As Dr. Vandana Shiva has been invited to University of Missouri-Kansas City a group of scholars has penned a letter to C. Mauli Agrawal, chancellor of the university in order to remind “her anti-scientific and unethical stances”. Here is the letter and beneath, the UMKC’s response. This initiatvie has been lead by Giovanni Molteni Tagliabue an Independent researcher in philosophy of life sciences, political science.
Date: 28 September 2021
C. Mauli Agrawal, Chancellor
Sheri Gormley, Chief of Staff
Andre Logan, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Veronica C. Jackson, Senior Executive Assistant
Ref.: University of Missouri-Kansas City Social Justice Book and Lecture Series on Oct. 7 with Dr. Vandana Shiva.
We are scholars of life sciences and social sciences who have published many scholarly papers and articles about agriculture, food and related biotechnologies; some of us are science communicators and agronomists.
Perhaps you are unaware of Dr. Vandana Shiva’s constant use of anti-scientific rhetoric to support unethical positions. We are surprised that any science-based and ethically inspired institution would invite her to speak.
Here are just a few examples of her prejudicial, anti-science, anti-social stances:
1. Her astonishing tendency to nonsense.
See the absurd statement regarding the supposed functioning of the Genetic Use Restriction technology (GURT), from her book Stolen Harvest (p. 82-83):
“Molecular biologists are examining the risk of the Terminator function escaping the genome of the crops into which it has been intentionally incorporated, and moving into surrounding open-pollinated crops or wild, related plants in fields nearby. Given Nature’s incredible adaptability and the fact that the technology has never been tested on a large scale, the possibility that the Terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment MUST be taken seriously. The gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet.”
She has repeatedly used the same words in other documents in her websites.
One may need to read these statements twice, because they are too bewildering to be understood at first sight. In fact, she claims that sterile seeds – which of course cannot germinate – can spread sterility. A middle school student expressing such views would fail the biology exam.
2. Her stunning ignorance:
Most #GMOs are #Bt toxin or #HT herbicide tolerant crops.Toxins are poisons. GMOs=Poison Producing Plants. Poisons have no place in food
— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) March 3, 2014
Somebody should explain to her that Bt proteins are toxic to some clearly identified classes of insects (plant pests), but not to fish, birds, mammals. www.ucbiotech.org/answer.php?question=31. See also the scientific papers quoted in response to her delusional Twitter post, in particular, the “classic” study by Ames et al. which clarifies that plants naturally produce substances to defend themselves from pests and 99.99% of pesticidal substances in food are natural – and harmless to humans.
3. Her proclivity to outrage:
#MarkLynas saying farmers shd be free to grow #GMOs which can contaminate #organic farms is like saying #rapists shd have freedom to rape
— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) January 5, 2013
She compares farmers, who grow crops which are scientifically and legally recognized as safe, to rapists! It’s a grotesque insult to millions of honest workers who use modern technologies to farm more sustainably and efficiently. Understandably, her outrageous abuse raised many angry reactions (see the replies to the same post).
4. Her rejection of technologies which help farmers (mostly women and children) to alleviate the painful, back-breaking labour of hand-weeding:
“Indian women selectively do weeding by hand, hereby preserving our biodiversity.” www.navdanya.org/attachments/Food_Sovereignty4.pdf Photo and caption at p. 21.
This is a preposterous statement; any act of weeding is exactly aimed at eliminating detrimental plant “biodiversity” which, in a field, stifles crops.
5. As a final treat, a ridiculous statement:
“Fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture,” she said in a 2011 speech. “I think it’s time to ban it. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Its use is like war, because it came from war.” Quoted at www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/25/seeds-of-doubt and in other websites.
Let us ask her if she is going to ban metallurgy, since it has been used to forge cannons…
We are confident that our reasoned remarks will be seen by the addresses of this letter, by their colleagues and students as constructive criticism.
Some of us may be able to attend the event to challenge Dr. Shiva in person. In any case, we would appreciate if you can make our letter available to the participants.
We would greatly value a point-by-point response to the important matters we raise.
Here are links to some articles that contain reasoned criticism of Dr. Shiva’s untenable stances.
https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/08/23/who-is-vandana-shiva-and-why-is-she-saying-such-awful-things-about-gmos-2-2 reprinted in www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/01/29/vandana-shiva-anti-gmo-celebrity-eco-goddess-or-dangerous-fabulist
Signatories in alphabetical order.
Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only and does not indicate institutional endorsement.
