We Don’t Need Genetically Engineered Bananas For Iron Deficiency



By Vandana Shiva

 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The latest insanity from the genetic engineers is to push GMO bananas on India for reducing iron deficiency in Indian women.

Nature has given us a cornucopia of biodiversity, rich in nutrients. Malnutrition and nutrient deficiency results from destroying biodiversity, and with it rich sources of nutrition.

The Green Revolution has spread monocultures of chemical rice and wheat, driving out biodiversity from our farms and diets.

And what survived as spontaneous crops like the amaranth greens and chenopodium (bathua) which are rich in iron were sprayed with poisons and herbicides. Instead of being seen as iron rich and vitamin rich gifts, they were treated as “weeds”. A Monsanto representative once said that Genetically Engineered crops resistant to their propriety herbicide Roundup killed the weeds that “steal the Sunshine”. And their RoundUp Ads in India tell women “Liberate yourself, use Roundup”. This is not a recipe for liberation, but being trapped in malnutrition.

As the “Monoculture of the Mind” took over, biodiversity disappeared from our farms and our food. The destruction of biodiverse rich cultivation and diets has given us the malnutrition crisis, with 75% women now suffering from iron deficiency.

Our indigenous biodiversity offers rich sources of iron. Amaranth has 11.0 mg per 100gm of food, buckwheat has 15.5,neem has 25.3,bajra has 8.0,rice bran 35.0,rice flakes 20.0bengal gram roasted 9.5,Bengal gram leaves 23.8 ,cowpea 8.6,horse gram6.77, amaranth greens have upto 38.5,karonda 39.1,lotus stem 60.6, coconut meal 69.4,niger seeds 56.7,cloves 11.7,cumin seeds 11.7.mace 12.3,mango powder (amchur) 45.2,pippali 62.1,poppy seeds 15.9,tamarind pulp 17.0,turmeric 67.8, raisins 7.7……..

The knowledge of growing this diversity and transforming it to food is women’s knowledge. That is why in Navdanya we have created the network for food sovereignty in women’s hands – Mahila Anna Swaraj.

The solution to malnutrition lies in growing nutrition, and growing nutrition means growing biodiversity, it means recognizing the knowledge of biodiversity and nutrition among millions of Indian women who have received it over generations as “Grandmothers Knowledge”. For removing iron deficiency, iron rich plants should be grown everywhere, on farms, in kitchen gardens, in community gardens, in school gardens, on roof tops, in balconies….Iron deficiency was not created by Nature. And we can get rid of it by becoming co-creators and co-producers with Nature.

But there is a “creation myth” that is blind to nature’s creativity and biodiversity, and to the creativity, intelligence and knowledge of women. According to this “creation myth” of capitalist patriarchy, rich and powerful men are the “creators”. They can own life through patents and intellectual property. They can tinker with nature’s complex evolution over millennia, and claim their trivial yet destructive acts of gene manipulation “create” life, “create” food, “create” nutrition. In the case of GM bananas it is one rich man, Bill Gates, financing one Australian scientist, Dale, who knows one crop, the banana, to impose inefficient and hazardous GM bananas on millions of people in India and Uganda who have grown hundreds of banana varieties over thousands of years in addition to thousands of other crops.

The project is a waste of money, and a waste of time. It will take 10 years and millions of dollars to complete the research. But meantime, governments, research agencies, scientists will become blind to biodiversity based, low cost, safe, time tested, democratic alternatives in the hands of women.

Bananas only have 0.44mg of iron per 100 grams of edible portion. All the effort to increase iron content of bananas will fall short of the iron content of our indigenous biodiversity.

Not only is the GM banana not the best choice for providing iron in our diet, it will further threaten biodiversity of bananas and iron rich crops, and introduce new ecological risks.

First, the GM banana, if adopted, will be grown as large monocultures, like GM Bt cotton, and the banana plantations in the banana republics of Central America. Since government and Aid agencies will push this false solution, as has happened with every “miracle” in agriculture, our biodiversity of iron rich foods will disappear.

The idea of “nutrient farming” of a few nutrients in monocultures of a few crops has already started to be pushed at the policy level. The finance Minister announced an Rs 200 crore project for “nutri farms” in his 2013 budget speech.

Humans need a biodiversity of nutrients including a full range of micronutrients and trace elements. These come from healthy soils and biodiversity.

Second, our native banana varieties will be displaced, and contaminated. These include Nedunendran, Zanzibar, Chengalikodan, Manjeri Nendran II

 

Table varieties
Monsmarie, Robusta, Grand Naine, Dwarf Cavendish, Chenkadali, Poovan, Palayankodan,Njalipoovan, Amritsagar, Grosmichel, Karpooravalli, Poomkalli, Koompillakannan, Chinali, Dudhsagar, Poovan, Red banana

 

Culinary varieties

Monthan, Batheea Kanchikela Nendrapadathy

Njalipoovan, Palayankodan, Robusta.

