Vandana Shiva is coming to my hometown to lie.
For those unaware, Shiva is one of the world’s most famous anti-GMO activists, hailing from India. She’s giving a speech on Monday, April 16, at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where I did a year of my undergrad. I found out that the university got a “good deal” since they had flexible scheduling for her, and Shiva is being paid just under $20,000 to speak.
How would you feel if someone was paid tens of thousands of dollars to lie about your occupation? As farmers, she has not been speaking the truth about what we do and claims that GMOs are poison, we are drenching our fields in chemicals, Monsanto has control over us in ag, and GMOs are killing the bees and causing farmers to commit suicide.
None of these are true and can be easily debunked, but these are popular myths that have been spread and funded by industry activists for years. In fact, I visited India last year and personally spoke to farmers and how they see the benefits in planting GMO cotton on their farms. If they were bad, farmers wouldn’t choose to grow them! In my opinion, it is admirable if someone chooses to be an organic farmer — there are many ways to address food security issues as long as we promote cooperation and coexistence — but there is something wrong with lying to people for profit.
Fear sells, and it’s very disappointing to see farmers and scientists defamed and harassed, all with the help of folks like Shiva, and their anti-GMO industry-sponsored agenda funded with taxpayers dollars. (For more in-depth info on this, read this article here.) The other things that irk me? Around the world, we have much more serious problems with people who are food insecure and more than 3 billion live on less than $2.50 a day. I highly doubt the hungry are wondering what plant breeding method was used to create their food as long as the scientific consensus affirms its safety.
I heard her speak in 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa, and my jaw was on the ground with all the misinformation she was spreading, however, I was able to speak up to her and educate the audience on what we actually do on today’s modern farms. My comments were very well received, and I was even applauded! Catch the details here. Despite the fact that this can be intimidating, we in agriculture all need to speak up, and events like this are when we can have the most impact.
Apparently, she’s been giving the same speech for 20 years now, and a lot has changed in 20 years in every industry, including agriculture. It makes me wonder … has she ever even been to a large-scale American farm before? The way she speaks about farming makes me curious if she even knows what a combine is.
Speaking at a public university does the next generation a huge disservice and plays into the myths that people should not fall for. In a world where America needs more farmers, we should be embracing how far we’ve come. We should be celebrating where we can go. We should connect with those of us that actually produce the food on our plates as they’re the real experts and deserve to be appreciated. These are the moments where you can, too. If you’re near Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and available on April 16, here is the link to the event where you can attend, contact the school, and make sure our voices are heard. It’s a good opportunity to speak out against this misinformation — and it’s free and open to the public.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.