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A Visit to My Kitchen: Vandana Shiva

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Vandana Shiva is in my kitchen today, sharing her thoughts on organic food, the differences in food between cultures, and her hands-on approach to getting her news.

Vandana Shiva is an internationally known scientist, environmental activist, and author from India.

Why is living organic important to you?

By going organic, you avoid genetically modified food. I've had letters from Chinese scientists at the peak of the SARS epidemic who said the problem is a hybridization between the viruses planted into GMO feed, which is then fed to animals, then the virus jumped from the animals to humans. We're going to see more and more of these kinds of risks. I think the whole issue of the H1N1 virus was the fact that it had genes for three influenza types--human, chicken, pig. All of these crossings are becoming possible because of the crossing of genes across species barriers.

In the U.S., because the main crops genetically modified are soy and corn, I think the best way to avoid them is to avoid processed food. I think there are such delicious alternatives; people should promote local markets and organic food, that's where you can ensure you're not being imposed with a GM diet.

What was your favorite food growing up?

My favorite food growing up and still is kichdi. It's this amazing Indian dish that is both the laziest dish and sort of the sacred dish. And it's also the most healthy dish; it's given when you're ill. It's a mix of rices and spices, especially lentils and any vegetable you can put into it. It's a holistic meal in one. And with a bit of yogurt, it's wonderful.

What's your go-to comfort food now?

It still is kichdi, because no matter the situation, if I have a kichdi I'm happy. If I'm ill and I get it, I'm happy; if there's no time, you can easily put it all together and I'm happy. My sister makes the best kichdi. We live together. There's a beautiful harvest festival in South and North India. Although they're very different kinds of harvest festivals, the symbolization of a good harvest is an overflowing pot of kichdi.

What's the one thing in your kitchen you just couldn't live without?

For Vandana's video response, go to

What magazine, website, book, album, or product are you most obsessed with right now?

I don't get obsessed, and definitely not with the Web. I'm from the generation that grew up pre-computers. I suffer the Internet; I'm not addicted to it. My ultimate creativity comes from paper and pen; I still handwrite all my books. What I am obsessed with is finding creative ways to get people more involved in protecting this beautiful earth and getting them to feel like they have the ability to make a difference.

What's the most important news story today that you think we all need to pay more attention to?

That Monsanto is going down, and the need to support the farmers and give them alternatives to farming without Monsanto's aid.

Where do you get your news?

I get my news from actually being in the situation where things are happening. So if there's a flood, I go to the place where there's a flood to see if it was caused by rain or caused by a release of water from a dam. If farmers are dying because they are committing suicide, I go to the places where they're doing studies to try to figure out why they're committing suicide.

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