Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva
Born Vandana Shiva
(1952-11-05) 5 November 1952
Dehra Dun, Uttar Pradesh (present-day Uttarakhand), India
Nationality Indian
Alma mater Panjab University, Chandigarh
University of Guelph
University of Western Ontario
Occupation Philosopher, environmentalist, author, professional speaker, social activist
Religion Hindu
Awards Right Livelihood Award (1993)
Sydney Peace Prize (2010)
Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize (2012)
Vandana Shiva's voice
from the BBC programme Saving Species, 23 December 2011[1]

Video-Statement (2014)

Vandana Shiva (Hindi: वंदना शिवा: born 5 November 1952) is an Indian scholar, environmental activist and anti-globalization author.[2] Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than twenty books.[3]

She is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization (along with Jerry Mander, Edward Goldsmith, Ralph Nader, Jeremy Rifkin, et al.), and a figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalization movement.[4] She has argued for the wisdom of many traditional practices, as is evident from her interview in the book Vedic Ecology (by Ranchor Prime) that draws upon India's Vedic heritage. She is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundacion IDEAS, Spain's Socialist Party's think tank.[5] She is also a member of the International Organization for a Participatory Society.[6] She received the Right Livelihood Award in 1993, and numerous other prizes.

Early life and education

Vandana Shiva 2007 in Cologne, Germany

Vandana Shiva was born in Dehradun. Her father was a conservator of forests and her mother was a farmer with a love for nature. She was educated at St Mary's School in Nainital, and at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Dehradun.[7]

Shiva studied physics at Panjab University in Chandigarh, graduating as a bachelor of science in 1972 and a master of science in 1974.[8] After that she worked, briefly, at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre before moving to Canada to pursue an M.A. in the philosophy of science at the University of Guelph (Ontario) in 1977, with a thesis entitled "Changes in the concept of periodicity of light".[8][9] In 1978, she completed and received her PhD in philosophy at the University of Western Ontario,[10] focusing on philosophy of physics. Her dissertation was titled "Hidden variables and locality in quantum theory," in which she discussed the mathematical and philosophical implications of hidden variable theories that fall outside of the purview of Bell's theorem.[11] She later went on to interdisciplinary research in science, technology, and environmental policy at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore.[7]


Vandana Shiva has written and spoken extensively about advances in the fields of agriculture and food. Intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, and genetic engineering are among the fields where Shiva has fought through activist campaigns. She has assisted grassroots organizations of the Green movement in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria with campaigns against advances in agricultural development via genetic engineering.

In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. This led to the creation of Navdanya in 1991, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade.[12] In 2004 Shiva started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley, in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.

In the area of intellectual property rights and biodiversity, Shiva and her team at the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology challenged the biopiracy of Neem, Basmati and Wheat. She has served on expert groups of government on Biodiversity and IPR legislation.

Her first book, Staying Alive (1988) helped redefine perceptions of third world women. In 1990, she wrote a report for the FAO on Women and Agriculture entitled, "Most Farmers in India are Women". She founded the gender unit at the International Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu and was a founding board member of the Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO).

Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as non-governmental organizations, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women's Environment & Development Organization and the Third World Network. Shiva chairs the Commission on the Future of Food set up by the Region of Tuscany in Italy and is a member of the Scientific Committee which advised former prime minister Zapatero of Spain. Shiva is a member of the Steering Committee of the Indian People's Campaign Against WTO. She is a councilor of the World Future Council. Shiva serves on Government of India Committees on Organic Farming. Vandana Shiva participated in the Stock Exchange of Visions project in 2007.[13]


Vandana Shiva has spent much of her life in the defence and celebration of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. She has worked to promote biodiversity in agriculture to increase productivity, nutrition, farmer's incomes and climate resilience. It is for this work she was recognised as an 'Environmental Hero' by Time magazine in 2003. Her work on agriculture started in 1984 after the violence in Punjab and the gas leak in Bhopal from Union Carbide's pesticide manufacturing plant. Her studies for the UN University led to the publication of her book The Violence of the Green Revolution. [14][15][16]

In an interview with David Barsamian, Shiva argues that the seed-chemical package promoted by Green Revolution agriculture has depleted fertile soil, destroyed living ecosystems, and negatively impacted people’s health.[17] In her work Shiva cites data allegedly demonstrating that today there are over 1400 pesticides that may enter the food system across the world,[18] because only 1% of pesticides sprayed act on the target pest.[19] Vandana Shiva, alongside her sister Dr. Mira Shiva, argues that the health costs of increasing pesticide and fertiliser use range from cancer to kidney failure to heart disease.[20]

Seed freedom

Central to Shiva’s work is the idea of seed freedom, or the rejection of corporate patents on seeds. She has campaigned against the implementation of the WTO 1994 Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which broadens the scope of patents to include life forms. Shiva has criticised the agreement as having close ties with the corporate sector and opening the door to further patents on life.[21] Shiva calls the patenting of life ‘biopiracy’, and has fought against attempted patents of several indigenous plants. In 2005, Shiva’s was one of the three organisations that won a 10-year battle in the European Patent Office against the biopiracy of Neem by the US Department of Agriculture and the corporation WR Grace.[22] In 1998, Shiva’s organisation Navdanya began a campaign against the biopiracy of Basmati rice by US corporation RiceTec Inc. In 2001, following intensive campaigning, RiceTec lost most of its claims to the patent.

