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Lecturer discusses future of food

BY BILL COONEY | MARCH 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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The food revolution is coming, and it will not be televised, said Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist and anti-globalization author from India.

Shiva spoke Tuesday as part of the University of Iowa’s “Food for Thought Spring Semester.” The UI Lecture Committee invited her to speak as the semester’s distinguished lecturer.

“We see so many advertisements and messages today that tell us: ‘If we don’t use these chemicals, poisons, and pesticides, we will not have any food.’ This is simply not true,” Shiva said during an evening lecture. “These tools of killing are being celebrated as tools for giving life.” 

“Most food today has become anti-food; we have a word that describes this that roughly translates as: ‘the food is unworthy of being eaten,’ ” Shiva said during an afternoon lecture.

There is an urgent need to rethink the way food is produced, she said.

Our current use of pesticides and chemicals, combined with globalization and the increasing monoculture, or lack of diversity, she said, will result in three things: It will destroy the planet, it will continue to destroy society, and it will continue to mess up humans’ health.

Her evening lecture, which was titled “Eco Feminism: Women in Defense of the Earth,” focused primarily on the sustainability and biodiversity of our food supply.

Her afternoon lecture was informal.

“[Iowa] is fertile and beautiful, but there is a need for a major transition away from the corn and soy that dominate the landscape here,” Shiva said. “You don’t buy water from Europe or Argentina and have it shipped here. We make ourselves watersheds to provide us that water. Why should food be any different?”

Shiva expressed a need for cities such as Iowa City to support surrounding farmers, and, in turn, those farmers will support the community with healthy, sustainable food.

This “food shed” would provide a sustainable food supply to the area in which the farmers are located.

Some residents and local students said Shiva’s message is important for the future of Iowans.

“I think that urban dwellers like myself can still make a difference even though I don’t have the means to go plant my own garden,” Iowa City resident Robert Schmidt said. “I plan on making a statement with my pocketbook by buying products made locally and sustainably.”

Some UI students stressed the need for Iowans to talk about food diversity.

“This outside inspiration is great, but we need to talk about this from an Iowa perspective about how we can replace corn and soybeans with more sustainable crops,” UI student Elana Gingerich said.

Another student agreed.

“We need to educate people about what is wrong with the current system,” UI student Jenny Dolan said. “A lot of people have no idea about this topic of food, and food sustainability, and the best way to start change is to educate people about where their food comes from.”

Shiva noted that advertising can distort people’s perceptions of food.

“This is an issue of food democracy and food freedom,” Shiva said. “We are given so much biased information through advertising that the average person will think — this has to be good for me because the ad said so.”

Shiva said individuals, not corporations or governments, who will bring about food sustainability.

“It is the small actions that millions take that are the huge actions of our time,” she said “We live in a world of interconnection, not isolation, and our attitude toward our food must reflect that.”


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