A couple of days ago the environmentalist Mark Lynas gave an impassioned speech calling for environmentalists to drop their opposition to genetically modified crops. It is perhaps the best summation of the hole the environmental movement has dug for themselves on GM and all sides of this debate should watch it.
Perhaps as a sign of the change in attitudes on GM the reaction to Lynas’s speech from environmentalists has been somewhat muted. As was the case with the attempt to destroy Rothamsted’s GM wheat trial in May 2012 most environmentalists are simply ignoring what Lynas has said. However there has been one notable exception: Vandana Shiva. According to the Guardian she is one of “the top 100 women in the world.” Lynas’s speech drew this response from her on Twitter:
Here we have perhaps the world’s foremost opponent of GM crops suggesting that growing GM crops is the moral equivalent of rape. A vile statement I hope you will agree, but will this mean the environmental movement will consider ostracising her? My feeling is that it won’t.
Let’s consider some previous statements made by her. The following is probably among the silliest thing uttered in history of humanity by a supposedly serious thinker:
Terminator seeds are genetically modified to kill their own embryos, making them sterile at harvest. This means that if farmers save the seeds of these plants at harvest for future crops, the next generation of plants will not grow. Farmers would thus need to buy new seeds every
After studying these seeds, molecular biologists warned of the possibility of terminator seeds spreading to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment—the gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe
out higher life forms, including humans.
I hope I don’t need to explain the flaw in her thinking. However, despite regularly flaunting her scientific credentials (she is forever calling herself a physicist despite only having an undergraduate degree in the subject) she does not seem capable of understanding the basics of sexual reproduction. This is not some trivial misunderstanding.
Consider however something a lot more sinister. Outlets such as the Huffington Post have frequently given her the opportunity to make quite stark claims about suicides among Indian farmers. She was recently invited on to the BBC’s Hard Talk series to make some rather astonishing statements on the subject:
In simple terms what she is claiming here is that every single farmer suicide in India is caused by the seed companies, and she often implies that it is caused mostly by the introduction of Bt cotton. Only a few days ago she repeated the claim, using the recent rapes in Delhi as a launchpad for her fanatical views:
If there was a social audit of corporatising our seed sector, 270,000 farmers would not have been pushed to suicide in India since the new economic policies were introduced.
In India, Monsanto’s advertising slogan is: “India delights as cotton farmers’ lives transform for the
better.” But the widows of the more than 250,000
farmer suicides in India related to GM cotton
crop failures are certainly not delighting
As Mark Lynas wrote here these claims quickly fall apart when confronted by the facts. Yet these outright lies are often at the heart of claims made by the mainstream of the environmental movement, and even the future King of the United Kingdom.
The real issue however is whether Vandava Shiva is simply deluded, or actively malicious. In either case it is high time the environmental movement recognised that she is a deeply dangerous figure.
[Update: Vandana Shiva responded to a tweet challenging her on her view. Her response is perhaps as fanatical and dangerous as her original tweet: