Category: News

madeline-hughes-data (1)Who wouldn’t agree? 2017 was a year of mind-blowing events.

We won’t even try to address the politics here. Instead we’ll take a look at a (heretofore) safe subject: The weather. Specifically, what several natural disasters meant for our food supply.

In February, ongoing drought in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia resulted in famine so severe the U.N.’s Under Secretary General described it as “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.”

In March, Cyclone Debbie ravaged Queensland, Australia and caused unprecedented losses for vegetable, sugar and horticultural farmers.

April’s monsoon rains in Sri Lanka created the worst floods in decades, compromised up to fifty percent of agricultural land and left nearly a million people food-insecure. (This, by the way, followed the country’s worst drought in forty years.)

In August, more epic flooding in Southeast Asia created severe food shortages and polluted the water supply for 16 million people across Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, costing the United States US$200 million in agricultural losses.

September’s Hurricane Irma damaged up to 90 percent of agricultural lands in the Caribbean, Cuba and the Florida peninsula and Hurricane Maria delivered the same devastation in Puerto Rico.

October brought historic wildfires: Northern California wine country suffered US$3 billion in damages and the fire ruined the livelihoods ofseasonal farm workers.

And, as we write this in December, the largest wildfire in California’s history rages in the biggest avocado and lemon-producing region in the U.S. The agricultural losses are yet to be calculated.

Catastrophic weather events change the DNA of the areas impacted in ways that we may never be able to fully compute. Yes, many of these areas will bounce back. But they will bounce back differently than they were before.

In this era of climate change, can we predict or control what that “different” will be? How do we protect our food supply from future catastrophic weather events? And, afterwards, how can our farms and farmers recover well enough to feed us again?

There is a great source of hope in traditional seed: Because, more than GMOs or hybrid seeds, naturally adapted seed has the best chance of surviving weather disasters to feed us in the future.

Here’s how Vandana Shiva describes it:

Extreme weather/Seed Play ButtonIn addition, organic, biodiverse agriculture that respects the integrity of the soil and natural water systems can also prevent and mitigate extreme weather damage.

Permaculture, biodynamics, agroecology—any regenerative agricultural system that works with nature’s processes—will invariably fare better in drought conditions, recover better after fire or freeze and absorb water better when flooding occurs.

It’s on this hopeful note that we look forward to the New Year. In concert with Mother Earth, we have the tools to restore, to adapt, to feed the world and to thrive.

It all begins by showing some love for the seed.

We wish you all the very best for 2018!

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Precious and Kale
Meet Precious Phiri who spends her days teaching farmers in Zimbabwe how to mitigate climate change.
Specifically, she instructs them in holistic land management, a method that rejuvenates depleted water and degraded soil while drawing climate-changing C02 out of the atmosphere.
Originally trained by the Savory Institute, the enthusiastic Ms. Phiri explains that a cornerstone of holistic management is that eco-systems without animals create ecological imbalance. Grasslands, for example, deteriorate when the food chain that keeps them alive is disturbed. Deprived of a symbiotic relationship with ruminants, grass dies and then soil dies. And, in the process, climate-disrupting carbon discharges into the atmosphere.
It’s simple but not obvious: Ecosystems need both fauna and flora to thrive. Think of the oceans without whales or Yellowstone National Park without wolves. It’s the great web of life.
The phenomenon, sometimes described as a “trophic cascade,” is a biological process that flows between every part of the food chain.
Here Precious explains it: 
Precious Phiri Play Button
Here’s another obvious but often-overlooked fact: Healthy humans come from healthy food that originates in healthy soil. And there is no way to support this synergy between our health and the biosphere in an industrial food system: Big Ag and Big Food disrupts precious water cycles, destroys biodiversity, pummels the biosphere with toxic pesticides, and imprisons innocent animals that should be on the land. This isn’t mere sentiment; it’s actually climate science.
In a regenerative world, it’s OK to eat meat, but if you’re going to do so, it’s imperative to transition to organic, grass-fed and free-range–and not in the quantities Big Ag and Big Food would have you do. Any other way and we are contributing to global warming, impacting our health and, by the way, engaging significantly in animal cruelty. Of course it’s more than OK to be vegan or vegetarian but, ecologically speaking, there is also an argument for conscious meat eating.
Vandana Shiva is vegetarian and also a founding member of Regeneration International, an organization that promotes and researches this stuff. Here’s a clip of her talking about the animals at her Navdanya farm.
Cover for Vimeo 11.15.16
And here are some books to read if you’d like to know more:
It’s a whole new world of hope for the environment, the climate and our own health. Perhaps the most hopeful story ever that too few people have heard.
P.S: About progress on our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story: We’ve just completed laying in additional dialogue, now we’re working on music and B-Roll. Onwards we go!
Please contribute to this next phase of our film about Dr. Shiva’s life story here: Every bit helps to get the film completed (and into your hands) sooner rather than later!

