Vandana Shiva: Create Food Democracy, Occupy our Food Supply

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Topics: Action, Agribusiness, Learn

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Seeds in Hand via GLobal Crop Diversity Trust

via GLobal Crop Diversity Trust

The biggest corporate takeover on the planet is the hijacking of the food system, the cost of which has had huge and irreversible consequences for the Earth and people everywhere.

From the seed to the farm to the store to your table, corporations are seeking total control over biodiversity, land, and water. They are seeking control over how food is grown, processed, and distributed. And in seeking this total control, they are destroying the Earth’s ecological processes, our farmers, our health, and our freedoms.

It starts with seeds. Monsanto and a few other gene giants are trying to control and own the world’s seeds through genetic engineering and patents. Monsanto wrote the World Trade Organization treaty on Intellectual Property, which forces countries to patent seeds. As a Monsanto representative once said: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.”

They defined a problem, and for these corporate profiteers the problem was that farmers save seeds, making it difficult for them to continue wringing profits out of those farmers. So they offered a solution, and their solution was that seeds should be redefined as intellectual property, hence seed saving becomes theft and seed sharing is criminalized. I believe that saving seeds and protecting biodiversity is our ecological and ethical duty. That is why I started Navdanya 25 years ago.

Navdanya is a movement to occupy the seed. We have created 66 community seed banks, saved 3000 rice varieties, stopped laws that would prevent us from seed saving, and fought against biopiracy.

Corporations like Monsanto have created a seed emergency. This is the reason I am starting a global citizen’s campaign on seed sovereignty. I hope you will all join. The lawsuit that 84 organizations, including Navdanya, have filed against Monsanto in New York through the Public Patent Foundation is an important step in reclaiming seed sovereignty.

The next step in the corporate control of the food supply chain is on our farms. Contrary to the claims of corporations, the chemical-based “green” revolution and genetic engineering do not produce more food. Navdanya’s report on GMOs, Health per Acre, shows that the GMO emperor has no clothes. Biodiverse organic farming protects nature while increasing nutrition per acre. We have the solutions to hunger, but it’s not profitable for major industrial agriculture companies like Monsanto and Cargill to implement those solutions.

Cargill, the world’s biggest grain giant, wrote the WTO’s agriculture agreement, which has destroyed local production and local markets everywhere, uprooted small farmers, devastated the Amazon, and speculated on food commodities, pushing millions to hunger. A global corporate-controlled food system robs farmers of their incomes by pushing down farm prices, and robs the poor of their right to food by pushing up food prices. If a billion people are hungry today, it is because of greed-driven, capital-intensive, unsustainable, corporate-controlled globalized industrial agriculture. While creating hunger worldwide, agribusiness giants collect our tax money as subsidies in the name of removing hunger.

This system has pushed another 2 billion to food-related diseases like obesity and diabetes. Replacing healthy, local food culture with junk and processed food is achieved through food safety laws, which I call pseudo-hygiene laws. At the global level these include the Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary agreement of the WTO. At the national level they include new corporate-written food safety laws in Europe and India, and the Food Safety Modernization Act in the US.

The final link in the corporate hijacking of the food system is retail giants like Walmart. We have been resisting the entry of Walmart in India because Big Retail means Big Ag, and together the corporate giants destroy small shops and small farms that provide livelihoods to millions.

We must Occupy Our Food Supply because corporations are destroying our seed and soil, our water and land, our climate, and biodiversity. Forty percent of the greenhouse gases that are destabilizing the climate right now come from corporate industrial agriculture. Seventy percent of water is wasted for industrial agriculture. Seventy-five percent of biodiversity has been lost due to industrial monocultures.

We have alternatives that protect the Earth, protect our farmers, and protect our health and nutrition. To occupy the food system means simultaneously resisting corporate control and building sustainable and just alternatives, from the seed to the table. One seed at a time, one farm at a time, one meal at a time — we must break out of corporate food dictatorship and create a vibrant and robust food democracy.

