Last month, I re-posted an idealistic entrepreneur’s remarkable letter defending his decision to sell his company to Monsanto, per the New Yorker‘s Michael Specter. A couple of weeks later, I posted Specter’s profile — some might say “takedown” — of renowned Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva.
Needless to say, she was not pleased with that profile and neither were some of you. But before I get to that, let me add one more voice to the conversation.
Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is concerned not just that right-wingers deny science . . . the earth is 9,000 years old, etc . . . come back Friday for his Bill Moyers interview . . . he is concerned, also, about science denial on the left. Read this interview with Dan Arel. Watch this two-minute video on the need for the critics of genetically modified food to “chill out.”
Shiva’s impassioned response to Michael Specter’s New Yorker profile begins:
I am glad that the future of food is being discussed, and thought about, on farms, in homes, on TV, online and in magazines, especially of the New Yorker’s caliber. The New Yorker has held its content and readership in high regard for so long. The challenge of feeding a growing population with the added obstacle of climate change is an important issue. Specter’s piece, however, is poor journalism. I wonder why a journalist who has been Bureau Chief in Moscow for the New York Times and Bureau Chief in New York for the Washington Post, and clearly is an experienced reporter, would submit such a misleading piece. Or why the New Yorker would allow it to be published as honest reporting, with so many fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality. ‘Seeds of Doubt’ contains many lies and inaccuracies that range from the mundane (we never met in a café but in the lobby of my hotel where I had just arrived from India to attend a High Level Round Table for the post 2015 SDGs of the UN) to grave fallacies that affect people’s lives. The piece has now become fodder for the social media supporting the Biotech Industry. Could it be that rather than serious journalism, the article was intended as a means to strengthen the biotechnology industry’s push to ‘engage consumers’? Although creative license is part of the art of writing, Michael Specter cleverly takes it to another level, by assuming a very clear position without spelling it out. . . .
I invite you to read the whole thing. I will admit to not having been entirely persuaded.
My very smart pal Chris Brown adds his own worthy perspective:
Chris Brown: “This takedown of Vandana Shiva saddens me. I do not agree with much of what she says about GMO foods. But step back for a moment and what you have more broadly in Vandana Shiva is a woman not afraid to say, ‘privatizing all of the gain and making public all of the loss is an abomination.’ The incentives of corporations are not the same as the incentives of society, and when we have a legal and regulatory regime that largely ignores that, the effect is great disparity and great crisis. And when someone speaks out against unlimited corporate power, there is, of course, a predictable backlash from the powerful protecting themselves. Giving the water rights away to a select few for bribes or political favors is a problem. Vast tracts of genetically-identical monoculture, highly dependent on environmentally harmful materials, are a problem. Current factory farming methods in America, including along the Maumee river, are precisely why we couldn’t drink the water in Toledo a few weeks ago. To attack someone who has devoted her life to striving for fairness and a better life for the common people just strikes me as wrong. Martin Luther King, Jr. was almost certainly a plagiarist, but was certainly a great man. He died at the hands of those whose power he threatened. One area in which I strongly agree with Shiva and Arundhati Roy (and Karl Marx for that matter) is that people are happy when they have control over their own lives, and a chance for meaningful work. There is an expression for small-cap stocks, ‘niches make riches.’ The same is true in human life. If you have meaningful work, meaningful loves, and a place in your community, life is better. The medical data support connectedness to other humans as perhaps the most powerful variable determining human longevity. So in that spirit, I recommend this classic book for your readers, one Vandana Shiva would wholeheartedly agree with, E.F. Schumaker’s Small is Beautiful.”
☞ An excellent recommendation.
Tomorrow: Mozart and the Best Advice EVER