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Sheela with Seeds Navdanya

Would you believe it: It’s been four years since we finished our film Sons of Africa and had the idea to tell the life story of Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Yes, filmmaking takes time! And The Seeds of Vandana Shiva is taking great shape.

Here’s why you haven’t heard from us lately: We are deeply immersed in sourcing archival footage and photographs, listening to music to inspire a score, fact checking, cleaning up dialogue—all consuming and important work that is hard to report about when you’re busy doing it. We remain grateful to everyone who has supported this leg of the journey.

But today we’re abandoning all that and hitting the road! First stop, Santa Rosa, California. Vandana is speaking at the inspiring and colorful Heirloom Seed Expo, and if you’re in the area, we encourage you to attend. She’s appearing on a panel with Robert Kennedy Jr., on the issue of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp) that has been named as a probable carcinogen by the W.H.O. Next she’s addressing the tension between our seed supply and corporate interests, as well as the Care What You Wear campaign about how our clothing purchases can impact an ecologically toxic and unjust garment industry.

On the evening of September 6 Vandana will open the Soil Not Oil conference, a powerful three-day event featuring artists, activists and academics sharing new information on regenerative agriculture and the social-ecological health of the earth. The conference was inspired by her book, Soil Not Oil, a must-read in this era of obvious (and heart-rending) climate disasters.

At the end of the month we’re attending the Regeneration International General Assembly at Rancho Via Organica in Mexico. We look forward to filming and connecting with partners and allies to discuss plans for the film’s distribution.

And in case we again get caught up in editing and neglect to write to you before November, we must alert you to the Pathway To Paris Concert (Carnegie Hall, New York, November 5) featuring a line up of amazing musicians—Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Flea, Talib Kweli, Tanya Tagaq, Tenzin Choegyal—plus words of wisdom by Bill McKibbon ( and Vandana Shiva! More than ever now, it’s all about climate change. Food systems play a huge part, not only causing up to 50% of the problem, but also offering solutions to solve it. OK, we admit it. For this one we can’t wait.

In between all of that, we will keep at it, looking forward to when we can show you the film!

BTW:  Our cover picture, taken by Pramod Kamothi at Dr. Shiva’s Navdanya farm features seed keeper and farmer Sheela Godial with an abundant harvest of fox tail millet, a nutritious but forgotten heritage crop being restored at the farm.

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We understand you are inundated with fundraising appeals at this time of the year. We are too and, like you, have been doing what we can to support the causes we care about.
Standing Rock, for example, is very much on our minds. While we are celebrating the news that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied Energy Transfer Partners permits to continue construction through Lake Oahe, we are still sending supplies and prayers of support. Why? Hundreds of waterways are still under threat, the investors issued a statement that they intend to proceed anyway, and the incoming US President—a financial stakeholder—has made it quite clear where he stands on the issue. It’s not over yet.
We can’t help but draw parallels with the stand-off in North Dakota and an historic event in The Seeds of Vandana Shiva. We want to share that story with you because despite seemingly insurmountable odds, in time the peaceful protestors prevailed.
We’re talking about Chipko—the historic Tree-Hugging movement—that began in the Himalayan forests where Vandana grew up. In 1973, a small group of indigenous tribal women rose up in non-violent resistance to the reckless deforestation of their ancestral homes. Rampant commercial logging was destroying their lives, including the soil and water on which they depended.
Just as the First Americans at Standing Rock today stand between precious water and DAPL construction crews, the women of Chipko stood between precious trees and the logging machines. A young Vandana Shiva played a key role, communicating in English what was happening to the outside world.
Here’s a short clip from our rough-cut to give you an impression:
Think about it: Without the Internet, cell phones, video cameras or social media, a motley resistance started by a small group of women grew into an international movement that became a precedent for non-violent protest across the globe.
In the end Prime Minister Indira Gandhi issued a state order that banned logging in the Himalayas. Better yet, this was followed by programs to restore ecological health to the forests and waterways.
The Tree Huggers prevailed. The Water Protectors can too.
If you support education and inspiration about ecological and social action, please donate to our fundraiser for The Seeds of Vandana Shiva that is active now:
With good wishes,
Jim Becket, Camilla Becket  and Jim Whitney

