Water Wars, also by Shiva, as the reading for my environmental studies students this summer term. That motivated me to pick up Stolen Harvest, which has been on my to-read list for quite awhile.
Like all of Shiva's writing, Stolen Harvest is eloquently written, intensely informative, and shockingly truthful. Unfortunately (for me), this book is 11 years old, so much of the information was outdated, and much I had already read from different sources. Nonetheless, her passion on this subject rings through still today.
Stolen Harvest touches on the monopolization of agriculture by huge corporations (like Monsanto). She discusses the introduction of genetically modified crops into our mainstream food culture and the true costs behind these crops. She talks about the absurdness of patenting seeds, the destruction of local cultures through imported crops, and the increase of corporate power and control.
The green revolution (when high yielding strains of crops, along with the huge amounts of fertilizers and pesticides that they require, were introduced across the globe) has been touted as a global success. Shiva talks about how this revolution is actually counterproductive. These higher yielding strains produce more human food and have less crop waste. Crop waste has traditionally been used as animal fodder (and then the animal waste is used to add nutrients to the soil) and as a nutrient-rich compost to amend the soil. With less crop waste, soils are becoming depleted of nutrients. This revolution has also drastically decreased global crop diversity, encouraging the growth of a few specific high-yielding crops.
Shiva also talks about aquaculture (fish farming) and the host of problems it causes. She discusses factory farming, bovine growth hormones, mad cow disease, and the negative impacts of unsustainable animal farming. She has an entire chapter devoted to genetically modified crops, and the many, many problems that can arise from them.
This is a wonderful book and is a great introduction to the myriad of problems facing our global agricultural system. Many of the ideas she tackles are ones commonly reflected in today's environmental media (and movies like Food Inc.), and I can only imagine how unveiling this information must have been 11 years ago. Despite the fact that it is a bit outdated, I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the future of our food.
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