Recognized worldwide for her activism and involvement in the anti-GMO movement, Indian author, women’s rights activist and physicist Vandana Shiva visited Costa Rica this past January 21st. She spoke to a crowd of hundreds that gathered in the auditorium of the University of Costa Rica. A press conference in the morning followed a series of talks by notable Costa Rican women activists. Yasy Morales spoke about the importance of eating organic food, Eva Carazo and Erika Valverde gave a rousing lecture titled ‘The psychosocial meaning of seeds in the ‘campesino’ movement,’ and Alejandra Bonilla spoke on behalf of the National Network of Rural Women. Throughout the day, members of Red Permanezca, the Costa Rican permaculture group and network, and other collectives such as Bloque Verde (‘Green Block’) were present and organized a festive event which included foods and crafts by local, small businesses as well as a bartering-based seed exchange. These groups have been instrumental in the ongoing protest denouncing the presence of GMOs in Costa Rica — namely those patented by corporate giant Monsanto. The free event ended with a two-hour long keynote address by Shiva in which she talked about the worldwide fight against genetically modified seed and its adverse effects on biodiversity.
Earlier in the week, and in a somewhat controversial move, she met with several presidential candidates — as Costa Rica is currently in the process of electing a new president — most notably with young, radical candidate José María Villalta, who has garnered support from the increasingly-popular green movement for his long history of opposition towards the agro-industrial giant Monsanto and other projects which threaten Costa Rica’s unique position as one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Head of the eco-conscious political party, Frente Amplio (‘The Broad Front’), Villalta lost the first round of elections just two days ago, on February the 2nd. Uncertainty and worry now surround the future of the country’s rural farmers, national parks, and seed heritage as a new government emerges.
In an increasingly globalized country whose governments have had a tendency to favor foreign capitalist development and growth at the expense and to the detriment of the environment, Shiva’s visit could not have come at a better time, and her words proved both provoking and inspiring. In the short video-message above, recorded for food idealists, she urged Costa Rica to say no to patents and genetically modified organisms, and to care and fight for native seeds. As part of Mesoamerica, Costa Rica is directly threatened by Monsanto’s infamous corn seeds as there is a centuries-long, beautiful, traditional culture surrounding corn, most notable in the rural province of Guanacaste, which borders Nicaragua, and is famous for its heirloom, purple variety called pujagua. Take a look at the brief video and join Costa Rica and Latin America in the fight to save its biodiversity.