Book Review: Biopiracy by Vandana Shiva

Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

In “Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge” (1997), Vandana Shiva explores the exploitation of the Third World by the North (West).  Major corporations have invaded native communities and environments for commercial interests. In referencing the shift from colonialism to more modern forms of oppression, Shiva writes, “the duty to incorporate savages into Christianity has been replaced by the duty to incorporate non-Western systems of knowledge into the reductionism of commercialized Western science and technology”.

Community knowledge of the intricately interwoven ecosystems of forests, crops, and livestock has for generations sustainably maintained local economies. Biopiracy refers to the theft of this knowledge by corporations seeking to patent indigenous crops, animals and methods of farming.

Vandana Shiva argues that in the return to sustainable practices, science and society have much to learn from indigenous practices and native populations. The rate at which resources are used has spiked only in the last two centuries as globalization and the rise of technology and industry increased production and waste. Our current overzealous habits represent a discord between man and nature as ecosystems are disrupted, species lost, and native communities exploited. Instead of man and woman cohabitating with nature, Shiva explains, we have come to view nature as something to be dominated. Because indigenous knowledge is inherently gendered, both nature and women have come to be dominated and exploited by man. In regarding indigenous knowledge and the work of women, western frameworks have systematically undervalued both systems and their contributions to modern networks.

The Indian view of nature and man, in contrast, presents “..a duality in unity”. In modern society, science and technology have become cognitively inseparable, creating a form of social control. Because science is seen as verifiable and objective, consequent uses of science and technology are rarely questioned. In order to remedy gender relations as they relate to science and technology, it is important not to vilify knowledge, which, although previous misused, may be helpful in a more egalitarian framework. Keeping in mind the past injustices suffered by native communities at the hands of European colonists, indigenous knowledge has survived many setbacks. Regardless, indigenous knowledge systems have contributed greatly to modern science, agriculture and medicine.

Biopiracy was a great book. Vandana Shiva is great writer who makes her claims boldly and references many examples. Her main claim, that no person or corporation can claim ownership of nature is repeated throughout her writing. Shiva fights for independence and autonomy from corporations who only seek profits from the countries they have exploited. Governmental institutions have been complicit in these crimes, enforcing restrictions on Third World countries and limiting them from using their own land sustainably.

This book is relevant to all that we have learned this quarter because as we each become urban agriculturists (or support others who do so) we must be mindful of the agroeconomic systems that we are benefiting from. It is important to realize that everything, from the seeds and soil to the techniques we use are all in some form, are the effect of generations-old techniques used by indigenous and Third-World peoples.


Check It Out! Ron’s TED Talk

http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html


So God Made a (Latino) Farmer

I was reading Take Part (an awesome blog/organization btw!) and saw this video, which uses the same narration as the original ad, but as explained in the accompanying article, responds to the fact that “for an industry so dependent on immigrant farm labor, Ram’s representation is far, far too white.” The article also writes the interesting fact that “according to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey, 68 percent of workers were born in Mexico.”

Here’s the article: http://www.takepart.com/video/clip-day-so-god-made-latino-farmer


Farmer Superbowl Ad + Other Videos

If you happened to watch the Super Bowl yesterday you might have also caught this truck advertisement.  It is quite visually stunning and set to the lilting voice of Paul Harvey.  The ad was an interesting ode to a population that has been quickly shrinking.  I felt like it was an interesting mixture of family farm imagery and industrial farm imagery.  If you’re interested in reading a bit more about the ad NPR (overview), The Atlantic (race) and Christian Post (general love).   Some of the important background information to note is that this video signifies a financial contribution from Ram to the FFA.

 

So God Made a Farmer:

 

 

On a different note, here is a short showing the work that the UC system has been doing to help farmers utilize social media to connect with their customers and communities.   Similarly to the video above, this is also about promoting farmers and their role in today’s society.

UC Program:

 

 

American Meat is a documentary about the problems facing mass confinement livestock farmers.  Don’t shy away from this movie if you’re worried it will be pushing ideologies on you.  The director worked hard to let the confinement farmers have their say in a very heartfelt way as to the issues facing them and why it is hard for them to get out of the style of business they’ve entered.

Trailer for American Meat: