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'Stolen Harvest: The Highjacking of the Global Food Supply' by Vandana Shiva

Books on Business

Sunday, January 21, 2001

By the Business Librarians at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

 
 

Stolen Harvest: The Highjacking of the Global Food Supply

By Vandana Shiva

South End Press
$14.00

   
 

This slim but powerful volume protests the rapid monopolization of food production and distribution by a handful of corporations. Backed by impressive research and vivid examples, the author outlines the huge cost of agricultural globalization in increased pollution, disease and socioeconomic disruption, as well as reduced food quality and biodiversity. Paying the price are millions of poor people, whose lives for centuries have been based on highly developed diverse local farming and cooking practices that are now being destroyed. But ultimately all of us who eat are at risk.

This book exposes numerous instances of environmental abuses and corporate greed in the international fishing, agriculture and cattle industries. One compelling issue it tackles is that of intellectual property issues in food biotechnology.

World Trade Organization agreements which globalize Western patent laws are allowing a small number of corporations to secure the patents for seeds and grains that were actually developed over thousands of years through seed sharing and breeding among rural farmers. This brand of “biopiracy” presents many chilling realities.

RiceTec, a Texas-based corporation, recently won patent rights to basmati rice and grains despite the fact that basmati had existed in India for centuries, potentially forcing Indian farmers to pay royalties. The diversity of seeds and grains produced organically and by cooperative efforts is being eliminated, as small farmers must buy seeds each year from their new legal owners, creating conditions of dependence, debt and failure.

Currently, according to Shiva, 10 companies control 32 percent of the world’s seed market and 100 percent of seeds that are genetically engineered, while five companies control the entire global grain trade.

These numbers should give pause to anyone concerned about the consolidation of wealth and resources by the small number of companies that seem to be overtaking the world’s marketplaces.

Shiva sounds the alarm that the production and distribution of food, arguably the world’s most important resource, is increasingly controlled by these companies whose primary purpose is to increase profits and further eradicate competition. Shiva demonstrates how high the stakes are, and provides a scientifically sound and impassioned wake-up call to anyone who cares about the global food supply.

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