Resilient Communities

Dr. Vanada ShivaThe Co-op CONNECTION
by Nina Westaway

The Monashee Community Co-op has celebrated over a year of successful marketing of organic produce and groceries in Lumby. The underpinnings of this endeavor are based on such principles as expounded by world renowned organic crusader Dr. Vandana Shiva who was in Vernon this year for the conference of the Certified Organic Association of BC (Feb. 24.)

Vandana Shiva reminded us of the external costs that chemical pesticides cause to the biosphere. Any damage caused by bad farming practices are passed onto to society. Such agreements as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) indemnify our losses. The touted efficiency of industrial food production is a myth, and one that destroys bio-diversity. Data about yields are manipulated and the nutrition from such food is degraded. She mentioned our one-time environmentalist Patrick Moore who had it wrong about the nutritional benefits of Golden Rice (owned by Monsanto subsidiary Syngenta). Our animal feed consisting of corn and soy is 90% GMO and as such becomes concentrated in what humans eat—to our detriment.

 

The production of synthetic nitrogen uses a tremendous amount of energy, a product of post-World War II chemical surpluses, and is seen to be one of the drivers of climate change. Traditionally Indian farmers grew pulses that fixed nitrogen when combined with other crops and allowed crop diversity. This practice has declined and India has become dependent on chemical fertilizers as well as imported pulses.

In response to concerns about increasing gluten intolerance, she noted that ancient wheats had 40% more protein and were not a health problem. The advent of industrial agriculture has seen the decline of 200,000 (?) rice varieties traditionally grown in India to only 3,000—the seeds of which were conserved by Vandana Shiva’s group Navdanya. The high nutritional value of organic farming practices could feed two Indias.

Vanadana Shiva referenced Sir Albert Howard, the father of modern organic farming working in India for 25 years, who demonstrated that pests are created by bad farming practices and that traditional organic farming minimizes the dangers from pests. Correcting unsuitable conditions of the soil and unsuitable crops made the environment virtually immune to pest attack and created healthy food and livestock.

The Indian government is suing Monsanto for its bio-piracy and illegal practices. India’s cotton growing region (amongst others) underwent such an exorbitant increase in the cost of seed and chemicals that led 300,000 Indian farmers to suicide. The corporate invasion from American seed companies has hamstrung India’s food sovereignty and at last the federal government is reacting.

In a just society 50% of what the consumer pays for food should go to the farmer, as opposed to the 1% that farmers get from industrial agriculture. 

All living systems are self-organized and you can’t improve upon nature by contaminating plants with a foreign gene as in food contaminated by GMOs. It’s not about precision but the organism and the entire eco-system.

This is first in a series written by Monashee Community Co-op members.  These topics would elaborate  on local food production, healthy soil, bee pollination, non GMOs, seed diversity, humane and ethical treatment of animals, healthy  diets as well as water usage and climate change.