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Almost every week we receive messages from organic food activists, film festivals, universities and other organizations eager to screen The Seeds of Vandana Shiva to their constituencies. We love the encouragement, and look forward to sharing the film!
To do this, we need to raise $20,000 before the end of the year.
Before you say “hmmm, that’s a mountain to climb,” let us explain and also share some great news.
We need this amount to pay our editors to complete a final cut. They’re available to work with us from the beginning of January but, without funding, they will be forced to look for other work and we will lose them. We also have ongoing post-production and technical costs.
The good news is that The Reva & David Logan Foundation has generously offered to match the next $20,000 that we raise. We are on a short list to receive a grant for much needed post-production deals from The Roy W. Dean Foundation; Patagonia has stepped up to support a brilliant outreach campaign we are planning for when the film is released (thank you Patagonia) and we have already raised $3,500 towards our goal.
Now we are asking you, friends and fans to help us to raise the final $16,500 before January 1st so that we can claim our matching grant. Every donation is tax-deductible and every gift over $25 will receive a free download of the finished film. See below for two additional rewards (both of which make wonderful Holiday gifts!)
The totes and aprons are made of high quality organic cotton in a rich navy blue. Produced by EcoConscious, they are also sustainably sourced and fair traded.
We only have 50 units of each so order soon to make sure you get the item you like, especially if you are planning to share it as a gift. Remember your contribution is tax deductible!
For the sake of our planet, our children and grandchildren, we must seize all opportunities to turn our gaze from the leadership crisis in the US to take in the perspective of other world figures. The Seeds of Vandana Shiva profiles one of these leaders while it also promotes ecological food systems and solutions for climate change. Told through the life story of an extraordinary role model for modern times, The Seeds of Vandana Shiva is entertainment, education and mobilization rolled into a truly inspiring experience.
We send seasonal wishes and gratitude to you for your support of our work!

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Thank you to the hundreds of people from all over the world that completed our survey. In fact we are still receiving responses; if you are interested, join our “advisory team” and complete it here.
We asked you what was your top concern, and you told us: Access to Healthy Food.
That said, as one respondent noted in her comment: “Everything here is connected–and urgent.” That thinking is clearly reflected in the results.
Following Access to Healthy Food (79%), you prioritized:
Pesticides, Herbicides and other Toxins in our Food (78%)
Environmental Degradation and Pollution (78%)
Climate Change (73%)
Loss of Biodiversity (73%)
Corporate Influence over Government Food Policies (73%)
Globalization (71%)
Hunger and Poverty (71%)
Displacement of Farmers and Land Grabs (71%)
Unfair Trade Deals (60%)
Here’s a short video clip we just put together of Dr. Shiva addressing the issue of interconnectedness…and quantum theory!

