Dr. Oz and Big Ag Represent the 1% Exploiting the Rest of Humanity
By Gary Null
A Conversation with Vandana Shiva
Gary Null : I am going to begin with an article by Dr. Oz who has a very popular television program in America. He came out with an article in Time Magazine attacking organic and people who buy organic foods. All over the internet people are concerned and a lot of my listeners have been asking me to address it. Would you address the idea that the major food industries, including Monsanto and DuPont, are now enlisting people like Dr. Oz to champion genetic engineering or conventional factory farming and putting down the organic movement or those who are very conscientious about their food and not trying to act like the 1 percent. They want the healthiest food into themselves and their children. Your response please.
Vandana Shiva: Well Dr. Oz sounds so much like that fake Dr. Henry Miller who pretended to be from Stanford University and put out a study called the Stanford University study but it wasn't. They said it was the largest peer reviewed study showing that organic had no benefits. Then you realize he looked at 200 papers, some of which were using 2 day feeding trial results. So there is a lot of junk science out there. A lot fake science. And sadly, people like Dr. Oz –I know you Gary but I don't know this Dr. Oz and haven't read this Time magazine—if he is actually promoting in the name of health, GMOS and chemical farming, I would like him to remember that today s the 28 th anniversary of the worst industrial disaster that took place in the city of Bhopal in 1984 when a pesticide plant leaked. Three thousand people died immediately. Three hundred thousand have died since then. And what is worse, I was in Bhopal two days ago to give away awards that the victims have institutionalized for other movements fighting corporate-kind. The hall was filled with children who have been crippled, who are spastics, who can't walk and have to lifted by their parents, and who are being rehabilitated by other victims because the corporation never took responsibility. They said they have no liability and now Union Carbide is owned by Dow Chemical and Dow is saying they have no responsibility. The governments that are now corporate states are also doing nothing. There is a cancer train that leaves the state of Punjab, which is the state of the Green revolution. This is where the highest pesticide use takes place in India. The train that leaves is called the Cancer Train because most of the people on board are cancer victims going to a charitable hospital for treatment because ordinary cancer treatment is unaffordable to ordinary human beings, particularly to Indians.
I have been practicing organic farming and promoting it in India for the last 25 years. Our fields show you can grow more organic food than chemical food. Our research has shown that GMO cotton has not increased yields in spite of the public relation studies should not be called science. They should just be called PR spin in the name of science. A study of health per acre, based on real farms, shows biodiversity intensification produces more nutrition per acre. Our government appointed me Chair for the next five years of planning for nutrition because we are realizing that growing nutrition is the only way. Now 100% of all beings, including human beings were organic until the war industry realized that by transforming war chemicals into agro-chemicals they could find a huge market. So explosives factories started to make nitrogen fertilizers which are creating the dead zones, including the nitrogen oxides going into the atmosphere that are 300 times more lethal in damaging the climate than carbon dioxide. Nobody is talking about nitrogen oxide as a greenhouse gas. But all those herbicides, all those pesticides, started as war chemicals. They were never meant to be applied to our food system. And war chemicals will function as war chemicals as Bhopal showed us immediately. Let Dr. Oz come and talk to the people of Bhopal who are suffering to this day, nearly three decades after that disaster and tell them that pesticides are harmless.
GN: Let's take a look at the difference between your research in sustainable agriculture: what you grow and the varieties you grow. What you use to have in India--the how many varieties of rice, lentils, papaya and mangoes – versus today. And then what do you see when people eat healthy food and what do you see when they eat commercial industrialized farm food?
VS: First, the disappearance of diversity under an agriculture designed for war chemicals rather than designed for the soil, the earth, human nutrition and human health. The first thing that disappears with agriculture that iss like war is our biodiversity because chemicals are intolerant to diversity. They need monocultures. Monocultures have made our rice varieties disappear. According to Dr. Reshari, the leading scientist in rice, there use to be 200,000 varieties. He is the one who taught me about seed saving, and because of that [our organization] Navdanya has been able save 3,000 varieties of rice. We had 1,500 varieties of wheat, many of which rescued farming in Europe and Canada because they were frost tolerant. Research was conducted by Sir Albert Howard who is known as the father of modern organic farming. Dr. Howard was sent to India to introduce chemicals and when he came here he found the fields were fertile, there were no pests in the field. And he said I threw away my spray gun and decided to turn the peasant and pest into my teacher. He then wrote the Agricultural Testament which is called the bible of organic farming.
