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Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is an author and eco-activist in India. She champions traditional and sustainable agriculture, and has won cases against concerns like the biotech and agriculture company Monsanto.

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Dr. Vandana Shiva
“First disbelief, then inquisitiveness, then enthusiasm.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva has learned to keep her expectations low when she explains her work to people. The responses she receives follow a typical pattern "First disbelief, then inquisitiveness, then enthusiasm."

That people don't get it immediately results from what she calls "the Monoculture of the Mind," an unthinking focus on technology and instant profit "which blocks people from appreciating the value and beauty of diversity, and gives undemocratic power to global corporations over our seed and food." 

Dr. Shiva's current effort was launched in response to the 1984 Bhopal disaster, when a pesticide plant leaked thousands of tons of deadly chemicals, contaminating land and water in a way that damages Indians' health and environment even today. Seeing the dire need for a paradigm shift, Dr. Shiva co-founded Navdanya, referring to the “nine crops" that represent India's food security, to help restore the ancient values and practices of agriculture in her country.

"I started Navdanya to protect biodiversity, defend farmers' rights and promote organic farming," says Dr. Shiva. She has set up 85 community seed banks across India, converted 2 million farmers from conventional to organic methods, built a learning center called Bija Vidyapeeth ("School of the Seed"), and preserved of over 3000 ancient strains of rice, oats, barley, and millet.

In 2004, Navdanya took on GMO giant Monsanto, successfully lobbying for the European Patent Office to revoke a patent on an indigenous strain of Indian wheat. This was Navdanya's third victory against biopiracy, and her most visible success for farmers' rights and biodiversity.

To those who are slow to lend their support, Dr. Shiva says, "I respond with patience, persistence, inspiration. I do what I do against all odds, because our very future and the future of life on earth is at stake. Giving up is not a choice.”