The Gift of Food

by Vandana Shiva

The food we eat, the food that nourishes us, is a gift from the earth, from the sun, from millions of years of evolution.

It is also a gift from the farmers, livestock herders, fisher folk, who till the land, care for animals, and harvest fish. When we forget the earth from where we receive our food, food becomes non-sustainable. Food is life. Food is not just over vital need: it is the web of life.

As the Taittiriya Upanishad says:

“From food(anna), verily, creatures are produced/ Whatsoever (creatures) dwell on the earth…/ For truly, food is the chief of the beings

Beings here are born from food, when born/ they live by food,/ On deceasing they enter the food.”

Food is alive: it is not just pieces of carbonhydrate, protein, and nutrient, it is a being; it is a sacred being.

“Verily, they obtain all food/ Who worship Brahma as food.”

In the word of Matha Ashwamedhika;

“The giver of the food is the giver of life, and indeed of everything else, / Therefore, one who desires well-being in this world and beyond should/ Specially endeavour to give food…/ Food is indeed the preserver of life/ and food is the source of procreation.”

Because food is the very basis of creation, food is creation, and it is the Creator. It is Divinity in the context of the way we live: there are all kinds of duties that we should be performing with respect to it.

If people have food it is because society has not forgotten those duties. If people are going hungry, society has moved away from the ethical duties related to food.

There is the predominant myth that industrial corporate agriculture produces more food. There is what justifies destruction of small farms and small farmers. However, this false productivity only measures commodities per labor input, not food and nutrition per unit land or water or energy. On the one hand this hides the high output of small, biodiverse, organic farms. On the other hand it hides the high external input of industrial monocultures, which use ten times more energy than they produce as food. Industrial farms also use ten times more water than ecological farms.



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