Now our governments are told by the Del Montes of the world, that our mangoes – 1500 varieties of delicious mangoes—the beshari, the kalmi –are not good enough. Why are they not good enough? Because they don't travel well. Food was not meant to be put on ships, freezers and sit for six months in containers and on supermarket shelves. Food is meant to be harvested and eaten. So when a chemical model of agriculture takes over it goes hand in hand with not just uniformity but with the standardization that is anti-health, anti-nutrition and anti-taste. When I travel I normally don't eat food on airplanes is totally ineditable. They have managed to make fruit ineditable. You can't eat the melons because they are like rocks. You can't eat the oranges because you can't open them. You are suppose to peel an orange; now you need a slaughtering knife. That is because ‘hardness' is a virtue when food is only suppose to travel and not be eaten. ‘Softness' is a virtue if you eat fresh food. We are seeing taste, quality and nutrition go. And with it food has become a boring activity – and thank goodness we still have taste in. Today I was at our organic café in New Delhi having the most delicious millet pakoras. You can't get that taste in industrial food
Wherever there are non-industrial societies, you don't find diabetes, you don't find obesity and you don't find birth defects. Whereas wherever chemical and industrial food has entered, you see the problems of obesity and the problems of diabetes. These are not nutritious foods, these are not balanced foods; they are masks, pure calories and energy. And the body is being violated in a very serious way
This Mr. Oz – we should call him the Wizard of Oz because he has managed to create miracles of turning poisons into healthy foods sounds so much like that Miller. One of the important parts of the industrial food system is that it creates hunger. My new book which should be out in the US in Spring is called Making Peace with the Earth and a large part of the book is an analysis of what I call “hunger by design”. The very design of industrial farming, the very design of industrial breeding of seeds, is to create hunger. First it creates hunger by destroying the resources that give us food: the soil, the biodiversity, the water. Second, it creates hunger by locking farmers into debt. So farmers grow food but then they don't eat because it is now a commodity. They are indebted. They sell what they've grown to pay back the debt for the chemicals and then go hungry themselves. That is why among the one billion people in the world who are hungry, half of them are food producers. In India, among the three hundred million who are hungry, half of them are producers of food. I have watched farmers growing rice, giving it to the person from whom they've taken credit to buy chemicals. Then the next step of this debt trap, that is inevitable in a high cost, high input chemical intensive, non renewable, GMO seed patented culture, is that when it happens too suddenly, as it happened with Bt cotton in India, farmers are absolutely dazed. Farmers use to be well-to-do. Cotton was a cash crop. They weren't just ordinary farmers; they were well do-to-farmers. Before they know it they are in a debt trap they can't pay back because the seed costs have jumped 8,000 percent, the pesticide use has jumped 1003 percent. Knowing they can't get out of this trap, they end up drinking pesticide to end their lives. Two-hundred seventy thousand Indian farmers have committed suicide since the GMO cotton seeds were introduced in India. Monsanto started to take over the seed supply to use hybrid seeds, not renewable seeds. I call this a genocide
But there is another level at which the violence takes place in this food system. What is being produced are commodities not food. Recent data shows it very clearly. Only 2% of soya bean grown in the US is being eaten, and that too unwillingly, because people don't want to eat food with GM soya except that they don't get labeled. If only 2% of the soya is being eaten, and most of it is going towards animal feed and biofuel, Mr. Oz cannot claim that the industrial system is feeding the world. It is the small farms, producing food with love and care that are providing up to 80% of the food eaten on the planet. They are the ones we should be respecting. And you are right to say that Mr. Oz is part of the 1% to destroy the 99% when it is the 99% that are being exploited by the seed industry, which is the same as the agriculture industry and which is the same as the pharmaceutical industry. So when they poison you and give you cancer, they then make money out of the patented cancer drugs. It is such a vicious cycle of power and reinforcement of power as the planet is destroyed, as people's health is destroyed, and as our farmers are wiped out. It is the system we need to look at and I feel it is time to let the frauds who are speaking on behalf of Monsanto to be exposed. I really want to make a chart. Gary, you know, the twenty faces of Monsanto lobbyists
GN: My final question deals with the European Union Food Safety Agency. They have now asked for no more studies. They don't want any more safety studies on GMOs because of the work that was done earlier that showed that GMO fed animals – rats in this case – developed massive renal cancers and breast carcinomas. As a result they are saying they don't want any more of that. Also we discover from Wikileaks, that the State Department under Hillary Clinton has been threatening countries that have not embraced our GM products from Monsanto and DuPont with threats that we can economically hurt them. Now countries around the world are fearful that if they don't accept genetically engineered food, and accept that it is safe because someone at the FDA who worked for Monsanto says its safe their country will be adversely affected. We would not have known this behind the scene skullduggery had it not been for Wikileaks. So tell us why they don't want more research. Tell us, and especially to Dr. Oz since this is an effort to reach out to him with information he may not have been aware of. His wife certainly is by the way. Tell us why Dr. Oz and the rest of the American media have been extremely remiss in not doing their homework about why genetically modified food is so dangerous.
