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THE PROBLEM WITH SOYA

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NEW DELHI, Sep 1 2006 (IPS) - Fifty years ago no culture in the world ate soya. Today it is in 60 percent of all processed foods, writes Vandana Shiva, author and international campaigner for women and the environment who received the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) in 1993. In this analysis, Shiva writes that the promotion of soya in food is a huge experiment promoted with USD 13 billion of subsidies from the US government between 1998 and 2004, and USD 80 million a year from the American Soya Industry. Agro-giants Cargill and ADM are now destroying the Amazon to grow this crop. This is in turn destroying the planet\’s climate. In depending on monocultures, the food system is being made increasingly dependent on fossil fuels — for synthetic fertilisers, running the giant machinery, and long-distance transport. Monocultures lead to malnutrition for the underfed and overfed alike. One billion people are without food because industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture and their food entitlements. Another 1.7 billion are suffering from obesity and food-related diseases.

Fifty years ago no culture in the world ate soya. Then in the US the soya industry started to put it in 70 percent of industrial foods. Today it is in 60 percent of all processed foods.

The promotion of soya in food is a huge experiment promoted with USD 13 billion of subsidies from the US government between 1998 and 2004, and USD 80 million a year from the American Soya Industry.

As a result of this experiment, nature, culture, and people’s health are all being destroyed.

Humanity has eaten more than 80,000 edible plants through its evolution, more than 3,000 consistently. Yet we now rely on just eight crops to provide 75 percent of the world’s food.

In 1998, India’s indigenous edible oil, made from mustard, coconut, sesame, linseed, groundnut processed in artisanal cold press mills, were banned using “food safety” as an excuse. Simultaneously, restrictions on soya oil imports were removed, threatening 10 million farmers’ livelihoods. One million oil mills were closed. More than twenty farmers were killed while protesting against the dumping of soya on the Indian market, which drove down prices of domestic oil seed crops. And millions of tons of artificially- cheap GMO soya oil continue to be dumped on India.

Women from the slums of Delhi formed a movement to dump soya and bring back mustard oil: “Sarson bachao, soyabean bhagao” (save the mustard, drive away the soyabean). We did succeed in bringing back mustard through our “sarson satyagraha” (non-cooperation with the ban on mustard oil).

The same companies that dumped soya on India — Cargill and ADM — are destroying the Amazon to grow this crop. Millions of acres of Amazonian rainforest are being burned to clear land to grow soya for export. Cargill has built an illegal port at Santarem in Para and is driving the expansion of soya in the Amazon rainforest. Armed gangs take over the forest and use slaves to farm. People who oppose the destruction of the forests and the violence against people, like Sister Dorothy Stang, a US-born, naturalised Brazilian nun, are assassinated.

While people in Brazil and India are being threatened to promote a monoculture that benefits agribusiness, people in the US and Europe are threatened indirectly by the fact that 80 percent of soya goes to cattle feed to make cheap meat, which is destroying both the Amazon rainforest as well as people’s health in rich countries. Soya has high levels of isoflavones and phyto-oestrogens, which produce hormone imbalances in humans.

Monocultures lead to malnutrition for the underfed and overfed alike. One billion people are without food because industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture and their food entitlements. Another 1.7 billion are suffering from obesity and food-related diseases.

In depending on monocultures, the food system is being made increasingly dependent on fossil fuels, for the synthetic fertilisers, running the giant machinery, and long-distance transport.

Moving beyond monocultures has become an imperative for repairing the food system. Small biodiverse farms have higher productivity and generate higher incomes for farmers. And biodiverse diets provide more nutrition and better taste.

Local food cultures have rich and diverse alternatives to soya. For protein we have thousands of varieties of beans and grain legumes.

Bringing back biodiversity to our farms goes hand in hand with bringing back small farmers to the land. Corporate control thrives on monocultures. Citizens’ food freedom depends on biodiversity. Human freedom and the freedom of other species are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive.

In our times soya has become a symbol of an economy and world view that destroys nature and indigenous cultures. It symbolises an alienation from nature and our bodies. It symbolises greed and control. Through soya, global corporations like Monsanto, Cargill and ADM seize control over land and biodiversity. Monsanto has broad species patents on GM soya.

We are not just losing the Amazon, which could disappear by 2080 if current rates of deforestation continue, according to Dr. Philip Fearnside. We are destroying the planet’s climate. The Amazon is the earth’s lungs and heart. It is a carbon sink and a pump that creates the climate by adding moisture to the trade winds. As the forest shrinks, moisture reduces, and drought intensifies. In the 2005 drought, Amazon River levels, which normally fall 30-40 feet, fell 51 feet. At one point in Acre, the mighty Amazon could be crossed on foot.

By eating up the Amazon to grow cheap meat and cheap soya, agri- business corporations like Cargill are in fact eating up the planet. In the colonisation of the Amazon by corporations through soya we witness the ultimate unfolding of the Cartesian / Baconian paradigm of separation from nature. If we are to avoid total ecological and human catastrophe, we have to give up the primitive accumulation model of the economy which destroys and consumes everything to create “growth”. And only indigenous cultures can teach us how to live differently so that diverse species and diverse cultures can flourish on earth. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

 
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