Are GM Seeds to Blame for Indian Farmer Suicides?
May 10, 2013
Posted by Adam Pugen
ince 1995, more than 270,000 farmers have committed suicide in India, amounting to one death every 30 minutes. Described by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice as the largest wave of suicides in recorded history, the calamity is indicative of India’s agrarian crisis, particularly within the cotton producing regions of Vidharbha, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Karnataka.
While many studies cite economic desperation as the prime cause of the suicides, there is wide disagreement on what or who to blame specifically. One of the popular narratives indicts biotech giants such as Monsanto for monopolizing India with expensive and low yielding genetically modified (GM) cottonseed. This view became prevalent in 2008 when Prince Charles addressed a conference in Delhi, lamenting “the truly appalling and tragic rate of farmer suicides in India, stemming…from the failure of many GM crop varieties.” This spurred an article entitled “The GM genocide,” documenting reporter Andrew Malone’s visit to the ‘suicide belt’ in Maharashtra state. “Village after village,” Malone wrote, “families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.”
GM seeds began to dominate Indian agriculture after trade agreements were settled between the Indian government and the International Monetary Fund. In exchange for IMF loans in the 80s and 90s, which helped restructure India’s economy, agricultural conglomerates like Monsanto, Cargill and Syngenta were given preferential access to Indian markets. Since then, India’s agricultural market has been flooded with BT cotton or what GM salespeople call ‘magic seeds’ supposedly capable of producing unprecedented yields while reducing the need for pesticides.
The problem, according to the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice, is that farmers are not properly informed that BT cottonseeds require a far greater amount of water than natural varieties, and demand irrigation techniques few farmers can afford. While these directions are printed on BT cotton boxes, they are only printed in English, which is not widely read by Indian farmers.
More misleading are the rigged demonstrations by multinational corporations wherein BT cotton thrives on large, well irrigated farms. The high yield is seen by dealers and small groups of farmers, who then vouch for the crops to customers and neighbors, wrongly thinking such results can be easily produced elsewhere. According to the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice, “The problem is compounded by the fact that agricultural training extension services, which may provide farmers with better information about BT cottonseeds, are a very small source of agricultural technology information.”
Even with this information, however, small farmers might have no choice but to sow unreliable GM seeds. As a result of government ties to agribusiness, BT cottonseeds are in many areas the only purchasing option, since non-GM varieties have been banned at government seed banks. Consequently, Indian farmers must sow a crop that is almost guaranteed to fail on their small, dry plots of land.
In addition to crop failure is farmers’ high economic investment in GM seeds. Since BT cotton can cost 10 times the amount of natural seeds, farmers are forced to obtain high interest loans from banks and/or moneylenders. Farmers must also buy new seeds each year, since GM varieties contain a special “terminator technology,” which precludes crops from producing viable new seeds. As the story goes, forced to buy inordinately priced and unsuccessful seeds each year, farmers sink more into debt and many take their own lives.
Comments : Anything that isn’t natural will hit us all back (genetically modified products) . Now it is also affecting the lives of farmers who are committing suicide due to poor yield. Neither the Government nor the people are doing anything to stop this. GM food which hardly has any nutrients will start causing various diseases, lack of immunity, infertility – all this resulting in population reduction. The rich will survive as it is clearly known that all the elite have their own gardens where the food is grown organically and it is the poor in the developing nations who are currently being tested like guinea pigs .
We need to react. Its simple –we need to stop buying GM products. When the demand stops organic farming can be revived and this will help us go back to a healthier life style.
Help yourself and the future .