Saving lives through true social justice


The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) invited Vandana Shiva to speak on October 7. According to a speaker booking website, its asking price for a conference is $ 100,000. Let’s give UMKC the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve made a deal. It’s hard to imagine a prize for this world famous quack that gives good value.

It’s a safe bet that most of us have never heard of Vandana Shiva, and that’s, overall, a good thing. Shiva gained notoriety and much fortune by opposing the use of modern technology in agriculture. She burst onto the scene claiming that GM cotton was causing hundreds of thousands of suicides among Indian farmers. Farmers have plenty of reasons to be depressed, including Dr Shiva, but I can assure you that technology that safely controls the insects that ate your crops is not one of them. A 2011 study published in India found no correlation between genetically engineered cottonseeds and farmer suicide, a finding that won’t surprise anyone whose livelihood doesn’t depend on believing otherwise, at $ 100,000 per call Zoom .

In 1999, a cyclone killed ten thousand people in India. The United States sent grain and soybeans to help feed the survivors. Shiva held a press conference to protest the donation, accusing the United States of using cyclone victims as “guinea pigs” for genetically modified products. When India accepted food donations, it was very critical. Better to starve than the unthinkable alternative of eating foods that have been safely eaten billions of times.

Shiva has long opposed the introduction of “Golden Rice”, a genetically modified rice that helps prevent blindness by increasing vitamin A in rice. Each year, approximately five hundred thousand children lose their sight due to vitamin A deficiency, and 70% of these children die within the year. Shiva called the technology a hoax. His appearance at UMKC is part of the “Social Justice Book and Lecture” series. While social justice may be difficult to define, Shiva’s stance on this saving technology would surely be its opposite.

Agriculture owes a great debt to those who have worked so hard and for so long to counter the arguments of Shiva and others against genetic engineering. For most of us, the issue was long over, the arguments out of date, the battle won, and it was time to move on.

Even though we wish it would, the problem never really goes away. The fruits of Shiva’s long and lucrative struggle against modernity arise in the most unexpected places and in the most expensive ways. The arguments against Covid vaccines reflect Shiva’s insane opposition to saving children’s lives, and while both sides have largely changed ideological labels, the horrific costs in lives and fortunes are eerily similar.

It must be heartwarming for the GMO warriors that, despite the arguments of Shiva et al., A large part of humanity is consuming genetically improved foods every day and golden rice is finally approved in countries where it is so desperately. necessary. In the face of relentless social media criticism of vaccines, three-quarters of the vaccine-eligible American population seized the opportunity. The facts usually prevail, but sometimes it takes a very long time.

UMKC is a wonderful institution that does valuable work. Students should see their ideas, beliefs and prejudices challenged every moment. UMKC children who attend the virtual conference will survive their exposure to Shiva and may even be challenged to learn more about the vastly beneficial relationship between agriculture and technology. That said, this taxpayer would like social justice to be better served in the future by more judicious choice of speakers.

Blake Hurst is a farmer and greenhouse grower from Northwestern Missouri.

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