VS: There are two reasons why the so-called science based system, which the biotech industry calls itself, are afraid of science. First, every claim of genetically engineering is based on a manufactured claim. We are going to produce more food. Nowhere has yields increased because of genetic engineering. They can't. Genetic engineering is merely a tool to transfer a gene. It is not a tool for breeding. It is not a tool for increasing the yield of plants. That comes from the original planting material, whether it is an open pollinated seed or a hybrid. Second claim: it is going to reduce chemical use. But around the world chemical use has increased. Third claim: it is an accurate science. If it is so accurate, why do we have the emergence of super-pests? Why would we have the emergence of super weeds that have overtaken 15 million acres in the United States?
The second reason why they are so afraid of science is because independent studies are now being done and it is showing there is huge harm to the environment. We did a study on the soils of Bt cotton and found that after four years of planting, 22% of all beneficial soil organisms had been killed. Dr. Arpad Pusztai did studies on GM potatoes, the UK government asked him to do the study. Then the industry went after him because the study showed the animals were harmed: the brains had shrunk, the pancreas had expanded and the immunity had weakened. Then there is Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini. There is such an attack on independent science because genetically engineering cannot co-exist with the truth, with independent science, and with democracy.
In India during the last few months, we had two major reports from two institutions that are suppose to supervise government action. The first, the Parliament's Agricultural Committee did an analysis by going to all parts of the country, talking to everyone, including Monsanto, and their conclusion was that GMOs have no role in a country like India, which has so much biodiversity and so many farmers. The same hirelings of Monsanto – and by now I know all of their names – wrote a letter to the Prime Minister to not listen to the Parliament. The Prime Minister is suppose to listen to the Parliament. The executive is supposed to be subjected to the Parliament. Our Supreme Court appointed a high level technical expert committee to advise what should happen with GMOs and trials. The technical committee of scientists, heads of government labs, including our leading molecular biology lab, our leading biodiversity expert Dr. Ramakrishna, gave a report to the Supreme Court saying our regulatory system should be more robust and does not meet up to the challenges. It said we need to develop more impact sciences and regulatory processes, and until then there should be a ten year moratorium on GMOs. There should be no GMOs introduced in crops where they are the center of biodiversity. The same gang that attacked the Parliament committee was now attacking the Supreme Court committee. It is the same gangsters that attacked Proposition 37, the right to know and the right to label.
I am writing a column on independent science as a species threatened with extinction. If GMOs spread, they must destroy democracy. They must destroy independent science. They must destroy the environment and must destroy our health. This is why we can't afford GMOs besides the issues of the health risks and the particular issues of biosafety. The largest systemic damage is from a pathetic, petty industry producing something nobody wants and something that would never spread if democracy were an independent science. So we are either going to have food fascism with GMOs, or democracy with organic.
GN: Well that is playing out as we speak and not just in the future. I am happy to say that in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania there is a movement underway at the grassroots level to try to get food labeling initiatives. Learning about Monsanto's lies and deception, we will be better prepared for how deal with them for what goes on here.
VS: Absolutely, and you should take the lead Gary. I will provide you names.
GN: Great. You provide them and we will challenge them. Thank you and all the best to you.
VS: And you too Gary. Bye.
Dr. Vandana Shiva is an internatio nally renown environmental and social activist, and founder of Navdanya, an organization dedicated to the restoration of organic farming across India and the preservation of indigenous knowledge and culture. She has received numerous international awards, including the Alternative Nobel Prize (the Right Livelihood Award
Gary Null is the host of the nation's longest running public radio program on nutrition and natural health and a multi-award-winning documentary film director. His most recent is Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs.
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