– Philipp Aerni – University of Zurich, Switzerland Director, Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Geography, Public Policy
– Klaus Ammann – University of Bern, Switzerland Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
– David J. Bertioli – University of Georgia, USA Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and Professor, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics
– Giuseppe Bertoni – Università Cattolica, Piacenza, Italy Professor Emeritus of Animal Husbandry
– Peter Beyer – Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Germany Professor (retired). Co-inventor of the Golden Rice. Member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
– Borut Bohanec – University of Ljubljana, Slovenia Biotechnical Faculty, Plant Biotechnology and Breeding
– Ildebrando Bonacini – Agricultural organization manager, agri-food journalist, Cremona, Italy
– Enrico Bucci – Temple University, Philadelphia, USA Adjunct Professor in Systems Biology, Sbarro Health Research Organization
– Trevor Charles – University of Waterloo, Canada Professor in the Department of Biology, Director, Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research
– Bruce M. Chassy – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
– Felice Cervone – University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy Full Professor, Dept of Biology and Biotechnologies, M.A.E. (Member of Academia Europaea)
– Pellegrino Conte – University of Palermo, Italy Full Professor, Agricultural Chemistry
– Gilberto Corbellini – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Rome, Italy Full Professor of Bioethics and History of Medicine, “Sapienza” University of Rome
– Terry Daynard – Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph Former Professor of Crop Science, former Associate Dean of Research and Innovation
– Roberto Defez – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Naples, Italy Senior Researcher, Microbial Biotechnology laboratory
– Adrian Dubock – Former Global Head M&A, Ventures and Licensing, Syngenta, Switzerland (retired) Member & Executive Secretary, Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
– Jon Entine – Genetic Literacy Project website, Cincinnati, OH, USA Executive Director
– Edgardo Filippone – University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy Full Professor, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Section of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
– Kevin Folta – University of Florida Department of Horticultural Sciences, Professor
– Corrado Lodovico Galli – University of Milan, Italy Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences
– L. Val Giddings, PhD – PrometheusAB, Inc., USA Expert in agri-food biotech regulation
– Jonathan Gressel – Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel Professor, Plant & Environmental Sciences
– Alberto Guidorzi – Agronomist, Sermide Felonica (Mantua), Italy
– Larson C. Hannah – University of Florida Professor Emeritus, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology & Horticultural Sciences
– Klaus-Dieter Jany – Wadi International University, Syria Vice-President for Teaching and Research
– Jonathan D. G. Jones FRS – The Sainsbury Lab, Norwich, UK Professor and Senior Group Leader
– Drew L. Kershen – University of Oklahoma, USA Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus
– Marcel Kuntz – University of Grenoble-Alpes, France Director of Research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
– Christopher J. Leaver CBE FRS FRSE – University of Oxford, UK Emeritus Professor of Plant Science
– Michele Lodigiani – Agronomist, farmer, science communicator. Piacenza, Italy
– Alan McHughen – University of California, Riverside, USA Botany and Plant Sciences, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
– Henry I. Miller, M.Sc., M.D. – Senior Fellow, Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, USA Founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology
– Giovanni Molteni Tagliabue – Como (Italy) Independent researcher in philosophy of life sciences, political science
– Eliano Morello – Agronomist, Padua, Italy
– Piero Morandini – University of Milan, Italy Researcher, Environmental Science and Policy Department
– Jean-Paul Oury – Chief Editor of “The European Scientist” website, Paris, France, PhD in history of science and technology
– Marco Aurelio Pasti – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili, Venice, Italy
– Deborah Piovan – Farmer and scientific communicator, Padua, Italy
– Ingo Potrykus – ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Institute of Plant Sciences, Professor Emeritus, Co-inventor Golden Rice, Chair Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
– Channa Prakash, Tuskegee University, USA Dean, Arts & Sciences
– Sir Richard John Roberts – Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs, Ipswich, USA
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
– Daniele Rosellini – University of Perugia, Italy Associate Professor of Agricultural Genetics
– Eddo Rugini – Università della Tuscia, Italy Past Full Professor in Fruit Tree Science and Biotechnology
– Donatello Sandroni – PhD in Ecotoxicology Journalist & Science communicator, Italy
– Angelo Santino – Institute of Sciences of Food Production, National Research Council (CNR), Lecce, Italy Senior Scientist
– Giuseppe Sarasso – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili and Accademia di Agricoltura of Turin, Italy
– Teemu Teeri – University of Helsinki, Finland Professor in Plant Breeding
– Roberto Tuberosa – University of Bologna, Italy Professor in Biotechnology Applied to Plant Breeding, Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences
– Ignazio Verde – Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), Rome, Italy
Senior scientist on Plant Genetics and scientific advisor
– Robert Wager – Vancouver Island University, Canada Molecular biology, Biochemistry
– Allan Wenck – BASF, Morrisville, NC, USA PhD molecular, cell and developmental biology
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The tragedy is that the University of Missouri has paid Shiva’s usual speaking fee which I have read is $40,000. It’s nice of them to endorse free speech, but will they also pay Professor Kevin Folta of Florida University to appear on their campus? I doubt it.