are now starting to commit suicide. We also have Monsanto subverting all the environmental laws of the country.

Two thousand laws relating to food safety, chemical ingredients, and insuring that most food is processed at the small, local level have been changed. All those laws that have ensured the diversity and purity of our food are being destroyed. As a result of that, we’ve had to take them to the courts to defend our environmental protection laws, as well as the autonomy of our government. Our government cannot protect us because they are forced under the WTO to obey rules of the international trading system, that prevents them from having any power to act in our behalf. If they do, they’re acting against the trade laws and they can be sued, they can be fined, they can be sanctioned against, as countries. So companies like Monsanto and global institutions like the WTO aren’t just spreading genetic pollution, they’re spreading political pollution and knowledge pollution, too. That is the root of growing violence in our society.

For instance, women in India have always been the seed keepers, but companies like Monsanto, the “seed experts,” basically take the power of sustaining seed away from them. Women also end up carrying the burden of society because their husbands usually borrow for the new products like chemicals and pesticides. The husbands commit suicide, because of the debt and women are left with the farm, the home, the children, the future. Sometimes husbands sell their kidneys. We have found a huge series of cases where men are selling their kidneys and then they can’t work. And the women are having to look after everything!

In certain situations where this new corporate agriculture and globalization is destroying farming and agriculture, employment is collapsing and we are finding that there is an absolute explosion of prostitution. Men are selling kidneys and women are selling their bodies to survive. And this growth in prostitution is not a choice that women are making. It’s the ultimate destitution into which they are being pushed by the forces of globalization. Women would much rather work with nature, produce food, look after communities and be independent. There’s two kinds of survival – there’s survival with dignity, simplicity, and autonomy and then there’s the kind of survival that globalization is pushing people into- survival with violence, indignity, and total destitution.

Cargill has a major agenda to take over India’s entire food distribution system. Now just imagine how large the food distribution system of India is – to feed a billion people. But Cargill doesn’t produce food – farmers produce food. Cargill would like to control the trade in food and to make larger profits by buying cheaply from farmers. The entire price support system by which farmers get adequate return to ensure a living wage and a living return is being dismantled in order to allow Cargill to take over the food trade system – something we’re fighting very hard against.

We have two strong women’s campaigns, both against Cargill: one is against genetically engineered soil, which the women can’t stand. We have a national alliance of women’s food rights and the women have had dumping actions. The other is against Cargill entering the staple food system and trying to sell extremely over-processed, stale flour under the brand name of “Nature Fresh.” We have a movement saying – No! Nature fresh is what nature gives us, not what Cargill gives in rotten flax with pretty plastic packaging.

As for young people, they are obviously split along a total class line. The young elite, which can service the global corporations are only thinking of how they can make hundreds and thousands of rupees and get the new special visas to go all over the world. And of course Indian experts are in demand everywhere. They’re being wooed, they’re being paid high salaries compared to India’s low local salaries.

But there is also a large group of young people that are angry, who feel they are being denied a future. For example, in a remote area of India, 300,000 village and small town youth joined hands to lock out a Pepsi plant- to say, we don’t want this for our future. No national paper carried it – only Hindi papers. BBC and CNN didn’t carry it either. But 300,000 people- that’s much larger than the protests in Seattle. It was a very large mobilization against the destruction of our food culture and the corporate takeover of our economy. And it’s no surprise that 300,000youth in the streets are not news. That’s the point of globalization – that millions do not matter. Millions can be rendered invisible and voiceless. That is the violence of globalization.

I always say globalization can only thrive on the grave of democracy. So we ask the people in the North to discipline their governments and their corporations. Seattle was a start. We are strong enough to fight violence in our own societies ourselves. What we need you to do is stop your companies at home. Have a movement to stop Cargill from taking over our food system. You don’t have to come to India and tell us how our farmers should behave. You need to tell Cargill how it should behave. You need to tell your state department how it should behave. You need to tell your commerce department. The day you resurrect democracy in the U.S. – we resurrect democracy here.

Bio: Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, editor, and author of many books. In India she has established Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers' rights. She directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology and is on the board for the International Forum on Globalization.