Golden Rice

Shiva strongly opposes Golden rice, a breed of rice that has been genetically engineered to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A. It was developed for purely humanitarian purposes, has the potential to prevent "half a million to 3 million poor children a year" from becoming blind, and would assist in alleviating the vitamin A deficiency suffered by 250 million people in developing countries.[23] Shiva has claimed that the women of Bengal grow and eat 150 greens which can do the same, which a furious Martina McGloughlin subsequently compared to "Marie Antoinette, [who] suggested the peasants eat cake if they didn't have access to bread".[23] It was also pointed out that "nutritionists at UNICEF doubted it was physically possible to get enough vitamin A from the greens Shiva was recommending".[23] Patrick Moore writes that most of these 250 million children don't eat much else than a bowl of rice a day.[24] Doctor Adrian Dubock says that golden rice is as cheap as other rice and vitamin A deficiency is the greatest reason for blindness and causes 28% of global preschool child mortality.[25]

Shiva claims that Golden Rice is more harmful than beneficial in her explanation of what she calls the "Golden Rice hoax": "Unfortunately, Vitamin A rice is a hoax, and will bring further dispute to plant genetic engineering where public relations exercises seem to have replaced science in promotion of untested, unproven and unnecessary technology... This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it."[26]

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Ismail Serageldin, asked: "do you want 2 to 3 million children a year to go blind and 1 million to die of vitamin A deficiency, just because you object to the way golden rice was created?"[23] In a 2013 report "The economic power of the Golden Rice opposition" two economists, Wesselera1 and Zilberman from Munich University and the University of California at Berkeley respectively calculated that the absence of Golden Rice in India had caused the loss of over 1.4 million life man years in the previous ten years.[27]

GM, India, and suicides

According to Shiva, "Soaring seed prices in India have resulted in many farmers being mired in debt and turning to suicide". The creation of seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides, and agrarian distress. According to data from the Indian government, nearly 75 percent rural debt is due to purchased inputs. Shiva claims that farmers' debt grows as GMO corporation's profits grow. According to Shiva, it is in this systemic sense that GM seeds are those of suicide.

But the seller offers golden rice royalty-free to local farmers who earn less than US$10,000 per year—virtually all of the target farming community.

However, farmer suicides had begun to grow before the introduction of the GM seeds, and the growth decreased when GM seeds were introduced. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) analyzed twice academic articles and government data and concluded the decrease and that there was no evidence on "resurgence" of farmer suicides, GM cotton technology has been very effective in India and there have been many other reasons for the suicides.[28][29][30]

Shiva replied to these assertions, that her critics had reduced the issue to GM cottons and ignored the issue of seed monopolies, and that the suicide figures were from the government statistics of the National Bureau of Crime records.[31]


Vandana Shiva plays a major role in the global Ecofeminist movement. According to her 2004 article Empowering Women,[32] Shiva suggests that a more sustainable and productive approach to agriculture can be achieved through reinstating the system of farming in India that is more centered on engaging women. She advocates against the prevalent "patriarchal logic of exclusion," claiming that a woman-focused system would change the current system in an extremely positive manner.[33] She believes that ecological destruction and industrial catastrophes threaten daily life, and the maintenance of these problems have become the responsibility of women.[34]

Some of the viewpoints held by Vandana Shiva have been criticised as being essentialist by Cecile Jackson.[35]

Indian Intelligence Bureau Investigation

In June 2014, Indian and international media reported that Navdanya and Vandana Shiva were named in a leaked, classified report by India's Intelligence Bureau (IB), which was prepared for the Indian Prime Minister's Office.[36]

The leaked IB report raises concerns over the foreign-funding of Indian NGOs whose campaigning activities, the report claims, are hampering India's growth and development. In its report, the IB said that Indian NGOs, including Navdanya, receive money from foreign donors under the 'charitable garb' of campaigning for human rights or women's equality, but instead use the money for nefarious purposes. "These foreign donors lead local NGOs to provide field reports which are used to build a record against India and serve as tools for the strategic foreign policy interests of the Western governments," the IB report states.[37]


Journalist Ronald Bailey accused Vandana Shiva of being a "proud self-declared luddite".[38]

