Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva

Just got this book from the library. After a fast read i am fuming, steaming with smoke pouring out of my ears! Here is my fast and furious take aka book review.

This book is organized into short essays which have the following themes:

1. The concentration of world agriculture in 6 corporations
Seed patents and crop patents and their monoculture cultivation
2. Shrimp farming and destruction of Seabeds
3. Cows as only milk and meat producers
4. Soybean Oil and Oil domination

Her tone is passionnate, and she illustrates her case with headline making news in India. Vandana Shiva is against the processes of globalization and industrialization . She contrasts the earlier, more earth friendly, ecological practices in India to current multinational corporation practices. For example, in farming the shift from a dung fertilizer, multi crop rotation scheme to monocultures and genetic engineering.

Sounds great so far. So why my allergic reaction? First thing to make clear is I am sympathetic to all her causes, anti globalization, anti jumbo corporation and all that. But Vandana Shiva writes as an activist only can. Her style is rabble rousing, and provides a small picture bursting with indignation. Its nostaligia for the past is palpable and questionable for its claims of an ecological eldorado.

Why do i feel this? Take for example The Oil Story. Multinationals supposedly want to take over the oil market in India, not only do they flood the country with cheap soybean oil, they also adulterate local eco friendly oil methods. OK. So i go back to my experiences buying oil in India and think - did i really have to choose unilever cooking canola oil? Was there no similiarly priced alternative? Did i eat at an local Macdonald equivalent which might have meant a high soy bean oil consumption on my part.

The answer is NO. I had a wide variety in choice and price with local brands and a variety of oil types to choose from - sesame, castor, peanut, mustard and of course sunflower oil. Was there a macdonalds? Nope , there was only saravanas, and it is a chain of all of 20 outlets. Not even a measly amoeba in the super size me world of the Big Macs.

In short, verifying what i read- with my experience of india leads me to the conclusion that her writing has a lot of bogeyman claims. I agree that multinationals are cut throat enough to engage in practices that border on conspiracies. But i think she needs a more comprehensive picture, backed up with data and statistics to support her claims.


Indira said...

But they are not bogeyman claims. It did happen. The goverment closed down local peanut oil making mills in our area(Rayala seema, AP). Few years ago there were lot of suicides in Andhra. Closing of mills is also one of the reason for the despair in our region. When I visited my hometown last year, there is no local peanut oil, everyone is using the brandname oils milled by multinationals or big companies of India.

Thanks for the invitation MS. I've been following your blog and already linked it from my blog. I'm verymuch interested in the subject matters you've been blogging, love to read more. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Backed up with data and statistics from where? ultimately all data and statistics are subject to corruption. In a monetary-based and capitalistic society such as the all data and statistics are for the benefit of those who are in power.

ms said...

I would agree with you, history is always written by the victorious, but surely you can go out in the streets and verify for yourself without depending on brainwashed media?