About Dr. Vandana Shiva:

Before becoming an activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists. She holds a Master’s degree in the philosophy of science and a PhD in particle physics. She is the director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, the author of many widely-translated books, and a leader in the International Forum on Globalization, along with Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin. Shiva is also the founder of Navdanya (“nine seeds”), a movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds.

20 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Mark Murphy says:

    Cargill respects the civic engagement of Occupy Our Food Supply and encourages discussion of how to sustainably feed a planet of 7 billion people. But to set the record straight, Cargill doesn’t write WTO agreements, and the private sector is not a decision-maker in the WTO process. WTO is a U.N. organization made up of more than 150 countries. What’s unique about it is that it requires 100 percent consensus of the governments that are members.

    To read about Cargill’s work to raise the income of farmers around the world, go to

    Mark Murphy,
    Asst. Vice President for Corporate Responsibility, Cargill

  2. Theanne says:

    the science fiction movie “Fahrenheit 451″…against the law to have books, confiscated books are burned and yet a group of people find a way to save books! the reality of seeds…is it becoming a crime to have seed that are not genetically modified, apparently, in a sense seeds are being “burned”, so we who want this planet to survive have to save the seeds! As an individual how do I do this! For the first time I paid attention to what brand of seeds I bought for my containers on my patio…trying to buy seeds that are not genetically modified! I’m tired of GREED, anywhere, on any level! Destroying this planet for GREED is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard of! When the companies that are doing this succeed…are they planning to spaceship off to another planet to start all over again?

  3. Cargill defends free trade at expense of people and the planet

    @MarkMurphy, good to see you getting involved in the conversation about the corporate control of our food supply. I wonder if you would address Vandana Shiva’s broader points about Cargill’s role in uprooting small farmers, food speculation that pushes millions to hunger, and devastating the Amazon. In my work at Rainforest Action Network, I have found that agricultural free trade policies that benefit Cargill come at a high price for farmers, food sovereignty, human rights and the environment.

    In full disclosure, as you know Mark, for years RAN has been running a campaign calling on Cargill to address its problem with controversial palm oil, which, in its production, razes precious rainforests, contributes to climate change and species extinction, and displaces Indigenous communities. Currently, Cargill traffics a quarter of the world’s palm oil. Recently, we have found horrifying links between Cargill’s palm oil and slave labor:

    From family farmers in the US to palm oil plantation workers in Indonesia, we’ve found that Cargill puts profit far ahead of people and the planet. At minimum, it is time for Cargill to address its role in slave labor. Without proper supply chain safeguards in place, Cargill will continue to purchase, trade and profit from palm oil grown on lands stolen from local communities or on lands with active on-going social conflict and human rights violations.

  4. Mark Murphy says:

    Cargill welcomes discussion of how to sustainably feed a planet of 7 billion people. Access to food is a basic right. That’s why it’s important to help local farmers increase their productivity, invest in local agriculture, and support organizations that protect the environment and fight hunger. To address some of the issues Ashley has raised:

    • Control of the food supply: Food supplies are controlled by weather, global demand and the actions of governments around the world – including those that stockpile and create artificial shortages by banning imports or exports. As the World Food Programme reports, enough food is grown to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is getting it to the people who need it. Consider what’s happening right now with millions starving in the Horn of Africa.

    • Cargill’s role in the food supply: Local farmers supply the world with its food. For example, grain is grown by millions of local farmers. But not all food grows in all conditions. So a wheat farmer in the U.S. needs to be able to export his crop. Cargill helps farmers ship crops to where they’re needed. We also buy grain for our mills, where we make products like flour. We don’t control food markets, and we are not speculators.

    • Free trade: Cargill is in favor of free trade so food can get from places where it grows in abundance to places where it doesn’t. Free trade helps keep farmers in business.

    • The environment: Because Cargill relies on farmers, protecting the earth’s resources is critical to us. We partner with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and Flora & Fauna International to protect forests and orangutan habitat. At our own facilities, we collect rainwater and use recycled water, run boilers with sawdust and sunflower seeds and turn manure into electricity.