 We received hundreds of comments on the survey. Most mentioned the difficulty of ranking any one problem over another and many were understandably despairing of the status quo. A few respondents stood firm that industrial agriculture and GMOs were the solution to the issues we listed; in fact one suggested we “start embracing biotechnology and leave outdated, environmentally unsound organic practices behind.”
Here is a short selection of other thoughts from different participants.
“I am Native American and a sustainability scientist. I believe if you explain more about colonization, economic imperialism and unethical for-profit science, more people will fight to stop those influences.”
“I would bring up the loss of tradition, knowledge and cultural/social diversity as well as the loss of connection between land, seasons, people and food that is at the core of healthy food.”
“Hearing about solutions would be very high on my list of priorities. Knowing what’s being done and working makes me a better advocate and activist. And a more hopeful person.”
“It’s not going take old minds with new programs to change the direction our societal river is flowing–it’s going take new minds and an entirely new vision.”
“Time is running out. We must pull together and re-energize grassroots movements to overcome these perils.”
We agree. The enormously critical issue of food was ignored by both candidates in the U.S. presidential race, despite a bi-partisan poll  that found that 53% of likely voters agreed that too many Americans can’t afford healthy food in their communities, 81% believe that food policy is focused on money over health, and 75% favor State support of sustainable farming.
The President Elect has no published food policy, is considering a Cabinet list that includes Big Ag executives to the Department of Agriculture and a Climate Change denier leading the Environmental Protection Agency.
Our only hope is the burgeoning food justice movement that does more than call foul on polluters, but also offers real solutions to the food crisis, the environmental crisis and the crisis of democracy all put together in a message of hope. Presidents and politicians will never save us; historically, only strong grassroots movements have ever brought about meaningful change.
So, onwards: Our next post will include video commentary on the issues raised in the survey.

By the way, we’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comments here and let us know what you think.

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We need your help. We are editing The Seeds of Vandana Shiva and we’d like to ask you to take a short survey. 

It’s about our food system: What is most important to you? What concerns you most?
The survey should take you less than two minutes, but your opinion will help us to make this film the best it can be.
Look out for our next newsletter (coming soon) with the survey results and a video featuring Vandana Shiva about your top concern.


Many thanks!

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 Last year in India we filmed several intense planning sessions between Vandana Shiva and key members of the food justice movement about their vision for an International Tribunal against Monsanto.
Exactly a year later, on October 15 and 16 (World Food Day) those plans came to fruition. More than a thousand witnesses, journalists and activists participated in a historically significant People’s Tribunal that charged Monsanto and agri-business with crimes against people and the environment.
Expert witnesses came from across the planet, from five continents and from both industrialized and developing nations. We were there too.
Of course there was plenty of disturbing and heartbreaking evidence of Monsanto’s transgressions; pollution, deforestation, biopiracy, land grabbing, harassment of independent scientists and nefarious political lobbying to name a few. There was also clear testimony about the impacts of agricultural poisons on creatures and people.
The chair of the trial was Judge Françoise Tulkens, former Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights. Click through for a short video of her perspective in the closing comments:
Fortunately, the litany of Monsanto’s offenses was offset by the lively People’s Assembly that took place in tandem with the Tribunal. At this event, 500 stakeholders, representing more than 1,000 signatory organizations, crafted an empowering message of hope.
Together they pledged to collaborate on growing democratic, healthy, and ecological food chains to mitigate environmental destruction, hunger and climate change. 5-10 percent of all agricultural producers are already practicing regenerative techniques, and there are millions of conscious consumers choosing organic, humane and fair traded products instead of the junk that Big Food produces.
The Monsanto Tribunal marked a fitting end of two years of filming for The Seeds of Vandana Shiva.
We’ve followed Vandana to many places in the world and we have talked at length to her, and others, about her life. It has been a mind-blowing and supremely educational ride and we look forward to sharing the completed film with you.
Our editors have just finished a first cut; now we are knuckling down to the next round of editing and post production. We’ll let you know how we progress; in the meantime, look out for an email coming November 7. We have a very important question to ask you!