(KERALA AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITY ORGANIC PRODUCTION OF BANANA (Musa spp.)

 

There is a perverse urge among the biotechnology brigade to declare war against biodiversity in its centre of origin. An attempt was made to introduce Bt brinjal into India which is the centre of diversity for Brinjal. GM corn is being introduced in Mexico, the centre of diversity of corn. The GM banana is being introduced to the two countries where banana is a significant crop and has large diversity. One is India, the other is Uganda, the only country where banana is a staple.

Fourth, as recognized by Harvest Plus, the corporate alliance pushing Biofortification, there could be insurmountable problems with the biofortification of nutrients in foods as they: “… may deliver toxic amounts of nutrients to an individual and also cause its associated side effects (and) the potential that the fortified products will still not be a solution to nutrient deficiencies amongst low income populations who may not be able to afford the new product and children who may not be able to consume adequate amounts.” (Food Biofortification: no answer to ill-health, starvation or malnutrition By Bob Phelpshttp://www.freshfruitportal.com/opinion-biofortification-is-an-obstacle-to-food-justice)

 

Fifth, Australian scientists are using a virus that infects the banana as a promoter. This could spread through horizontal gene transfer. All genetic engineering uses genes from bacteria and viruses. Independent studies have shown that there are health risks associated with GM foods.

 

There is no need for introducing a hazardous technology in a low iron food like bananas (which brings us many other health benefits )when we have so many affordable, accessible, safe and diverse options for meeting our nutritional needs of iron.

 

We have to grow nutrition by growing biodiversity, not industrially “fortify” nutritionally empty food at high cost, or put one or two nutrients into genetically engineered crops.

 

We don’t need these irresponsible experiments, that create new threats to biodiversity and our health, imposed by powerful men in distant places, who are totally ignorant of the biodiversity in our fields and thalis, and who never bear the consequences of their destructive power. We need to put food security in women’s hands so that the last woman and the last child can share in nature’s gifts of biodiversity.

 

The White Savior Industrial Complex- Teju Cole


 Excerpts from”‘ The White Savior Industrial Complex”- Teju Cole is the author of Open City, which won this year’s PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

This weekend, I listened to a radio interview given by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is best known for his regular column in the New York Times in which he often gives accounts of his activism or that of other Westerners. When I saw the Kony 2012 video, I found it tonally similar to Kristof’s approach, and that was why I mentioned him in the first of my seven tweets.

Those tweets, though unpremeditated, were intentional in their irony and seriousness. I did not write them to score cheap points, much less to hurt anyone’s feelings. I believed that a certain kind of language is too infrequently seen in our public discourse. I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn’t have a point.

But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.

It’s only in the context of this neutered language that my rather tame tweets can be seen as extreme. The interviewer on the radio show I listened to asked Kristof if he had heard of me. “Of course,” he said. She asked him what he made of my criticisms. His answer was considered and genial, but what he said worried me more than an angry outburst would have:
There has been a real discomfort and backlash among middle-class educated Africans, Ugandans in particular in this case, but people more broadly, about having Africa as they see it defined by a warlord who does particularly brutal things, and about the perception that Americans are going to ride in on a white horse and resolve it. To me though, it seems even more uncomfortable to think that we as white Americans should not intervene in a humanitarian disaster because the victims are of a different skin color.

Here are some of the “middle-class educated Africans” Kristof, whether he is familiar with all of them and their work or not, chose to take issue with: Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire, who covered the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2005 and made an eloquent video response to Kony 2012; Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, one of the world’s leading specialists on Uganda and the author of a thorough riposte to the political wrong-headedness of Invisible Children; and Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu, who sought out Joseph Kony, met his lieutenants, and recently wrote a brilliant essay about how Kony 2012 gets the issues wrong. They have a different take on what Kristof calls a “humanitarian disaster,” and this may be because they see the larger disasters behind it: militarization of poorer countries, short-sighted agricultural policies, resource extraction, the propping up of corrupt governments, and the astonishing complexity of long-running violent conflicts over a wide and varied terrain.

I want to tread carefully here: I do not accuse Kristof of racism nor do I believe he is in any way racist. I have no doubt that he has a good heart. Listening to him on the radio, I began to think we could iron the whole thing out over a couple of beers. But that, precisely, is what worries me. That is what made me compare American sentimentality to a “wounded hippo.” His good heart does not always allow him to think constellationally. He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated “disasters.” All he sees are hungry mouths, and he, in his own advocacy-by-journalism way, is putting food in those mouths as fast as he can. All he sees is need, and he sees no need to reason out the need for the need.

But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than “making a difference.” There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

Read full article here

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