    • Small farmers: Cargill depends on farmers. They’re our suppliers. We buy from farms of all sizes, including small ones. In the U.S., the average cattle farmer has a herd of only 42. In West and Central Africa, most cocoa farmers tend only one or two hectares of land. Cargill trains small farmers to grow food sustainably, which not only helps the environment – it also helps farmers make more money. In Africa, we paid 26,000 farmers an extra $2.2 million last year for their certified sustainable cocoa beans. In Indonesia, we helped 8,800 small farmers get certified for their sustainable palm fruit. In Brazil, we work with the Nature Conservancy to teach farmers how to grow soybeans more sustainably.

    • Palm oil: We are proud to be the first company working on a 100-percent-sustainable supply chain. Our plantation in Indonesia that the Rainforest Action Network visited was one of the first to be certified sustainable in 2009. The certification of our other plantation is under way, and we invited RAN to be part of that process. We helped 8,800 small farmers we buy from get certified. Our refineries have been certified, and we’ve been supplying certified oil since 2010.

    • Human rights: The Rainforest Action Network has visited our PT Hindoli palm oil plantation in Indonesia, as have other NGOs. RAN knows we pay our workers fairly, built schools for workers’ children and pay the teachers, and built medical clinics and provide free care for our workers’ families. RAN has no basis for accusing Cargill of violating human rights.

    Read more about where Cargill stands on local food, sustainability and some of the other issues raised by Occupy Our Food Supply.

    Whatever your personal food choices might be, if you’re a RAN supporter and lucky enough to enjoy food choices, #F27 is a great day to donate to your local food bank or to an organization such as the World Food Programme or CARE.


  5. Leah Stephens says:

    Instead of using lots of fancy words which are carefully chosen and swathed in the idea of “sustainability”, I’ll just go ahead and quote Dr. Vandana Shiva, a quantum physicist who has dedicated her life to this issue: “Cargill, the world’s biggest grain giant, wrote the WTO’s agriculture agreement, which has destroyed local production and local markets everywhere, uprooted small farmers, devastated the Amazon, and speculated on food commodities, pushing millions to hunger. A global corporate-controlled food system robs farmers of their incomes by pushing down farm prices, and robs the poor of their right to food by pushing up food prices. If a billion people are hungry today, it is because of greed-driven, capital-intensive, unsustainable, corporate-controlled globalized industrial agriculture. While creating hunger worldwide, agribusiness giants collect our tax money as subsidies in the name of removing hunger.”

  6. 99Percent says:

    Mark, nobody believes a word you say. You have no idea how selfish you are do you? Go ahead and list off a bunch of vague, seemingly pro-environmental accomplishments you have going on. Aren’t you so proud. Your ego is so far gone and your pockets are so stuffed with cash that you will forever remain in denial. WAKE UP. Your company is DEVASTATING the environment and the human race. Good work, we didn’t need the amazon anyway, but what we did need is some of that awesome palm oil. THANKS.

  7. Greg says:

    Mark you are a certified sociopath. Congratulations.

  8. laura Blaco says:

    bla.bla..bla Mark you know you look good on paper and can’t say the same at each community you are at. I know how Cargil works, you can show pretty words you cut and paste in your office, out here we see reality unfold in a very different way.


  9. When food is grown for profit, people without money must starve, it is that simple,

  10. Dr. Vandana Shiva, thank you so much for the many many years of bringing the truth to are ears and life’s.

    The worldwide, agribusiness giants are sociopaths Irrational Deranged money driven, crazy people.

  11. Danny Day says:

    We have to take action as consumers. Please support our petition to our grocery stores. Please support our petition to drive consumer demand for transparency in labeling GMOs. Share this link:

    We need this in order to track the impacts of GMO impacts as well as to make our purchasing decisions.

