Churches in India have been urged to promote “earth citizenship” by Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmentalist honored for placing women and ecology at the heart of development discourse.

“We have to protect the earth to uphold our right to food and to ensure our own survival. Then only, can we exercise our fundamental rights and democracy,” said Shiva, delivering the annual lecture on July 31 in Bangalore in honor of M. A. Thomas, the founder of the city’s Ecumenical Christian Center.

“Both earth and democracy are in deep trouble and neither can be recovered without the other,” Shiva said in her address to more than 200 church delegates, including Methodist Bishop Taranath Sagar, chairperson of the centre and president of the National Council of Churches in India.

She said that the “immorality and greed” of agro-industry has hit fundamental rights through genetically modified seeds and plants, just as dictatorship and state terror take away democratic rights.

Shiva noted that while several years ago cotton seed could be bought at 6 rupees (13 cents) per kilogram, the price had shot up to 3,600 rupees ($78) per kilogram for genetically modified cotton seed.

Cotton farmers are driven into debt and sometimes commit suicide from despair when such expensive crops fail, she said.

At the same time, land is deprived of its fertility due to toxic technology, asserted Shiva, who in 1993 received the Right Livelihood Award presented by the Swedish parliament for placing women and ecology at the heart of modern development discourse.

Shiva said technology for genetically modifying crops is destroying, “God’s creation by manipulating and incapacitating the plant’s capacity to reproduce.”

She urged churches to help preserve bio-diversity and promote natural farming by supporting organic agriculture by purchasing such products in bulk from the producers.

“You have plenty of institutions: schools, colleges, hostels and hospitals. If you start buying organic farm products, the high commission and packaging charges can be avoided and the produce will be cheaper,” said Shiva.

Such a step, she said, would prompt temples and charities also to support organic farming.

Speaking to ENInews, Shiva said she had received “tremendous support” at a local level from Christians and churches. However, “at the top level, the church is sleeping and yet to wake up” about environmental degradation and the dangers of genetically modified produce.