Dr. Vandana Shiva, the director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in New Delhi, India, recently served as the keynote speaker of UC Irvine’s 17th annual Margolis lecture to discuss the current chaotic conditions of global food distribution. Shiva spoke to a captivated audience in Social Science Hall Room 100 on Wednesday, April 30.
Sponsored by the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, the speech aimed to make a clear connection between the spread of globalization and growing food concerns. Namely, countries such as India, Mexico, Senegal, Mozambique and Burkina Faso have shown graphic displays of disproval and strife to the shortage and rationing of rudimentary foods. In her lecture, Shiva provided an in-depth analysis of the problems comprising the current global food wars.
Shiva maintained that the crisis is a product of not one, but many factors. Among these issues are trade impositions, production factors and a lack of concern from the international community. In her analysis of trade impositions, Shiva noted that global tariff reductions – a byproduct of governmental subsidies – have been working to create a “dumping effect,” which has been leading to the demise of many local agriculural businesses. This “dumping effect” has been detrimental to the attainment of self-sufficiency within numerous third-world nations. Shiva stressed that the dumping effect has facilitated a monopoly within the agro industry, which has effectively led to the unfeasible prices incurred in much of the nations abroad.
Touching upon the means of agricultural production, Shiva focused on the need to reform the current system of farming to be more sustainable. Noting such current inefficiencies as water distribution and single-crop farming, Shiva stated that these problems must be solved before agricultural improvement can be accomplished.
One way to solve this issue is to switch to sustainable agriculture so that biodiversity is maintained, soil quality is preserved and climate change can be mitigated.
“Biodiversity is [a] system of resilience to deal with these totally volatile times,” Shiva said.
Shiva went on to explain that the international community’s portrayal of the matter within its agenda must be taken into account when considering the global food crisis.
As the speaker noted, the international community has allocated an inadequate amount of attention to this issue, and instead chooses to address bio-fuels with greater concern. Shiva stated that ironically, the concentration of attention toward bio-fuels has actually exacerbated the food crisis and has been of great detriment to climate change.
“The bio-fuel economy is actually a net negative economy. It uses more fossil fuels to make the bio-fuels, than it uses the substitutes. One percent substitution eats up 20 percent of corn, seven percent substitution eats 93 percent of corn and 100 percent substitution will require an increased supply of corn, which is why the Amazon and other rainforests are being destroyed, which will produce a net increase of emissions,” Shiva said.
Further, Shiva revealed the ever-popular notion of bio-fuels to be an antithesis to climate change mitigation.
At the end of the lecture, Shiva answered questions regarding the topics of the global food emergency and alternative energy. With questions ranging from alternative energy sources to the fate of the global food crisis, Shiva responded with concern emphasizing the need for activism and awareness.
“Consumers hold the greatest lead to change food culture through awareness and activism,” Shiva said.