Vandana Shiva: Corporate Monopoly of Seeds Must End…


Sustainability pioneer Vandana Shiva speaks to Jo Confino about campaigning against seed slavery, corporations and patents

Vandana Shiva, one of the Guardian’s Top 100 most inspiring women, is currently leading a campaign to create a global citizens’ response on the issue of seed freedom.

In 1991, Shiva founded Navadanya, a movement which aims to protect nature and people’s rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food. It does this by setting up community seed banks that generate livelihoods for local people and provide for basic needs.

Shiva, a scientist, philosopher, feminist, author, environmentalist and activist, explains why the two week campaign on seed freedom against major corporations, which culminates on World Food Day later this month, is so important and the consequences of failure.

Shiva calls for civil disobedience, quoting Gandhi who said that “as long as the superstition that unjust laws must be obeyed exists, so will slavery exist”.

Why do you refer to the term seed slavery?

In another time, some people thought it was alright to own other people as slaves. In our times some corporations think it is alright to own life on earth through patents and intellectual property rights (IPR). Patents are granted for inventions, and life is not an invention. These IPR monopolies on seeds are also creating a new bondage and dependency for farmers who are getting trapped in debt to pay royalties. This is why 270,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide.

Why is it such an important issue?

Seed slavery is ethically important to address because it transforms the Earth family into corporate property. It is ecologically important because with seeds in the hands of five corporations, biodiversity disappears, and is replaced by monocultures of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). It is socially important because without seed sovereignty, there is no food sovereignty. After all, seeds are the first link in the food chain.

What is the role of big business in restricting seed supply?

The chemical warfare industry transformed itself into the agri-chemical industry. Now the chemical industry has taken over the seed supply through genetic engineering and patents. They want every farmer in every season everywhere in the world to buy their seeds so they can collect royalties and super profits. The corporations, like Monsanto, wrote the Intellectual Property Rights Treaty of the World Trade Organisation. As a Monsanto representative said: “In writing this treaty, we were the patient, the diagnostician, the physician all in one.” They defined seed saving as a crime to establish seed slavery and force farmers to buy their seed and pay them royalties.

You refer to the toxicity and uniformity of the seeds from major corporations. What impact are their actions having on farmers and communities?

Last year we wrote a report, The GMO Emperor has no Clothes, which pulled together the impact of GMO patented seeds across the world. The first impact is a seed monopoly and the disappearance of diversity. The second impact is increasing costs. The third impact is higher use of chemicals. The fourth impact is the denial to consumers of the right to know what they are eating.

Which companies do you feel are most responsible?

Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Basf, Dow.

What is the motivation for these companies to act in this way?

Super profits and the urge to control nature and society.

Do these companies have too much influence on the political system and what are their tactics and their effect?

They have too much power and are a threat to our democracy and freedom. They control governments, they control the media, they control research. Look at how they hounded out Dr Arpad Putzai from his job.

Most large corporations talk about the need for sustainability, so what would your advice be to these businesses if they were to take corporate responsibility seriously?

In the area of seeds and biodiversity my advice to the corporations is simple. You are good at the technologies of warfare. Leave the seeds in the hands of women and small farmers. They have done a far better job.

What can be done to prevent these companies from dominating the global seed supply?

Build a movement for seed freedom, to save seeds, to protect biodiversity, to reclaim farmers rights, to make patents on seed illegal, to roll back laws like the EU Seed Legislation that are criminalising farmers who use their own seeds.

You are planning a fortnight of action on seed freedom from 2-16 October, can two weeks of action actually make any difference against the power of big business?

The fortnight of action is to intensify solidarity, synergy and awareness. Our movement for seed freedom will not stop on 16 October. We will continue until the last farmer and last seed is liberated.

If this issue is not addressed, what does the future hold?

We will witness in our lifetimes the total disappearance of biodiversity from our farms, the disappearance of small farmers, and the end of real food and our food freedom.

One Comment

….While few of us were paying attention, the Coalition
Provisional Authority, representing the government of the United
States, imposed a set of 100 orders on Iraq. A careful examination
of these orders could lead to the conclusion that the war is being
waged to enrich corporations at the expense of the ordinary
citizens. Many of these orders take freedom and liberty away from
the people of Iraq. The orders also have a profound effect on us.

Iraqi Order 81 is of special interest because it goes a long way in
affecting every living being on the planet. This order prohibits
Iraqi farmers from using the methods of agriculture that they have
used for centuries. The common worldwide practice of saving heirloom
seeds from one year to the next is now illegal in Iraq. Order 81
wages war on Iraqi farmers. They have lost the freedom and liberty
to choose their own methods of agriculture.


For the past two years we have grown ‘Al Kaffa’ tomatoes sent from Northern Iraq farmers that we grow on our farm. These seeds were provided to us by the Petaluma Seed Bank, who is going around the globe collecting, preserving and re-distributing heirloom seeds.

They are small plump, red, delicious tasting tomatoes. The organic Iraqi farmers can no longer use heirloom seeds by ‘order’ of their new owners. These ‘orders’ are now being enforced throughout Afghanistan and many U.S./NATO controlled territories to the benefit of Big Ag only.

It would be dangerously naive to assume that in these ‘orders’ will not be coming home to roost in the U.S. Why was the ‘Doomsday Seed Vault’, funded by the Bill Gates consortium in 2005 to collect all heirloom seeds around the globe and put deep in a glacier in Norway?

Is it also coincidence that many leading intelligent thinkers like Lester Brown are now calling Food the new Oil and Land the New Gold?

Once nearly all seeds are genetically altered and patented by Big Ag (estimated at 82% now), they can continue then claim enforceable patent rights and have complete control to all of nature, enforceable in the court of law, since they can prove ownership of their ‘property’.

Stop and think for one minute about how powerful that makes them as they will then control ALL food supply and Nature’s diversity at will..

They will also be able to dial in the rate of obesity, allergies, autism, ADHD and asthma being brought on due to the synthetic proteins in our ‘conventional’ food supplies. As Big Pharma then benefits as well, control of seeds will serve to raise Wall Street GDP, corporate executive wealth and higher stock shareholder ‘value’, as more get chronically ill and sick.

Remember, greed has no upper limits and the game is Monopoly (capitalism: we capitalize on you); Where only one wins by acquiring all money and properties by putting all others in the game into mortgaged debt servitude. Sound familiar to what is going on today?

This means they must have a compliant, ignorant, obedient society who blindly accept the dark agenda of those few who have zero interest in our security or humanities well being.

It also means our inherent rights as free human beings to choose what we eat, what we grow. who we share with and Nature’s basic right to simply exist and flourish may very well be extinguished, possibly forever.

In this country we still have a choice but for how long before ‘orders’ and ‘laws’ are put in place for the ‘collective’ good of all by Big Brother to only use Big Ag provided seeds?

Seed Freedom and Natural Diversity vs. Human enslavement through the absolute control of Nature.

Incredible as it sounds, the simple act of saving heirloom seeds, by the growing many, may very well be the most revolutionary/evolutionary act we can do today to preserve diversity in Nature’s way and preserve our God created right to humanities freedom.