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deforestation, and Kyasanur forest disease (KFD), a highly pathogenic virus, spread from monkeys to humans through virus-infected ticks as deforestation shrank the monkeys’ forest habitat.

The coronavirus is believed to have come from bats. American investigative journalist Sonia Shah said: “When we cut down the forests that the bats live in, they don’t just go away. They come and live in the trees in our backyards and farms.” Dennis Carroll, a specialist in zoonotic diseases who founded the USAID programme PREDICT and the Global Virome Project, acknowledges that as we invade ecosystems we create the potential for spread of infection.

Factory farming Diseases are not just spread through the consumption of wild animals. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease) is an infectious disease caused by deformed proteins called prions that affect the brains of cattle.

Cows were infected by BSE when they were fed rendered meat from dead infected cows. Some humans who ate beef from infected cows developed variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The prion is a self-infective agent, not a virus or bacterium. It illustrates that when animals are manipulated and their integrity and right to health are violated, new diseases can emerge.

Antibiotic resistance is growing in humans because of the intensive use of chemicals in factory farms. Antibioticresistance markers in GMOs could also be contributing to antibiotic resistance. Horizontal gene transfer across species is a scientifically known phenomenon. This is why we have biosafety science and regulations like the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biodiversity and national laws for biosafety.

The coronavirus crisis creates a new opportunity to make a paradigm shift

Toxic food system A toxic, industrialised, globalised food system is leading to an explosion of non-communicable chronic diseases. In the last few decades, non-communicable chronic diseases have been spreading exponentially and killing millions of people. Toxics and industrial food systems are major contributors to chronic diseases such as cancer, the second leading cause of death in the world, and diabetes.

The risks from infectious diseases like the coronavirus increase manifold when combined with the comorbidity of chronic diseases. The mortality rate of the coronavirus is said to be 1.6%, but for someone with cardiac problems it increases to 13.2%. With diabetes it increases to 9.2%, and with cancer to 7.6%.

Governments need to take the WHO as seriously on cancer as they have done during the coronavirus epidemic.

Sacred universe India’s greeting namaste has gone global in times of the coronavirus. The significance of namaste is not separation, but a deeper unity that connects us all. Namaste means “I bow to the divine in you.” It signifies an interconnectedness; that we are part of a sacred universe where everything is permeated by the divine for the benefit of all and the exclusion of none. This is the consciousness of oneness and unity that we need to cultivate in these times where a small virus has connected us across the globe through disease and panic.

The coronavirus crisis creates a new opportunity to make a paradigm shift from the mechanistic, industrial age of separation, domination, greed and disease to the age of Gaia, of a planetary civilisation based on the recognition that we are one Earth family, and that our health is one health rooted in ecological interconnectedness, diversity, regeneration and harmony.

Vandana Shiva is Director of Navdanya.

12 Resurgence & Ecologist

July/August 2020

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