Vandana Shiva Compares GMOs to Rape

By Keith Kloor | January 5, 2013 11:53 pm

Modern day heretics have it easy compared to their medieval antecedents (at least in the West). Denouncing dogma that they once propagated won’t get them tortured and burned at the stake. But they do stand a good chance of provoking hostile blowback, which is what Mark Lynas, the British environmental writer, has experienced this week.

That’s because Lynas has just repudiated,  in no uncertain terms, the anti-GMO movement he helped give birth to in the 1990s.

In a heartfelt and hardhitting speech, Lynas apologized “for having spent several years ripping up GM crops,” and for sowing unfounded fears that have been “exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today.” Referring to the worldwide biotech restrictions, Lynas also said:

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt.

Now there’s a number of things in the speech by Lynas that people can take issue with, such as what I already discussed here. But I don’t see how a statement defending the rights of farmers is controversial. Somehow, though, Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmentalist and anti-GMO activist blurted this out on twitter:

When I saw this, it took my breath away, especially in light of the recent horrible gang rape and death in India that seems to have jolted that country into confronting its predatory culture of harassment and violence against women. Others, I noticed, were similarly aghast.

That was from one scientist. Here’s from another:

Could Shiva’s insensitive tweet have been said in haste, or did it reflect the warped attitude of an activist? You be the judge after reading this op-ed from her last week, which includes this statement:

I have repeatedly stressed that the rape of the Earth and rape of women are intimately linked, both metaphorically in shaping worldviews and materially in shaping women’s everyday lives.

This is a person who is widely venerated as a feminist and champion of social and environmental causes.

UPDATE: Having been offline for nearly a day since Shiva made her offensive tweet, I didn’t catch what some others had already blogged, such as Robert Wilson here. Definitely check it out.

Vandana Shiva @ Bill Moyers
 [Image/Vandana Shiva during a television interview with Bill Moyers in 2012.]
CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs, select
  • Fergus Mclean

    I also disagree with Vandana Shiva. What Monsanto is doing with GMO seed is far worse than rape. Abuse of a woman’s body is trivial compared to the wholesale destruction of the integrity of life forms on earth.

  • Ashley Swindell

    I totally agree with Dr. Shiva on this one. And just like Danana said you all got “tangled in its interpretation, symbolism, etc…” You saw the word rape and immediately freaked out, because in your mind Rape = horrible assault on women…instead of taking it in terms of a different point of view. The definition of rape…

    rape 1 (rp)


    1. The crime of forcing another person to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.

    2. The act of seizing and carrying off by force; abduction.

    3. Abusive or improper treatment; violation: a rape of justice.

    tr.v. raped, rap·ing, rapes

    1. To force (another person) to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse; commit rape on.

    2. To seize and carry off by force.

    3. To plunder or pillage.

    She is referring to the violation of the Earth and the contamination of Organic/non-gmo seeds, through pollination (how they reproduce…so sexual actions for plants), by the GMO seeds. AKA “Rape”

    I read this article and immediately deemed you an idiot of a news writer. Learn to change perspectives and understand what people are saying before you freak out and jump down their throats. I understand completely what she is saying, and even as a women, I am not offended. You can’t put so much value in words and what they mean to YOU because interpretation is different for everyone. All you have done is created a mess for other people to jump on the bandwagon. Good grief! Kudos to this woman and her work!

  • Ek Chakkar

    I defer to scientists when it comes to GMO and trust what they say.

    The righteous indignation here is misplaced, I suggest.

    To a non-scientist reader, comments like the ones you have posted to this blog can come across as someone being upset that a philosopher of science has spoken for science instead of the scientist. You can settle that score, sure. Remember to also take the valid ethical issue that underlies Shiva’s invective: patenting seeds could lead to jailing farmers for saving non-GMO seed because GMO seeds will most likely be in the control of private legal entities. It has massive societal implications. Besides, the principle of jailing a farmer because s/he saved a non-GMO seed for future use (thereby violating a contract with the GMO-seed-owning entity) is plain wrong, in my view.

    You ignore people like Shiva to your peril, Dr. Folta. She’s challenging the notion that GMO seed is required at all because the world hunger problem is more social than one defined by a material-science-based explanation. In other words, the solution to world hunger *can be* non-GMO.

