India

Monsanto connected to at least 200,000 suicides in India throughout past decade

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Monsanto, suicides, health news

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(NaturalNews) When India's seed economy was forced by the World Bank to become globalized in the late 1990s, economic conditions within the nation's agricultural sector almost immediately took a nosedive for the worst. Much of the common Indian seed stock turned from saveable heirloom varieties to patented, genetically-modified (GM) varieties that expire after a single use and require the application of expensive and cumbersome pesticides in order to grow, which plunged many Indian farmers into abject poverty. And nearly 25 years later, the devastating effects of this corporate takeover of Indian agriculture has resulted in countless suicides, 200,000 of which have occurred just in the past ten years.

According to a recent report in the U.K. Independent, many Indian farmers have lost their farms and land over the past several decades. One of the primary causes is failed investments by farmers that banked heavily on the success of newly-introduced GM crops. Multinational biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Syngenta promised farmers that GM crops would bring incredible yields at lower costs, and save the country from poverty. But in reality, many of the crops ended up failing, leaving millions of Indian farmers with absolutely nothing.

"One farmer every 30 minutes (commits suicide) in India now, and sometimes three in one family," explained Palagummi Sainath, an Indian journalist, to the U.K. Independent. Left with nowhere to turn and a complete loss of their livelihoods, many farmers are literally drinking their crop pesticides. And since many of these suicides go unreported or unnoticed, actual rates could be even higher than those reported.

Years of drought and poor agricultural policy are also to blame for the widespread failure of agriculture in many Indian regions, but it all appears directly connected to the introduction of GMs in the 1990s. The U.K. Independent report states that the Indian government removed cotton subsidies in 1997, which resulted in a significant profit loss for many cotton farmers. But during that same year, GM varieties of cotton were also introduced, which many attribute directly to the crop failures that left the agriculture sector largely in ruin.

"Every suicide can be linked to Monsanto," explained scientist Vandana Shiva to the U.K. Independent. After subsidies were lifted, the cost of cotton production rose dramatically, especially when GM cotton was introduced because it required the application of expensive pesticides and herbicides. Natural varieties of cotton, on the other hand, do not necessarily require chemical applications to grow and flourish. And since farmers can save and reuse natural seeds every year, all is not lost during years of poorer yields because farmers can often try again the next year.

But in the GM crop paradigm, the stakes are far higher. Farmers must borrow large sums of money to invest in GM technology. They do so based on promises that yields will increase and profits will soar. But when the promises fail to pan out and farmers are unable to keep paying for the expensive pesticides, they typically end up losing everything, including access to reusable heirloom seeds. So, many end up killing themselves because they literally have nothing left.

The introduction of GM agriculture in India shifted the agricultural economy from one of biodiversity to monoculture, which is hugely significant in India's agricultural failures. Rather than grow a variety of different heirloom crops that each respond differently to periodic changes in climate -- which Indian farmers have always done prior to the introduction of GM crops -- many farmers began to grow only one single GM variety. And when conditions turned out not to be favorable for that crop, both economically and in terms of climate conditions, disaster ensued. In fact, one statistic from a government report in India states that more than 90 percent of known suicide victims were in debt, which was largely brought about when farmers took the plunge into GM crops from their former methods.

The globalization of agriculture in general has dramatically increased poverty in India, as crop subsidies in other nations began to affect Indian agriculture, driving down crop profits. Indian farmers have lost billions of dollars over the years from having to compete in the global agricultural marketplace rather than grow their own biodiverse crops to feed their own people. Global powers have literally robbed India of its self-reliance and self-sustenance in the name of "ending poverty" by thrusting upon them a system of monopolized agriculture controlled and operated by companies like Monsanto. And unless India somehow secedes from the global system of corruption, conditions will only become increasingly worse for its people.

Sources for this story include:

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/cli...

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