TERRA MADRE – Vandana Shiva speaks
10 Feb 2005
Sisters and brothers, who have been brought here today, both because of your commitment, as well as the generosity of our Italian hosts and our Italian friends. It is for me a deep moment of joy because this is how I want to see the global world — full of our diverse locals. If this had been a meeting of agribusiness, every face would have been white, every coat would have been black. But you are so full of beauty and color and it is the color of the earth that you bring.
For me, Terra Madre is a celebration of life’s diversities, the Earth’s bounties and her miracles, in which we participate and create the bountiful food that has sustained our societies and communities over millennia.
Terra Madre is a tribute to the Earth’s caretakers: the small farmers, local producers, peasants and their co-producers — the earthworm, the micoriza, the fungi and the eaters of food. I want to thank Carlo for using the term ‘co-producer’, rather than ‘consumer’, because a consumer consumes, to consume means to destroy, and so far consumers who have participated in a destructive food chain. We are now inviting all consumers to join life, biodiversity and three-quarters of humanity in the creative act of maintaining the Earth, her diversity and human life, including the right to food of all human beings across the planet. As co-creators we are all participating here in Terra Madre and in the decades we have built this process to allow us all together in Terra Madre, through those processes at home and here we are participating in one of the biggest transformations of our times—a transformation that reclaims food as food, as the very currency of life, the basis of life, the condition of life, because everything is life only because everything is food.
What is called food today is not food. It is the by-product of a war economy. We are eating the leftovers of the Second World War. The nitrogen fertilizers that made explosives are now being used to fertilize, but not fertilize, kill, our soil. The chemicals of warfare have been deployed as pesticides and herbicides. Agriculture has been reduced to the consumption and recycling of war waste. No wonder it has reduced to a war against the earth and a war against the farmers. It was designed to be that way. When the black suits get together in the WTO in these secret meetings, they call them ‘green rooms’ they are not very green because they are missing the earth and they are missing the growers. But they have now created a language of ‘non-groups’ and ‘non-negotiations’. I have a very small suggestion to make today: that we should start saying that the WTO agreement on agriculture is an agreement on non-agriculture and non-food, because that is what they are promoting.
Because agriculture has become the residual war economy, the alternatives we are building are the economies of peace. They are the biggest peace movement of our times. They are making peace with the earth, they are making peace with all species and, right here in Terra Madre, we are making peace between all cultures. Everyone who is afraid of cultural diversity needs to come to this hall and see how much we can laugh and smile together and share this beautiful world.
Never before in history have a billion people been condemned to permanent hunger in spite of a bountiful earth, in spite of the intelligence of farming communities, in spite of the will of people to produce and feed themselves.
And while a billion go without food, the remaining who do eat that non-food are suffering diseases of obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure… The World Health Organization has had to recognize that the biggest killer in today’s world is industrial food. We can’t afford it any more if humanity has to survive. And it’s not just killing through disease, it’s killing directly. At the last ministerial meeting in Cancun, a Korean brother took his life, saying “WTO kills farmers”. Because, if agriculture and food become the leftover of the hunger of corporations, farmers will die: they will die because of debt, they will die because of displacement, they will die in a a suicide economy that pushes them to suicide. Here, we are building a living economy: an economy that celebrates life, creates life and re-creates life in perennial celebration.
But we are also here for truth. Because two of the biggest lies that have killed the earth are killing our health and are killing our farmers. First is the lie that chemicals and poisons produce more and more food. No, they merely produce more poisons. The best way to produce food is to use diversity and farm on a small-scale with love and care. All the data we saw today and all the data we live everyday in our fields shows us that chemical farming reduces output: it doesn’t increase food production. And the second big lie that is repeatedly told is: You cannot afford your local food because to ship food from 5,000 miles away is cheaper, to pump food with huge doses of chemicals is cheaper. That lie about cheap food from globalized free trade and industrial monocultures is what is making it impossible for an honest agriculture to be practiced. That honest agriculture is what we are here for. And an honest agriculture needs honest prices, not the subsidies, hidden and not hidden, that make very costly food cheap. Costly for the planet—the planet cannot afford the burden of globalized free trade or industrial agriculture with chemicals.
Our bodies are rebelling. We cannot afford the burden: it is a very costly burden. It is now time to go to the really low-cost agriculture which is an agriculture in which we use our intelligence and bio-diversity to feed ourselves. But before we feed ourselves, the earth. I also feel optimistic and hopeful. I feel very sad for those who think that military operation in far away places is a route to security, that locking yourselves in your homes with more and more security checks is a way to security. No, we are generating security in all its dimensions. And we are doing it peacefully and we are winning! We are winning against the most vicious, violent, deceitful past that humanity could ever shape in its distortions. And I want to just share with you some very good news: that we have just won the third fight against the pirates who take our seeds, our knowledge and claim it to be their invention. Basmati was stolen, we reclaimed it. Neem was stolen, we reclaimed it. And now, on the 26th of September, the European Patent Office revoked the wheat patent number number EP 0445929 which was a patent held by Monsanto based on stealing an ancient Indian wheat variety with low-gluten and low-elasticity. Every speaker this evening has spoken of a world without GMOs, a world without seed patenting and life patenting. That is the world we are here to create. I am absolutely confident that we will, seed by seed, plant by plant, peasant by peasant, community by community, country by country. We will liberate the earth. We will reclaim our food freedom.
Vandana Shiva, writer and ‘ecological scientist’, directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in New Delhi. Her current work centers on biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.
Blog & news
Change the world through food
Learn how you can restore ecosystems, communities and your own health with our RegenerAction Toolkit.