Although India has banned genetically modified food crops, Bt cotton, modified to resist the boll-worm, is planted widely. Since the 1990s this astute crusader for social justice has focussed the world’s attention on Maharashtra by referring to the region as India’s “suicide belt”, by stating that the introduction of genetically modified cotton has caused “genocide”. There is no place where the battle over the value, safety, ecological impact and economic implications of genetically engineered products has been fought more fiercely. According to statistics provided by this activist, 284,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves because they cannot afford to plant Bt cotton. Earlier this year, at an international forum, she said, “Farmers are dying because Multinational Corporations are making profits by owning life that it never created but it pretends to create. That is why we need to reclaim the seed. That is why we need to get rid of the GMOs. That is why we need to stop the patenting of life.” Born in the valley of Dehradun on the 5th of November 1952, to a father who was the conservator of forests and a farmer mother with a love for nature, Vandana Shiva was educated at St.Mary’s school in Nainital and then at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Dehradun. She later pursued MA in the philosophy of science at the University of Guelph at Ontario, Canada in 1977 and PhD at the University of Western Ontario in 1978. Though Dr. Vandana Shiva has fought for changes in the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food, genetic engineering is the main arena of activity where she has contributed intellectually through her activist campaigns. She has assisted grassroots organizations of the Green movement in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria with campaigns against genetic engineering. In 1987, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which led to the creation of Navdanya in 1991, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed and organic farming.
For the last two decades Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations serving many men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in conservation of more than 2,000 seed varieties from all over the country and have established 111 seed banks in 17 states across the country. Dr. Vandana Shiva’s fiery opposition to the use of genetically modified crops has made her a hero to anti-GMO activists everywhere. She has been described by her admirers as “a rock star in the worldwide battle against genetically modified seeds”. She has also been called the Gandhi of grain and compared to Mother Teresa in her area of work. Vandana Shiva has been hailed worldwide as “a one-woman movement for sustainability of environment and ecology” on account of her tireless efforts on behalf of the poor and marginalized farmers who are ruthlessly exploited by greedy and lecherous MNCs.