June 2010 cover SCAN - St. Catherine University St. Catherine University
June 2010
 
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Passage to India

Alumna, Fulbright scholar to study women and biotechnology in rural India.

Alison Palacio '08When Alison Palacios ’08 read Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace by Indian physicistturned-environmental-activist Vandana Shiva, she didn’t realize how much she would be affected by the book about genetic engineering, the privatization of natural resources and disempowerment of rural Indian women.

The St. Kate’s alumna graduated with honors in economics and international relations. Last October she submitted a Fulbright application to study the effects of biotechnology on women laborers in India. Recently she received the good news.

How do you feel about winning this highly coveted scholarship?
I’m excited. I was really banking on it, and I didn’t have a Plan B.

Why India?
India is the perfect place for this research because of the pronounced gender divisions and the significant percentage of the population that is rural and largely dependent on agriculture. Moreover, India has strong ties to U.S. agricultural interests; several U.S.-based biotechnology firms have a presence in India — Monsanto, Pioneer, Cargill — and target the Indian market to meet food demand from a growing and already enormous population.

Tell us about your trip.
From August to December 2010, I will be based in Delhi, working primarily in nearby rural areas with the Institute of Rural Research and Development, a non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable development and women’s empowerment.

Then in 2011, I will spend January through April as a research scholar with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad. And on the side, I’ll work with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, Vandana Shiva and Pioneer Seed Company to observe their training courses for farmers and access some of their data and corporate contacts.

You’re meeting Vandana Shiva, the author whose book inspired your trip?
Yes, she turned out to be really accessible. I hope to spend a week or two visiting her nonprofit, Navdanya, which promotes biodiversity and organic farming.

Why is this work important now?
Little, if any, research has been done specifically on biotechnology and rural Indian women. More is needed to shed light on the interconnectedness of women’s socioeconomic wellbeing and agricultural production.

How do the lives of women in rural India affect us here in the United States?
Even though we’re half a world away, we live under the same food system. Systemic changes that improve their socioeconomic condition and food security will also be favorable for middle-class America, and everybody else.

— PAULINE OO


 

 

graphic: From the Heart
graphic: Passage to India