Under the leadership of Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, Moms Across the World, Health Equity Initiative, and Mahila Anna Swaraj formed a coalition to advocate for biodiversity and women’s control of the food system in the midst of the Allow Golden Rice Society’s tour of Southeast Asia. The campaign is promoting the adoption of genetically modified Golden Rice as a method of relieving vitamin A deficiency, a condition that affects 2 million people worldwide, especially in Southeast Asia.
The coalition, which recently released its reasons for rejection of Golden Rice, believes that governments and consumers should focus on biodiverse seeds, crops, and foods to address the crisis of malnutrition and health. Shiva explains that vitamin A requirements can be satisfied with traditional diets, through eating foods such as spinach, coriander and mint chutneys, and cholai (amaranth leaves). Noting that the Allow Golden Rice campaign has exaggerated the potential benefits of the carotenoids produced in the grain, the group rejects golden rice as a “false miracle” and “a Trojan horse for corporate control,” claiming that Golden Rice is 350 percent less efficient in providing vitamin A than traditional alternatives. Furthermore, they emphasize nutritional literacy to improve dietary balance—the absorption of bioavailable vitamin A requires dietary fats, which are often absent from starchy, rice-based diets.
Members of the coalition draw attention to the connection between biodiverse rice farming and women producers. On International Women’s Day (March 8), Shiva released a message celebrating women’s knowledge of biodiversity and their role in the historical development of indigenous rice varieties. Mahila Anna Swaraj, Navdanya’s program for women’s food sovereignty, highlights women’s knowledge and skills in biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, and artisanal food production. In late March, the organization acknowledged women farmers’ indigenous agricultural knowledge and seed breeding techniques at Navdanya’s biodiversity farm in Doon Valley, Uttarakhand, India.
The coalition further emphasizes that Golden Rice, as part of the industrial agricultural package of synthetic nitrogen and high seed costs, will contribute to ecological crisis and loss of biodiversity. India is already one of the leading importers of nitrogen fertilizers.
The group has committed to spreading small-scale gardening models, nutritional literacy, and food safety awareness. Supporters will celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2015, emphasizing the burden of disease created by toxins from agriculture and publicizing 2015 as the International Year of Soil.
Shiva’s closing message connects biodiversity, nutrition, and violence against women: “Let us take back our seed and our food like we took back the night.”