Over the past decade, millions of Indian farmers have been promised radically increased harvests and income if they switch from their traditional age tested farming methods to genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds. So, they borrow money to buy GM seeds, which need certain pesticides, which requires more money. And when rain fall is sparse, the GM crops fare far worse than traditional crops – a fact that these farmers oftentimes don’t learn until it’s too late and they’re standing there with failed crops, spiraling debts, and no income.
Monsanto has been ruthless in their drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops, and it gives us a very clear picture of what could be in store for the rest of the world’s small farmers if they’re allowed to continue.
Making matters worse, these GM seeds also contain “suicide genes” that render the seeds from this year’s crop useless. They simply won’t grow, so you cannot save them to plant for your next season’s harvest – a traditional farming method that’s been used since the dawn of farming itself. This means farmers are forced to buy the patented seeds and fertilizer again and again, every year.
But that’s not all.
Bt resistant pests and Roundup tolerant super weeds are on the rise, rendering the two major GM crop traits useless as well. The evolution of BT resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented.The end result is that farmers are left with all of the downsides and none of the intended benefits.
So, while drought may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some farmers in India, it’s the globalization model of agriculture promoted by companies like Monsanto and Cargill that is the underlying cause of the problem.
The renowned physicist and anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva describes how farmers are essentially tricked into a corner they cannot get out of. In a 2006 interview with Democracy Now! She said:
“A few weeks ago, I was in Punjab. 2,800 widows of farmer suicides who have lost their land, are having to bring up children as landless workers on others’ land. And yet, the system does not respond to it, because there’s only one response: get Monsanto out of the seed sector–they are part of this genocide — and ensure WTO rules are not bringing down the prices of agricultural produce in the United States, in Canada, in India, and allow trade to be honest.
I don’t think we need to talk about free trade and fair trade. We need to talk about honest trade. Today’s trade system, especially in agriculture, is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It’s become a genocide.”
This latest round of mass suicides in India should be a wake-up call to us all — that the industrial agriculture model is literally killing the farmers of our world. We can see it as a call to become more vigilant than ever, and speak out against corporations that exploit farmers and the earth for their own selfish and greedy goals. If we don’t, they will succeed – whether intentionally or unintentionally – to create unspeakable suffering for our children, grandchildren and future generations.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, more than 182,900 Indian farmers took their own lives between 1997 and 2007. It estimates 46 Indian farmers commit suicide every day. That equates to roughly one suicide every 30 minutes!
And although some will argue that natural events are to blame, such as lack of rain, the fact many believe the situation can be traced directly back to the unconscionable tactics of Monsanto, which is driving these farmers into very desperate actions.