Vandana Shiva: Why Monsanto Is Fighting Tooth and Nail Against California's Prop 37
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A new poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the LA Times has found that Proposition 37, the GMO labeling initiative has slipped a whopping 17 points since the last poll in September. The proposition continues to lead but only by 2 percentage points with less than a week before the election. Thirteen percent of likely voters are still undecided on whether to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms in foods.
The dramatic shift in opinion is likely due to the barrage of dollars spent by vested corporate interests to defeat Prop 37. Chief among them are Monsanto corporation, the leading commercial force behind the creation, promotion, and widespread use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds in farming, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association which represents the world's largest processed food producers and distributors such as Coca Cola, Pepsi Co, and Nestle. Together, they have spent $41 million in advertising and other campaigning, claiming that Proposition 37 is "anti-science," and would lead to huge increases in food prices, the banning of safe foods. At least two newspapers have concluded the No on Prop 37 ads are misleading and deceptive.
Now, one of the world's most renowned scientists and environmental activists, Vandana Shiva, is speaking out on behalf of proposition 37. Long a thorn in the side of Monsanto, Dr. Shiva has taken on big bio-tech and agribusiness companies in her home country of India and works with farmers groups all over the world to protect their right to farm using their traditional methods and seeds.
Trained as a physicist, Vandana Shiva is the founder of Navadanya "a movement which aims to protect nature and people's rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food," by creating community seed banks among other things. She just concluded a two week long global action called " seed freedom." She has written nearly two dozen books, including Democratizing Biology: Reinventing Biology from a Feminist, Ecological and Third World Perspective, and Soil Not Oil. Her forthcoming book out next year is entitled Making Peace With the Earth: Beyond Land Wars And Food Wars. Vandana Shiva has won a number of awards including the Sydney Peace Prize and the Right Livlihood Award and was named by the Guardian newspaper as one of their Top 100 most inspiring women.
I had the opportunity to recently speak with Vandana Shiva during her visit to Los Angeles where she was promoting a “Yes” vote on Prop 37.
Sonali Kolhatkar: One of the most exciting developments since I last spoke to you is the ballot measure proposition 37 which has garnered a lot of excitement here in the state. As somebody who is an international activist, how far behind is the US government on the issue of labeling genetically modified organisms in our food?
Vandana Shiva: I think Proposition 37 is an opportunity for both the US citizens - and I put the US citizens first - and the US government, to catch up with the rest of the world. Europe has had mandatory labeling from early 2003. India has just announced mandatory labeling beginning in January 2013. And this is out of a case we filed in 2006 saying every citizen has a right to know what they are eating and a right to choose: Do they want to be vegetarians or non vegetarians? Do they want to be chemical eaters or do they want to be organic eaters? Do they want to be GMO eaters or non-GMO eaters? These are fundamental choices and if on chemicals, we can accept labeling, if on transfats we can accept labeling, on simple things like how much salt and sugar is in our food, we can accept labeling, why should the government and the industry be scared of just putting a label saying, “This has GMOs.” Especially if they are not worried about what GMOs do and they are not worried about how many facts they are suppressing in the process of pushing GMOs on unwilling consumers not getting the full information.