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Photo credit Dan Gill, Associated Press
Over the past year The Seeds of Vandana Shiva project has evolved in numerous exciting ways and we are eager to tell you about it.
But first we must let you know we have just arrived in The Hague, Netherlands, where the permanent International Criminal Court prosecutes the gravest crimes of concern to the international community—genocide, war and crimes against humanity.
This weekend, from October 14th to 16th and coinciding with World Food Day on Sunday, five internationally respected judges will hear witnesses and experts from around the world at an historic People’s Tribunal against Monsanto. Over 800 organizations are supporting and participating in this event and we have been asked to film at the proceedings.
Despite growing global awareness and grassroots opposition, Monsanto has thus far avoided responsibility for the human and environmental damage caused by its products. By way of a systematic and powerful strategy that includes distributing false scientific studies and manipulating the press, the company continues to pursue and expand its destructive activities around the world.
You may already know that Bayer just bought Monsanto for $66 billion. And this is, in fact, not the only merger in process: ChemChina and Syngenta plan to merge. So do Dow Chemical and DuPont.
The agrochemical industry is already dominated by only 6 companies—Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont—that control 60% of commercial seed and more than 75% of agrochemical markets. If all these mergers are approved, 4 corporations—whose business, let’s remember, is in poisons and pharmaceuticals—will have unprecedented power over our food supply.
This is why Monsanto is not the only focus of the Tribunal’s efforts. Multinational agribusiness that pollutes air, soil and water, destroys biodiversity, devastates communities and significantly contributes to climate change must—and will—one day be stopped. There are well documented and scientifically proven ecological ways to feed the world, restore health to the planet and mitigate climate change. This is what Dr. Vandana Shiva’s life of activism and our film is about.
Although the Tribunal will not have the power to enforce its judgment, observers believe the process will set an important precedent for the ICC to prosecute ecocide. In fact, last month the court issued a press release stating that it looks forward to prosecuting environmental crimes, including the destruction and exploitation of natural resources and the illegal dispossession of land. This is a new addition to the ICC mandate, which before focused exclusively on crimes against people.
The Monsanto Tribunal is a big deal and we are honored that the organizers have asked us to participate in this landmark event.
We’ll be posting to our Facebook page and Twitter account over the weekend, and for even more information—including a live stream of the action—see here and here.
On our return we can’t wait to write to you with our impressions. Also, look out for a forthcoming newsletter about what else we’ve been up to, including where we are with the film.
Here’s Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food on the significance of the proceedings.

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Soil Not Oil banner
“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” Vandana Shiva
Join us on Thursday July 21st when local groups will come together in Ojai to support both the Soil Not Oil International Campaign and the upcoming second annual Soil Not Oil Conference with an evening gathering of film and discussion. Camilla will be there sharing new excerpts from The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, and there will be other short films on soils and carbon farming.
An Evening Gathering to Support
The 2nd Annual Soil Not Oil Conference
Thursday July 21, 7.30PM
At The Farmer and The Cook, 339 W. El Roblar, Ojai, CA 93023
Our advisory board member Steve Sprinkel will be there, so will Margie Bushman & Wes Roe of Santa Barbara Permaculture Network, David White from Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Conor Love Jones of East End Eden Farm
Why are we supporting Soil Not Oil?
In 2015 the first Soil Not Oil Conference was held in Northern California in solidarity with the Soil Not Oil and Terra Viva Campaigns launched by Dr. Shiva, who was one of the first to make the connection between climate change and the disastrous soil practices of industrial agriculture.
Because our lives are entirely dependent on the health of our soils, Soil Not Oil and Terra Viva advocate for the care and regeneration of soils worldwide. These campaigns and the Soil Not Oil Coalition call for the extensive restructuring of land management practices, especially in agriculture.
Permaculture, agroecology and all regenerative agriculture practices are key to combating climate change, restoring water cycles, stopping ocean acidification, re-establishing biodiversity, improving food production, and revitalizing local economies across the planet.
What’s not to like?
As we face the possibility of only four more years of water in our valley, we know that rapidly accelerating human-caused climate change is an imminent global threat, including to us in Ojai. One clear thing to do is reverse our engagement in the fossil fuel food system, which not only pollutes ecosystems but is a huge driver of climate change. 
The Soil Not Oil Coalition’s call for integrated action to restore global soil quality is one of the key things we must do to ensure a safe and healthy world for generations to come. Here’s a little known fact: Just the first meter of soil contains as much carbon as the entire atmosphere, and there’s potential to soak up much more.
For more information on this event, please contact Margie.
See you at F&C,
Camilla Becket
Jim Becket
Jim Whitney

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