In recent years there has been a movement back to sustainable and organic management of crops and land. This has been forced due to the continued development of industrialized agriculture since the turn of the 20th century, which applies destructive methods of chemical agriculture and genetic engineering. This mismanagement has been pushed to the limit for the most convenient production and profit churned out over large scale monocultures degrading the natural environment and enslaving farm workers into an eternal cycle of debt. This calls for a need to return to organic practices to maintain an equilibrium with our surrounding environment through a healthy relationship with our plants, animals and fellow humans that can perpetuate for generations to come.
Navdanya, or the ‘nine seeds’ research program in India is a spearhead against industrialized agriculture and Monsanto’s attempt at dominance over Indian farmers. Their efforts have helped set up seed banks across India to make available alternatives to chemical and genetic agriculture as well as educate about sustainable farming practices. This has reduced poverty and saved the lives of many farmers who were taking their lives as a result of the lifetime debt incurred upon them by Monsanto. Navdanya offers a counter movement to Monsanto by offering organic fair trade seed domestically and internationally, combatting the encroachment of monoculture worldwide. “Navdanya has connected biodiversity conservation with organic production and have challenged the standardization, uniformity and lack of quality, promoted by the industrial food system,” (Shiva). This has allowed for the free flowing of organic farming and produce to return to India as a sustainable non-violent practice, re-fostering life and biodiversity to a land deprived by monoculture.
Biodiversity is essential because it allows for a reciprocal relationship between plants and soil to develop between seasons and generate ideal growing conditions for crops. As pointed out by Vandana Shiva in Monocultures of the Mind, “Sustainability and diversity are ecologically linked because diversity offers the multiplicity of interactions which can heal ecological disturbance to any part of the system. Nonsustainability and uniformity means that a disturbance to one part is translated into a disturbance to all other parts,” (Shiva). When a natural environment is allowed to operate under the order of the universe, varieties of crops will be created, generating tolerance to disease and pests that threaten their vitality.
These same threats attack monocultures who use chemicals to combat hostilities rather than allowing the plants and their natural environments to defend themselves. If one of these chemicals were to fail, or the disease or pest develop resistance to the spray, a monoculture could be completely wiped out causing whole crops to fail. These problems are what plagued the Indian farmers who had fallen prey to Monsanto’s propagation of engineered seed. Many of their crops were failing due to widespread monocultures not having the ability to defend against the planet’s natural inhibitors. Here the need for biodiversity is crystal clear because without an ecosystem to support life on many levels, including soil microbes and beneficial insects the crops must be maintained through an artificial means.
To grow biodiverse crops, one must have access to a variety of seeds. This is the primary mission of Navdanya. “Through Navdanya, a national network for setting up community seed banks to protect indigenous seed diversity, we have tried to build an alternative to the engineering view of life.… we have tried to build an alternative to the paradigm of knowledge and life itself as private property,” (Shiva). It is a crime to place ownership over life, and that is exactly what Monsanto has done through patenting and gaining complete ownership over certain varieties of engineered seed which has extinguished many of the natural varieties that used to be available to farmers. By setting up seed banks across India Navdanya has saved the organic varieties and made them accessible to all for use in biodiverse agricultural communities. Navdanya has a mission to protect the many varieties of seed and life on Earth. Patenting seed prevents or stops the natural cycle of seed reproduction and adaptation to its current environmental conditions. Creating an environment of compatibility between people, the Earth, food and the seed from which our food is grown will foster harmony and sustainability into the future.
The act of farming is very rooted in the natural processes of the Earth. A connection is gained when the plant has access to its natural environment, is being fed the tea and the proper fertilizer that nourishes its growth and leads to the enhancement of the food it produces. In an interview for the Huffington Post, Shiva expresses that “The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory – this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe,” (Gelder).
This is our call, our return to the organic and sustainable practices of our ancestors which we have lost through industrialization. It takes a mindful approach to the complexity of life and how it interworks to support itself through a constant process of self-organization, and use that intelligence to maintain a biodiverse and sustainable way of life into the future.
Gelder, Sarah Van. “Vandana Shiva On Seed Saving and The Fight For Biodiversity.”
HuffingtonPost.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
Shiva, Vandana. Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. Boston, MA: South End,
Shiva, Vandana, Dr. “Organic Production.” Navdanya.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
Shiva, Vandana. Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology.
London, UK: Zed, 1993. Print.