I have long been tracking the career of lies and disinformation that constitute the anti-intellectual trajectory of virulent anti-biotech activist Vandana Shiva. For example, back in 2001, I reported:
Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India's eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. In the aftermath, CARE and the Catholic Relief Society distributed a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to thousands of hungry storm victims. Oddly, this humanitarian act elicited cries of outrage.
"We call on the government of India and the state government of Orissa to immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from distribution," said Vandana Shiva, director of the New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. "The U.S. has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs for GM [genetically modified] products which have been rejected by consumers in the North, especially Europe." Shiva's organization had sent a sample of the food to a lab in the U.S. for testing to see if it contained any of the genetically improved corn and soy bean varieties grown by tens of thousands of farmers in the United States. Not surprisingly, it did.
"Vandana Shiva would rather have her people in India starve than eat bioengineered food," says C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant molecular genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Writer Mary McCarty famously said of Lillian Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." Nothing truer could be said of Shiva.
In a superb article, International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology researcher Anand Ranganathan nicely summarizes Shiva's legacy of dishonesty and outright fabrication. Below are some representative quotations from Shiva along with some analysis by Ranganathan:
Shiva: "Science and masculinity were associated in domination over nature and femininity, and the ideologies of science and gender reinforced each other. The witch-hunting hysteria which was aimed at annihilating women in Europe as knowers and experts was contemporous with two centuries of scientific revolution. It reached its peak with Galileo's Dialogue…"
Shiva: "Scientific missions colluded with religious missions to deny rights to nature. The rise of mechanical philosophy with the emergence of the scientific revolution was based on the destruction of concepts of a self-regenerative, self-organising nature which sustained all life. Just as technology changes seed from a living, renewable resource into mere raw material, it devalues women in a similar way."…
Shiva has been the chief proponent of the lie that the failure of biotech cotton has resulted in 250,000 Indian farmers committing suicide. As Ranganthan accurately reports:
Perhaps the most scathing indictment of Dr. Shiva's claims comes from an article in the scientific journal Nature that takes a dispassionate look at GM Foods, and in doing so exposes the falsehood that Bt cotton has led to genocide. Has it? The short answer is, no. Dr Shiva's assertion runs counter to the study carried out by researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute. Their report, Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India, shows irrefutably that the rate of farmer suicides has remained constant over the past decade, even as the area under Bt cotton cultivation has shown a dramatic increase, not to mention an equally dramatic jump in cotton production. Yet another scientific study, Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt cotton in India, published in the prestigious journal PNASc, shows that India's switch to Bt cotton has led to a "24% increase in cotton yield per acre through reduced pest damage and a 50% gain in cotton profit.".
Unfortunately, Dr. Shiva's rebuttal to the damning Nature article is as dense as it is incoherent. "Yes, I am an ecologist and feminist", she begins, "But I am also a scientist – a fact (Nature) intentionally avoids mentioning. As a Quantum Physicist, I have been trained to look at the interconnectedness and non-separability of processes, which in a mechanistic and reductionist paradigm, are seen as separate and unrelated…Reality cannot be cooked up in papers, no matter how prestigious the journals in which these concoctions are published. Reality is what happens in reality…"
Not only does Dr. Shiva stick to her earlier claim – "It is, indeed, a genocide," she also junks the peer-reviewed PNASc study, stating: "Every statement of (that study) is false as shown from both our field studies and studies of India's parliament and leading scientific institutions." Dr. Shiva does not provide any citations of her "field studies" or those conducted by "India's parliament". Why should she? The beauty of pseudo-science is that it beats science hands-down. It is accessible, comprehensible, reachable, even desirable. Granted, it is not logical, responsible, practical, or dependable but then these are lyrics not virtues…
Like a proselytiser loathed to extol the virtues of other religions, Dr Shiva refuses to budge from her anti-GMO, anti-science pedestal, even going the extra mile to help foreign NGOs prevent new technologies from reaching the domestic food sector. She likens farmers being given freedom to choose GM Foods to rapists being given the freedom to rape. So it goes.
Vandana Shiva's mind is made up. A science-hater-turned-philosopher-turned-activist-turned-quantum physicist is busy sowing seeds of doubt among the gullible. Fools who challenge her will only end up supplementing those seeds with the nourishment they need, for they have now taken root and shall one day, just like their progenitor, bloom into magnificent trees laden with lies and deceit, ripe and pluckable. As the Navajo saying goes, you can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
As a committed practitioner of propaganda Shiva follows Joseph Goebbels notorious rule for fomenting propaganda:
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."
But it is still a lie.
Via the Genetic Literacy Project.