Since the 1960s, introduction of Green Revolution seeds in India has resulted in erosion of crop diversity and has had catastrophic effects on soil, water and farmers. More than 200,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997. In 1987, Vandana Shiva started the Navdanya seed savers’ movement with the goal of conserving remaining crop diversity and assisting farmers in retaining seed sovereignty by developing and sustaining village-level seed supply systems and traditional farming practices. Navdanya has co-established fifty-four community seed banks and trained 500,000 farmers in organic farming. Navdanya was also a response to anticipated neo-liberal adjustment programs, the introduction of trade-related intellectual property rights to apply to new plant varieties, and the commercialization of genetically engineered seeds. This thesis examines Navdanya’s efforts at local, regional, national and international levels to transform both policy and farming. The Gandhian model has been a major inspiration for Navdanya as has the advocacy work and agroecological practices of rural social movements around the world. The thesis investigates Navdanya’s conviction that the industrial model of agriculture is violent using the Green and Gene Revolutions and farmers’ suicides to test the plausibility of this hypothesis. It analyzes Gandhi’s ethics of nonviolence and his ethics-based economics by starting with a comparative reading of Gandhi and Nehru’s different visions for India. It employs a ‘ways of seeing’ approach to theorize the confrontation around seed as the outcome of context specific historical and cultural perspectives. Research involved field interviews with Indian farmers and staff of Navdanya as well as extensive examination of the organizations’ own studies and reports, analysis of state planning for agricultural development, and review of academic analyses of the impacts and hazards of farming with Green Revolution hybrids and with transgenic varieties as well as the vitality of agroecological traditional farming systems.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Howard, Pat