Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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13 Apr 2010

Vandana Shiva in Totnes: GM, Climate Change and Transition

Vandana Shiva was in Totnes recently, and gave a talk as part of an evening co-presented by TTT and Schumacher College. Those darlings from nu-project were there, and documented the evening for posterity.  Vandana was on fine form, and these two short films below are a great record of her talk.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.



Earth Democracy: Local Action, Planetary Consciousness.

She is so clear and engaging with her message.

Thank you for posting these videos.

Deborah Kaplan
14 Apr 1:20pm

The world is so lucky that Vandana Shiva is among us!!! Thanks nu-project people.

Graham Strouts
15 Apr 10:31am

Vandana Shiva gives a classic example of the ambivalent and contradictory attitude of many in transition towards science: on the one hand, she rightly defends climate scientists from anti-science deniers; but then implies that the science behind GE is biased and corrupt.

Ive been looking at some of this science over the last few weeks and have found the opposite to be true: the anti-GE lobby is biased and ideologically motivated, including I think Vandana Shiva.

She states for example that the potential dangers of GE escaping into the environment “is agreed in all the literature”- what literature? In this article for example you will find 57 publications regarding the safety of GM food crops with little if any evidence from the data of dangers.

It is no more true to say “the science shows GE crops are dangerous” than to say “the science shows there is no man-made climate change.”
Isnt it about time Transition started telling the truth about the evidence of health risks in GE?

This video clip puts the issues very well I think:

15 Apr 10:42am

Dear Graham
Just to pick up on one thing you said, as I think I made my own personal feelings on GM clear in a previous post. You wrote “isn’t it about time Transition started telling the truth?” What a ridiculous statement. To clarify, Transition Culture is my own website, not that of the Transition movement. Visit Transition Network’s new website… no ‘corporate position’ on GM…. Vandana Shiva’s talk was co-organised by TTT and Schumacher College, and her views expressed are her own views. There is no formal Transition perspective on GM, indeed there are people within Transition who are pro-GM, just as in the TTT energy group we have had very strongly pro-nuclear members. Your constant attempts to label those involved in Transition as collectively scientifically illiterate and gullible is really your setting up a straw man to knock down, based on very little of substance.

Having said that, as someone who works on the front line of supporting communities feeling the very real and damaging impacts of industrialised agriculture and GM, the erosion of genetic diversity, the impacts of climate change, and the dispossession of farming communities by the creation of Free Trade Zones in India, the indebtedness and resultant suicides caused by GM technologies, I think she brings an important perspective to the GM debate that will not be picked up in papers like those you cite, and a perspective on how corporations undermine communities and food security, an aspect which you sidestepped in your recent review of Stewart Brand’s book.

However, to take quotes from something Vandana says, and to state ‘isn’t it time Transition started telling the truth’ is absurd. If you want to write ‘isn’t it time Vandana started telling the truth’, then perhaps you might try contacting her directly. Vandana doesn’t speak for Transition, and Transition does not somehow unquestioningly absorb her every word. She was an (excellent) speaker who gave a talk for TTT. End of story. It is up to people in Transition to make their own minds up, based on the evidence, something they are eminently capable of doing.

Graham Strouts
15 Apr 11:19am

Personally I dont think it was an excellent talk; I feel it is percieved as excellent because she represents a strong ideological bias that is apparent across the Transition movement. Why promote Shiva as a speaker when she clearly misrepresents the science? The scientific evidence is as clear as that for AGW: GE crops have no health dangers any more than other kinds of food. I dont think it is an exaggeration to say that fear-mongering about the dangers of trans-genes getting into the environment and wiping us all out- as she does in “Stolen Harvest” is indeed scientifically illiterate.

Indeed, in that book she claims that Terminator seeds (which it appears have never actually been developed or marketed) could spread by seeding- an impossibility. Yet her influence- which is of course increased by TTT promoting and celebrating her in this way- means that this mistake is what is spreading and contaminating our actual understanding of the issues.

“…a perspective on how corporations undermine communities and food security,…”

which corporations? are all corporations the same? Again it seems to me that this just perpetuates the “all big corporations are corrupt and should be mistrusted”. False information from the environmental movement does not help local communities.

“…the indebtedness and resultant suicides caused by GM technologies…”
Highly controversial. Is there any real substantive evidence that it is GM technology that results in this? Should we really trust what she says on this when she is clearly so ideologically motivated?

The thrust of this talk is that science has been hijacked, linking Climategate with GE. This is a serious confusion- it should be challenged. In my opinion, positions such as that taken by Shiva- and yes, to me, clearly by extension TT, whatever you say- play into the hands of climate change denial, because effectively it makes it permissible to obscure or misrepresent the science on whatever you dont happen to like.

Im sure there are scientifically literate people in Transition- I myself try to be one such! But I would like to hear from more of them.

The real problem is this: if the environmental movement takes a blanket “No GE” stance it effectively disenfranchises itself from engaging with the real issues, which will push the companies into more secrecy. Shiva’s response to the question at the end, that we should just work to destroy Monsanto, is really unhelpful: GE is here to stay.

We need to get engaged with the issues, get informed about the real scientific evidence on the different issues, and work to make the companies developing this potentially valuable life-saving technology more accountable and open.

Eoin O'Callaghan
15 Apr 1:27pm

I agree with Graham about Shiva’s talk – I didn’t find it inspiring or very informative, at least from viewing the first clip. She certainly seems to contradict herself by claiming science has been corrupted while simultaneously claiming that the integrity of the IPCC reports is intact. I feel the message she puts out is promoting the further polarisation of public opinion on critical issues. The language she uses is very emotive and is of the type I would associate with an opinion piece in a newspaper rather than that of an objective scientist.

25 Apr 12:43am


Earth Democracy: Local Action, Planetary Consciousness.

She is so clear and engaging with her message.

Thank you for posting these videos.