Nov 22, 2016

Vandana Shiva, False Prophet For Profit

Vandana Shiva, the Indian activist who opposes modern agriculture and modern science–and well, modernity in general–is a popular guest lecturer (for huge lecture fees) on American campuses. Although she is the darling of New Agey types and gets good press from left-wing and environmental publications, Shiva is widely considered by the scientific community to be unbalanced (in both senses of the word) for advocating unsound, anti-social policies and promulgating disproven theories about agriculture.  Some of her delusions and lies are discussed here.

Not all non-experts have been taken in by Shiva’s glib, only-I-can-see-the-Truth bombast.  To protest her lecture appearance today at the “Peace Center” at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, local musician and educator Scotty Perey expressed his objection eloquently in the (previously unpublished) essay below, which is presented here with his permission.

Mr. Perey’s commentary begins here:

The promise of our Brave New “Information Age” is being seriously compromised. As sensational, profitable clickbait spreads like online wildfire, a new skill set is emerging needed to separate fact from fiction. In this effort, I rely on our educational institutions to help me understand the problems we face today with solid evidence and sound reasoning.


As an teacher and an activist, I am troubled that Dr. Vandana Shiva is being promoted this week at a local community college by an otherwise quite respectable peace center. My own university training is in music and political science, not biology and chemistry. So when I first heard Dr. Shiva’s claims some years ago, I was compelled to fact-check her questionable statements with those who are far more expertly trained in the matter at hand. 


My initial misgivings have been increasingly validated. 


Dr. Shiva advertises herself as a scientist, but this is not the case. Her degree is in philosophy, which even then might lead one to believe that her positions would be founded on the highest caliber of critical thinking, but that is not what I have observed. To the contrary, Dr. Shiva consistently makes assertions that fail even the most superficial tests of intellectual and ethical rigor.


For instance, Dr. Shiva has proclaimed that “fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture… it’s a weapon of mass destruction.” Such an outrageous blanket statement would fly in the face of the daily experience of practically every farmer from the Fertile Crescent onward. The more scientific application of fertilizer was one of the inputs that allowed the “Green Revolution” to provide greater food security for more than a billion people.


Even less tenable is her view of the introduction of “terminator technology” into seeds, devised in the 1990s (but never developed or released) as a kind of fail-safe to prevent horizontal gene transfer into open-pollinated crops. Ironically, this trait–which was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–would have addressed one of the primary (hypothetical) concerns of the anti-biotechnology activists. Yet Dr. Shiva protested it, writing “the possibility that the Terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment must be taken seriously.” The notion that sterile seeds would run the risk of spreading their sterility is, quite frankly, preposterous to any attentive student of the most basic biology course.


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