Suicide in India and How to Stop It

Vandana Shiva writes in Huffington Post about India:
200,000 farmers have ended their lives since 1997.
In just one Indian state:
1593 farmers committed suicide in Chattisgarh in 2007. Before 2000 no farmers suicides are reported in the state.
In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds, which need fertilizers and pesticides and cannot be saved.

Corporations prevent seed savings through patents and by engineering seeds with non-renewable traits. As a result, poor peasants have to buy new seeds for every planting season and what was traditionally a free resource, available by putting aside a small portion of the crop, becomes a commodity. This new expense increases poverty and leads to indebtness.

And that’s not all:
The shift from saved seed to corporate monopoly of the seed supply also represents a shift from biodiversity to monoculture in agriculture. The district of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh used to grow diverse legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Now the imposition of cotton monocultures has led to the loss of the wealth of farmer’s breeding and nature’s evolution.

Monocultures and uniformity increase the risk of crop failure, as diverse seeds adapted to diverse to eco-systems are replaced by the rushed introduction of uniform and often untested seeds into the market. When Monsanto first introduced Bt Cotton in 2002, the farmers lost 1 billion rupees due to crop failure. Instead of 1,500 kilos per acre as promised by the company, the harvest was as low as 200 kilos per acre. Instead of incomes of 10,000 rupees an acre, farmers ran into losses of 6,400 rupees an acre. In the state of Bihar, when farm-saved corn seed was displaced by Monsanto’s hybrid corn, the entire crop failed, creating 4 billion rupees in losses and increased poverty for desperately poor farmers. Poor peasants of the South cannot survive seed monopolies. The crisis of suicides shows how the survival of small farmers is incompatible with the seed monopolies of global corporations.

And that’s not even all. See the article for the rest.

But what can be done?

The suicide economy is not an inevitability. Navdanya has started a Seeds of Hope campaign to stop farmers suicides. The transition from seeds of suicide to seeds of hope includes :
  • a shift from GMO and non renewable seeds to organic, open pollinated seed varieties which farmers can save and share.
  • a shift from chemical farming to organic farming.
  • a shift from unfair trade based on false prices to fair trade based on real and just prices.
The farmers who have made this shift are earning 10 times more than the farmers growing Monsanto’s Bt-cotton.
And that’s the bottom line.

3 thoughts on “Suicide in India and How to Stop It

  1. Johnny

    Unfortunately it’s not that simple now the genie is out of the bottle. GMO crops are likely to have contaminated the gene pool of all the plants in the areas that GMO crops are deployed.
    It has become clear that gene transfer between even different species is much more widespread than previously supposed, see for instance:
    I predict that you’ll find it being admitted, in the foreseeable future, that this phenomenon is common in plants and even higher animals. The apparent hierarchy of “the tree of life” is pretty much entirely a construct of human cognitive processes and not a real feature of phenomenal reality.
    Plus, in spite of what that snake-oil salesman Craig Venter and suchlike claim, we’re actually discovering that we’re at the very first baby steps of our understanding of genetics.
    What Monsanto is doing with GMO is at best criminally irresponsible – but given corporations in law have person status I’d call it criminally insane. But for Monsanto the only thing that matters is the bottom line and profit projections in a spreadsheet.
    And, as you know, I’m the furthest from one of those bleeding heart hippy liberal types you’re likely to meet (and as it happens have a degree in the Biological Sciences).

  2. John Quarterman

    Right, the problem isn’t GMO per se; it’s the use of GMO and the law to prevent seed reuse, to implement monocultures, to enforce use of pesticides, etc., all in the pursuit of corporate profit at the expense of everything else.

  3. Johnny

    GMO wouldn’t be possible without Monsanto, Monsanto wouldn’t be possible without Big Government, Big Government wouldn’t be possible without the likes of Monsanto.
    But they’re evil not stupid, hence facilities like this:
    They know they’re playing with fire.
    GMO is fundamentally different from selective breeding and the domestication of plants and animals, much, much more problematic. But I don’t suppose it can be stopped, because money shouts loudest.

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