Pop Culture Celebrities: A Hurdle To Agricultural And Economic Liberation

Written by Vijay Jayaraj on June 9, 2020

A reader curious about celebrities’ role in the radical environmental movement emailed me recently. He wondered if and their claims about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) were credible.

He was particularly interested in anti-GMO claims by Indian scientist Vandana Shiva. Shiva is no newbie to GMO. She speaks often against it. Her celebrity status gives her high visibility.

Recently, Shiva claimed that Bill Gates perpetuates Monsanto’s work by promoting GMO in India. She said GMO crops have a lower yield than non-GMO. She also said farmers would not choose GMO if not for Gates’s influence.

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Her claims are baseless.

I come from a region with high agricultural output. I know many farmers. The Indian government has no control over their choices of seeds.

Farmers are concerned about their livelihood. Most prefer crops that give larger yield. Why? You can guess. They give higher profit margins.

Farmers prefer gene-edited crops. Only a few experiment with organic farming.

Many so-called “organic” products in India have high traces of toxins. That makes them dangerous. But they also cost twice as much as non-“organic.” Expensive, organic coconut oils from India sold in the United States may not be completely organic, despite certification.

Shiva is popular in the media. But 95% of the farmers I know (hundreds in my own family circle) reject her ideas.

India’s two major political parties support GMO. True, a few individuals side with the anti-GMO lobby. But the dominant position is based on solid scientific testing.

Yet anti-GMO groups have blocked GM crops through court interference. Shiva is a leading agent.

Shiva’s claims on GMO farming are false. She calls Golden Rice a hoax. Golden Rice is a GM variant that can help eradicate vitamin A deficiencies that cause blindness and death. Scientific authorities in nations like the US and Canada declare it safe and beneficial. Over 100 Nobel Laureates have hailed it.

Although Shiva is involved in an anti-GM cartel, she is ignorant about GM. She is neither a biologist nor an expert on genetic science. Her bachelor’s degree was in physics. She specialized in the philosophy of science. Her doctoral dissertation mused on the “hidden variables and locality in quantum theory.”

Vandana Shiva is a radical environmentalist. Her anti-GMO policies reduce poor farmers’ profits and deprive other poor people of affordable food. Pop-culture celebrities like her, who pontificate on matters on which they know little or nothing, are a menace to agricultural and economic development.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), a Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.