Friday, 17 April 2009

1,500 Indian Farmers Commit Mass Suicide

Thus the headline in the UK newspaper The Independent. The farmers commited suicide because they were deeply in debt owing to crop failure. Apparently the water level in the state of Chattisgarh has dropped from 40 feet a few years ago, to 250 feet in some locations. Allegedly this has been caused by bad planning decisions relating to dams.

Bharatendu Prakash,from the Organic Farming Association of India told the Press Association: "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death."

I originally read this with shock and horror but got to thinking about that later. The big question here is 'Why are these farmers so deeply in debt?' Even when crops fail there is usually seed for next year and though times are hard, how would farmers run up such 'huge' debts £400.00 (to me that does not seem much, but I do not live in India and is probably more than an entire one year salary in India)

I did some further reading and it appears that the farmers committing suicide had been promised record harvests if they used genetically modified seeds of cotton, that had a built in pesticide. The farmers have borrowed money to buy seeds from Monsanto, so that they too could have 'record crops'.

The UK Daily Mail reports about a farmer called Shankara.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.
Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. (these seeds can cost as much as £1,000 for a one year supply) but when the harvests failed, he was left with spiraling debts -- and no income.
So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take his own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

A farmer can usually survive one bad crop, because he can save seeds from the year before or maybe swap seeds with his neighbours, to plant for the next year, when hopefully the water situation improves or a well will have been drilled. However, those farmers that planted GM seeds have now found out that the 'intellectual property' of the seeds remains with Monsanto, and they have to pay for another year's licence in order to sew the seeds again the following year. And this has started a spiral of debt for each subsequent year.

So an 1,500 estimated (probably more) Indian farmers have committed suicide in the great genetically modified experiment that is now taking place in India. I dare say the Monsanto crowds are sleeping comfortably in their beds tonight.

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