    “Plus, anyone that constantly must remind us of their “Dr” prefix is usually full of crap. In my experience these are insecure academics with marginal degrees or credibility trying to polish the turd.”
    ==> That is quite a personal attack on a person that has spent long periods of her life demonstrating how small-scale farming with non-GMO seeds leads to socially-progressive results. Such a tone is also very disheartening to read when it’s from a scientist because it demonstrates an irrational disrespect for a meaningful, alternative and sustainable way of living without GMO seeds.

    • Cain Abel

      “patenting seeds could lead to jailing farmers for saving non-GMO seed”

      can NOT

      • Ek Chakkar

        ” “patenting seeds could lead to jailing farmers for saving non-GMO seed”

        can NOT ”

        Wrong. If a farmer, by cross-breeding, creates a new seed from a GMO seed that s/he acquired under contract, then that new seed, a non-laboratory-GMO seed, is a patent infringement. USA’s Supreme Court has ruled that such patent infringement is like bank robbery. Repeated patent infringements can lead to imprisonment. Patent law is designed to benefit inventors and protect them from thieves. By creating new seed varieties from patented seeds, cross-breeding farmers become thieves, according to patent law’s spirit.

        • Cain Abel

          “USA’s Supreme Court has ruled that such patent infringement is like bank robbery”


          • Ek Chakkar

            Reference to bank robbery:

            Wikipedia carries a good summary:
            From Wikipedia: “Bowman v. Monsanto Co., 569 U.S. ___ (2013) is a United States Supreme Court patent decision in which the Court unanimously affirmed the Federal Circuit, and held that the patent exhaustion doctrine does not permit a farmer to plant and grow saved, patented seeds without the patent owner’s permission. The decision held that Bowman’s conduct infringed the patent rights of the patent owner, Monsanto.”

          • Cain Abel

            Well, if you want to use Monsanto’s technology, you have to play by the rules.

            The GMOphobes did everything possible to create fear and hate and reduce potential competition with Monsanto, with great success. Many people theorize that Monsanto is quite happy to have these bullies around.

          • Ek Chakkar

            As long rules do not change, one should abide by them. What many like Shiva are advocating is for those rules to change. Seeds are different from transistors. Ethics around seed breeding is about more than just economics. It is about culture for vast numbers of communities in poor countries.

            As long as Monsanto is within legal bounds, it would be happy for any free publicity. Eventually, farmers will decide success of laboratory-GMO seeds; after all, they are in business. If poor farmers are lured into unfair practices, they must at least have support of activists like Shiva. Everyone makes mistakes in conducting business and an incompetent poor farmer in a poor country that is trapped into a debt cycle via contracts with laboratory-GMO seed companies deserves protection equal to that given by rich countries to their incompetent farmers.

            Do not pretend we live in a purely capitalist world, as far as agriculture is concerned. Laboratory-GMO science is, imho, just another tool to beat up on poor countries and demonize their rural cultures. Hiding behind laws to have important discussions about ethics of laboratory-GMO-seed economics is pathetic logic.

          • Cain Abel

            And yet these poor uneducated farmer still buy these seeds, I guess they have a good reason.

          • Ek Chakkar

            Central issues in this debate relate to ethics of a technology. No one likes poverty and poor farmers will sign seed contracts if they see personal gain, even if the risk of falling into long-term debt outweighs benefits. In different financial crises of last 100 years, do you blame poor people for taking on debt or do you blame underlying technology that promised better lifestyle?

            Based on what you have written, you have no argument. You come across as an apologist for technology invented in rich countries and your bias is clear. If true, your kind of bias is bigotry that supports rich people and countries in justifying continued chaos amongst poor people and countries. Your type cannot stand poor people, communities and countries becoming wealthy on their own terms because, imho, it risks ignoring a role for rich people to become richer.

          • Cain Abel

            You have zero argument.

            You are the typical progressive liberal with no respect for poor people.

            You think you are superior. You are not.

  • joe smith

    Science beez rayciss!

  • yomama

    oh boo hoo. grow a pair.

  • yomama

    Biorape is EXACTLY what’s going on. Good on Dr. Shiva!

  • Cain Abel

    Can you name those scientists?

  • Cain Abel

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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