  12. DeAnna says:

    Read Heather Rogers book “Green Gone Wrong”
    she’s visited these farms first hand and seen what these big corporations are doing to these small farmers who they are supposedly buying from. They move into the area, bulldoze everything in site to plant “sustainable agriculture”, buy their farms and rent them back to them and they are in a position where they have no choice to sell to this one company at the price they set and farm this one crop as they own all the trucks and means of transportation, water supply, and government officials. Corruption is rampant. They don’t plant in rotation and they’ve decimated the natural landscape that keeps insects and disease at bay. Fascinating book about what’s really going on.

  13. Mark Murphy says Cargill had no role in writing the agriculture agreement of WTO. A Cargill representative became the US representative during the Uruguay Round of Gatt which concluded with the establishment of WTO.

    The agriculture agreement of WTO is a Cargill agreement. It only talks of market access, export competition, domestic support, in other words mechanisms for Cargill to hijack the food supply. A democratic, people-centered agreement on agriculture would have talked of food and farmers, soil and seed. While it is true that governments are members of WTO, the revolving door between governments and corporations dissolves the boundaries. This is why we need to occupy the food system and create food democracy. We need to have our governments represent and protect our interests, not undermine the public interest while representing and protecting giant corporations.

  14. Garrett Casey says:

    Tell it, Vandana.

    Mark Murphy’s is just another nauseating attempt to put a polite, green face on corporate hegemony. Giant multinationals did not come to be giant or multinational by dint of respect for the environment or democratic processes. A corporation is moved only by the desire to profit. Health, environmental, labor and human rights concerns are to be found only in their tedious PR campaigns. Indeed, these are the very concerns multinationals have to aggressively subdue in order to fulfill their objectives.

    You’re not fooling anyone, Mark.
    You’re not.

  15. Bryan B says:

    I stumbled upon this site and article by chance and am not suprised nor shocked that a corporate would try anex the seed market. Its so obvious that the one who controls the food and water supplies, controls a nation or even continent.

    Feed us propaganda via media, in debt us, control the seed and water then you effectivly enslave an entire species.

    My eyes are now wide open !

  16. Frances Yan-Man-Shing says:

    Hi Mark Murphy,

    Are you sure that Cargill doesn’t write WTO agreements?

    1. Daniel Amstutz was a former president of Cargill Investor Services and later became Ambassador and Chief US negotiator on agriculture in the GATT negotiations – see tp://

    2. William Pearce was a former vice-chair of Cargill and was a deputy special representative for trade negotiations in the Nixon era – see… and p://

    3. President Bush appointed Warren Staley, a former Cargill chairman and CEO to serve on the Export Council (the national advisory committee on international trade) – see p://

    4. Daniel Pearson was a former Cargill Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs. President Bush appointed Daniel Pearson as Vice Chairman of the US International Trade Commission – see

  17. Shaun says:

    Mark. Using the argument of (you try finding a solution to feel x billion people) is the same thing as saying, its impossible to help everyone so we have to accept your choices.


    When the entire world is at stake and people’s lives, you do not have my permission to make the choices. You are not qualified, and the entire world has not been given a chance to choose their leader in this movement.

    Bottom line, if tough decisions must be made in order to sustain the planet – should they be made by a rich corporate lapdog?

    I personally would prefer to have an elected official who has been chosen for scientific education, combined a team of indigenous elected leaders representing each province of the earth. At this point, it makes sense to make tough decisions…

    The people at your company have no soul left – they should not make these decisions. IMHO

  18. Geoff says:

    Mark – if Cargill, Monsanto and friends were so dedicated to feeding the world, why would they continue to patent the genes instead of allowing them to be part of the public domain? Profits. That’s why. Not the public good nor the benefit of humanity. So cash your check from Cargill each week but feel the shame of shilling such BS. It will eventually hurt you and your family as well as the rest of us. Make sure your gated community stays well-guarded and sleep tight.

    The fact that Mark Murphy is even commenting on behalf of Cargill on this site shows that they are afraid of public opinion. Be afraid. At least give us that much while you screw us.

  19. I have recently started a web site, the info you offer on this web site has helped me greatly. Thanks for all of your time & work.

  20. Aleksandr cdan says:


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