In a 2013 message on Twitter, Vandana Shiva described Mark Lynas as "..saying farmers shd be free to grow #GMOs which can contaminate #organic farms is like saying #rapists shd have freedom to rape."[39] Forbes magazine commented on this tweet: "Comparison of agricultural biotech to “rape” is deplorable considering the astronomical rate of sexual assault in India.."[40] Mark Lynas called Shiva's tweet “obscene and offensive.”[40]

Investigative journalist Michael Specter, in an article in The New Yorker on 25 August 2014 entitled "Seeds of Doubt",[10] raised concerns over a number of Shiva's claims regarding GMOs and some of her campaigning methods. He wrote: "Shiva’s absolutism about G.M.O.s can lead her in strange directions. In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa. When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically-engineered products, although she made no mention about the fact that those same products are approved and consumed in the United States. She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors." [10] Shiva's responded[41] to Michael Specter's article by publishing a section on her web page in part of which she stated : "For the record, ever since I sued Monsanto in 1999 for its illegal Bt cotton trials in India, I have received death threats" and "The concerted PR assault on me for the last two years from Lynas, Specter and an equally vocal Twitter group is a sign that the global outrage against the control over our seed and food, by Monsanto through GMOs, is making the biotech industry panic."[10] Specter responded by publishing a letter in the New Yorker.[42]

In the same piece, Specter wrote "Shiva refers to her scientific credentials in almost every appearance, yet she often dispenses with the conventions of scientific inquiry." Specter also questioned the credibility of a note that according to him is on most of Shiva's book jackets, and that states "Before becoming an activist, Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists"; he relates that when he asked her if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that he search for the answer on Google; but he says that he found nothing, and that she doesn’t list any such position in her biography.[10]

Journalist Keith Kloor, in an article published in Discover on 23 October 2014 entitled "The Rich Allure of a Peasant Champion", revealed that Shiva charges US $40,000 per speaking lecture, plus a business-class air ticket from New Delhi. Kloor writes: "She is often heralded as a tireless 'defender of the poor,' someone who has courageously taken her stand among the peasant farmers of India. Let it be noted, however, that this champion of the downtrodden doesn’t exactly live a peasant’s lifestyle." [43]


Vandana Shiva has been interviewed for a number of documentary films including Freedom Ahead, Roshni;[44] One Water, Deconstructing Supper: Is Your Food Safe?, The Corporation, Thrive, Dirt! The Movie, and This is What Democracy Looks Like (a documentary about the Seattle WTO protests of 1999).[45]

Shiva's focus on water has caused her to appear in a number of films on this topic. These films include "Ganga From the Ground Up," a documentary on water issues in the river Ganges;[46] Blue Gold: World Water Wars by Sam Bozzo; Irena Salina's documentary Flow: For Love of Water (in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival), and the PBS NOW documentary On Thin Ice.[47]

On the topic of genetically modified crops, she was featured in the documentary Fed Up! (2002 film) Genetic Engineering, Industrial Agriculture and Sustainable Alternatives and the documentary The World According to Monsanto, a film made by the French independent journalist Marie-Monique Robin.

Shiva appeared in a documentary film about the Dalai Lama, entitled Dalai Lama Renaissance.[48]

In 2010, Shiva was interviewed in a documentary about honeybees and colony collapse disorder, entitled "Queen of the Sun."[49]

She appears in the french movie "Demain".[50]

