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On the occasion of International Environment Day, June 5th, the launch of Diverse Women for Diversity’s Ecofeminist Manifesto “Making Peace with the Earth – Through Diversity, Mutuality, Non-Violence & Care” took place in Rome with Dr Vandana Shiva, President of Navdanya International. The invited speakers analyzed the main threats to our biodiversity and related agricultural alternatives.
In particular they analyzed the issue linked to the worldwide attempt to deregulate the new generation of GMOs, especially in the Italian context, as, just last week, the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committees unanimously approved an amendment to the Drought Decree that opens the field testing of new GMOs. Dr Vandana Shiva stated: “In Italy, I celebrated the Government’s stand in defense of the Italian food heritage, but If you have genetically edited seeds, your fake food has already arrived. The two laws contradict each other.”
At the morning press conference, Dr Vandana Shiva was joined by Nadia El Hage Scialabba, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Nicoletta Dentico, Head of the Global Health Justice Program at Society for International Development (SID), Silvia Francescon, Head of the Ecology Programme of the Italian Buddhist Union (UBI), Elisa d’Aloisio, coordinator of the GMO-free Italian Coalition.
Nicoletta Dentico explained how, “Today we are destroying the planet, through food production above all. We are also destroying not only the health of people, but the health of animals and the environment. The pandemic was an example of the other side of the coin of the planet’s state of emergency and ill-health, because we are interconnected, and we are not divided at all.”
Nadia El Hage stated that: “If we talk about biodiversity, compared to 1900, we have lost 86 percent of our biodiversity because of industrial agriculture. In farmers’ fields, 90 percent of biodiversity is gone, compared to what was grown before. When you have a scientific paradigm that looks at quantity, measurability, replicability and not quality, it becomes dangerous, because this leads to policies that are completely oblivious to ethics. And that is what we are experiencing today’.
Silvia Francescon pointed out that: “The ecological disaster we are witnessing today is the result of a perception of separation from what we consider nature – something ‘other’, forgetting that we ourselves are nature. We speak of natural resources with the idea of exploitation. And we do not speak instead of sources of life. That’s why I call for a different use of language, because that alone leads us to a completely different approach.”
Elisa D’Aloisio explained various aspects of the current Italian situation with regard to new GMOs. stating that: “Recently TEA, assisted evolution techniques, formerly called NBT, new breeding techniques, have appeared. Both terminologies hide the reality of the facts. These are GMOs for all intents and purposes. We have decrees under discussion right now that state that they are not GMOs. The drought decree presented itself as a unique opportunity to quietly and secretly insert an amendment. We actually need even more strict regulations for these new GMOs than the ones already in place.”
In the afternoon, at Casa Internazionale delle Donne, a public debate was held by Dr Vandana Shiva, with Caterina Batello, Agroecology Europe (AEEU), Samantha Caldato, Ammar Seeds, Marica di Pierri, A Sud Association and Emma Siliprandi, Feminism and Agroecology Expert.
In the course of the debate, the speakers explored the importance of women in the context of agri-food systems. They discussed women’s agroecological practices based on ecological care of the land. Their struggles for seed sovereignty and living communities, as well as the impacts of ecological crisis and climate change that are disproportionately affecting women.
Caterina Batello, representative of Agroecology Europe and the Italian Association for Agroecology, explained how, “Agroecology and feminism are mentioned every time ministers from all over the world meet. For example, the UNCCD, the United Nations Convention on Desertification said that women play a very important role in all aspects of care for animals, land and home, and that their capacities should be fully recognised. These statements were written many years ago. And to this day women are still being excluded from all decision-making processes. Even today, we still struggle because nothing has been done.”
Thankfully, there are many grassroots and civil society initiatives and women’s and ecological movements that are carrying on the battle for the emancipation of all oppressed groups, for an ecological society, and for healthy food.
Emma Siliprandi, an activist from the women’s group, National Agroecology Coalition in Brazil and the Ibero-American Women’s Alliance for Agroecology, explained the importance of ecofeminism in regenerating our agri-food systems and creating a new society. “Feminisms question the inequalities of power between men and women and also between other marginalized social collectives. It proposes the political and social organization of women and all oppressed people, for the construction of a different society that is egalitarian, and fair. Feminisms challenge the construction of gender as a social imposition, the sexual division of labour. It questions racism, classism, violence against women, the overvaluation of the market economy and the invisibility of the economy of care and reproduction of life.” “Eco-feminism in particular,” explains Emma Siliprandi, “draws our attention to the destruction of nature by big business, big corporations, and the privatization of nature. The marginalization of women from spaces of power, has resulted in the knowledge and experience of rural women, usually based on a harmonious coexistence with nature, as not being taken into account in decision-making processes.”
Reporting on her experience in the recovery of traditional seeds through the valorisation of women farmers’ knowledge in Brazil, Samantha Caldato of the AMMAR Seeds Organization, denounced how, “Today we are witnessing a molecular, intellectual, territorial and digital colonization. We must recover our capacity to create the world.” She also added, “As women we want to reclaim an economy that includes the economy of abundance, of interconnection, of gifts and care. An economy that is participatory and not one that feeds the greed of the few. Ecofeminism invites us to explore how women, through their care and intimate relationships with seeds and food, re-establish a connection with the earth, history and cultural heritage. Women’s seed conservation work is a powerful tool to reclaim self-reliance and challenge the oppressive system that undermines cultural diversity and erodes the ecological fabric of communities.”
Referring to the Manifesto ‘Making Peace with the Earth’, Marica di Pierri, of the Association A Sud explained how, “Imagining paths of liberation and self-determination unites these two fields: that of feminism and that of ecology. Right now, we could say that feminist paths and paths of struggle for environmental and climate justice can be read as two sides of the same coin. These are struggles that intertwine and reinforce each other. The Manifesto ‘Making Peace with the Earth’ already captures in its title a fundamental challenge, which is not only political but cultural, and concerns rethinking relationships. Rethinking relations between men and women, relations between women themselves, relations between human and non-human communities, and relations between humans and the environment. These relationships have been severed, distorted and separated by the Western development model. A development model founded on a logic of dominance of man over woman, of man over animals, of man over nature in its totality and complexity.”
Dr Vandana Shiva closed the conference stating, “The dominant economy is parasitic on the gifts of nature and the gift economy that women sustain and maintain. Around the time the East India Company was created and colonialism was starting to spread, all the texts written by the patriarchal structure were creating our way of thinking about the world based on greed, separation, domination, conflict, and competition, when the reality of the world is totally the opposite, it is about symbiosis. The principles on the basis of which society and nature works are totally opposite of what is theorized. There are no privileged species in nature’s economy. Some are small and some are big, like microbes and animals but all sustain each other.”
These Diverse Women for Diversity share the belief that differences, contexts, the variety of voices, and the variety of ways that they express care, are key to resisting the imposition of industrial uniformity. It is diverse cultures that will lead the way to the future.
Women are reclaiming seed sovereignty and building food security around the world. As seed keepers and food producers, as mothers and eaters, women are engaged in creating a food system that is aligned with the Earth’s ecological processes, that protects health, and that abides the laws of human rights and social justice.
The tour will continue in Bracciano, on June 7th, where Navdanya International, in collaboration with the Biodistrict of Bracciano and Martignano Lakes, has organised a Biodiversity Festival, with local producers, civil society movements and the young participants in the Biodiversity is Life Project.