Photo courtesy of Rosana Prada
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY DRAKE RHONE
The Principal Center for Global Citizenship hosted a speech in Sheslow Auditorium Wednesday featuring Vandana Shiva, who spoke against genetically modified organisms, seed patents and genetic engineering, which she said originated from the incorrect assumption that one gene equals one trait.
“It is based on an unscientific foundation,” she said. “It’s based on power. It’s based on ideology. It’s based on the same kind of thinking that led to these countries making decisions to eliminate certain kinds of human beings because they thought they were inferior and could be exterminated, just like we define all insects as enemies to be exterminated.
Shiva said that she started participating in discussion and activism in the field of agriculture in the 1980s due to what she said was a “conflict that was emerging,” even though her schooling was in quantum theory. She later went on to found Navdanya, an Indian-based organization that promotes biodiversity conservation and organic farming.
Shiva also spoke about pesticides. She said that many of the pesticides used today have their roots in chemical warfare and that the “war against pests” should be stopped.
“We forgot that it’s insects who pollinate our crops,” Shiva said. “We attack other insects that control pests, and affect the balance of the environment turning it into something unrecognizable in agriculture today.”
Event organizer David Skidmore of the Principal Center for Global Citizenship said that he felt the speech was a success.
“My guess is that there were about 550 people here,” Skidmore said. “I thought it was interesting that she got a standing ovation. We organize 30 to 40 events a year and very few of them are of this size.”
“Standing ovations are not that common, and I think that was an indicator that the audience was moved by her talk. She is the leading voice, she’s a very strong voice for rethinking how we do agriculture especially in this country, and it’s not a perspective here in Iowa that we often have an opportunity to hear.”
The Facebook page for the event featured several comments before the event condoning Drake University and The Principal Center for Global Citizenship for hosting someone who spoke out against GMOs.
“These are issues that are particularly controversial here in Iowa,” Skidmore said. “She offered a pretty powerful critique of the kind of agriculture that is dominant here in Iowa. I’m not surprised that some people have strong feelings and have expressed them.”
The Principal Center for Global Citizenship was not the only organization to help make the event a reality. It was sponsored in part by several organizations, including the following:
Drake Environmental Action League, Slay Fund for Social Justice, the Humanities Center, the Honors Program Hawley Lecture Fund, Next Course Food Recovery, the South Asian Student Association, Student Activists for Gender Equality, the Engaged Citizen AOI, the Environmental Science and Policy Department and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.