Selected listing


See also


  1. "Sustaining Life". Saving Species. 23 December 2011. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. Who's Who of Women and the Environment – Vandana Shiva United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  3. "Vandana Shiva's Publications". Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  4. Chattergee, D.K. (2011). Encyclopedia of Global Justice, A-I Vol. 1. ISBN 9781402091599. Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  5. "Vandana Shiva-WOMAN OF ACTION". Retrieved 2014-10-22.
  6. International Organization for a Participatory Society – Interim Committee Retrieved 2012-09-25
  7. 1 2 Joy Palmer, David Cooper, Peter Blaze Corcoran: Fifty Key Thinkers on the Environment. Routledge, 2002, ISBN 9781134756247, p. 313
  8. 1 2 Benjamin F. Shearer, Barbara S. Shearer: Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 364
  9. Vandana Shiva (1977). Changes in the concept of periodicity of light (M.A. Thesis (microfiche)). Canadian Theses Division, National Library, Ottawa. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Vandana Shiva's Crusade Against Genetically Modified Crops - The New Yorker". The New Yorker. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  11. "Hidden variables and locality in quantum theory / by Vandana Shiva" (microform). Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Western Ontario, 1978. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
  12. "Navdanya Indian agricultural project". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  13. "Vandana Shiva: Environmental Activist". Manthan Samvaad. n.d. Retrieved 03/06/2014. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  14. Fight Droughts with Science: Better crops could ease India's monsoon worries, HENRY I. MILLER, Stanford University's Hoover Institution, The Wall Street Journal, 12 August 2009.
  15. "The Father Of The 'Green Revolution'". University of Minnesota. 25 February 2008. Archived from the original on 5 April 2009.
  16. Father of the Green Revolution - He Helped Feed the World! ja "Determining the Number Norman Borlaug - The Green Revolution", Tohtori Amy R. Piercen mukaan useimmat lukuisista arvioista yli miljardista ihmishengestä perustuvat ennustettuihin nälänhätiin, jotka jäivät toteutumatta, ja ovat epävarmoja. Piercen mukaan silti vaikutus kuolleisuuteen oli todella näin suuri, koska ravitsemus vaikuttaa niin voimakkaasti lapsikuolleisuuteen ja elinikään.
  17. "India Together: Monocultures of the mind: Write the editors - 01 April 2003". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  18. "To Spray or Not to Spray: Pesticides, Banana Exports, and Food Safety" (PDF).\accessdate=20 January 2015.
  19. Jeyaratnam J. "Acute pesticide poisoning: a major global health problem.". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  20. "Vandana & Mira Shiva on Corporate Malpractice in India and its Devastating Impact on Health". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  21. "Interview with Vandana Shiva - The Role of Patents in the Rise of Globalization / Global Eyes / In Motion Magazine". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  22. "BBC NEWS - Science/Nature - India wins landmark patent battle". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Dr. Strangelunch Or: Why we should learn to stop worrying and love genetically modified food, The Reason, Ronald Bailey, January 2001.
  24. By opposing Golden Rice, Greenpeace defies its own values – and harms children, The Globe and Mail, 15 October 2013.
  25. No, Zac Goldsmith, golden rice is not 'evil GM'. It saves people's lives, Dr. Adrian Dubock, The Guardian, 4 November 2013.
  26. "THE "GOLDEN RICE" HOAX -When Public Relations replaces Science". 29 June 2000. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  27. Wesseler, J.; Zilberman, D. (2014). "The economic power of the Golden Rice opposition". Environment and Development Economics. Cambridge University Press. 19 (01): 1. doi:10.1017/S1355770X1300065X.
  28. Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Celebrity: 'Eco Goddess' Or Dangerous Fabulist?, Jon Entine & Cami Ryan, Forbes, 1/29/2014.
  29. Bt Cotton and farmer suicides in India: Reviewing the evidence, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2008. Abstract, page 27 and Figure 11.
  30. The GMO-Suicide Myth, Keith Kloor, Issues in Science and Technology, 2014.
  31. "Seed Monopolies, GMOs And Farmers Suicides In India By Dr Vandana Shiva". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  32. Dr. Vandana Shiva: Empowering Women 10 June 2004 by
  33. 4 June 2004 Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  34. Shiva, Vandana (1993). Ecofeminism. Zed Books.
  35. Cecile Jackson: Radical Environmental Myths: A Gender Perspective, 1995
  36. "India targets Prince Charles' aide in war on Greenpeace". The Daily Telegraph. 22 June 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  37. "Foreign-aided NGOs are actively stalling development, IB tells PMO in a report". Indian Express. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  38. Rebels Against the Future: Witnessing the birth of the global anti-technology movement, Ronald Bailey, The Reason, 28 February 2001.
  39. Shiva, Vanada (2013-01-04). "Dr Vandana Shiva Twitter account". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  40. 1 2 Senapathy, Kavin (2015-11-03). "Vandana Shiva Achieves Amazing Feat Of Appropriating Her Own Culture". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  41. "Seeds of Truth – A response to The New Yorker | Dr Vandana Shiva". Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  42. "New Yorker editor David Remnick responds to Vandana Shiva criticism of Michael Specter's profile | Genetic Literacy Project". Genetic Literacy Project. 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  43. "The Rich Allure of a Peasant Champion". Collide-a-Scape. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  44. "The Unknown Film Company - Film Production Services". The Unknown Film Company. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  45. "This Is What Democracy Looks Like DVD". AK Press. 26 February 2005. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  47. "On Thin Ice, NOW on PBS". 12 March 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  48. "Dalai Lama Renaissance Documentary Film – Narrated by Harrison Ford – DVD Dali Tibet China". Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  49. "Vandana Shiva". Queen of the Sun. 6 November 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  52. Future of Food Journal 2[2] Winter-2014 / 2015 - Page 95, 96 The Farmer and his Prince
  53. The Hollywood Reporter Creating Freedom: The Lottery of Birth: Film Review 6/21/2013 by John DeFore
  54. Seattle Community Media Better Days Films - Day 19, Seeds of Death - Award Winning - Unveiling the Lies of GMOs - Part 1
  55. Documentary Heaven AnOther Story Of Progress
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