“It’s been called the “largest wave of recorded suicides in human history.” Indian farmers have been robbed of their livelihoods, causing them to take their own lives in despair. Over the past 16 years, it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide. Who is responsible for this tragedy? The most obvious culprits are global corporations like Monsanto, Cargill and Syngenta and the genetically engineered seed they have forced upon farmers worldwide. None are hit harder than those in India, where socioeconomic and environmental factors have magnified the impact, making it almost impossible for these farmers to survive….
A Farmer Commits Suicide by Pesticide Every 30 Minutes in India
The statistics are staggering. According to a publication from the New York University School of Law, in 2009 alone (the most recent year for which official figures are available) 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide—that’s one farmer every 30 minutes. A great number of those affected are cash crop farmers, and cotton farmers in particular. …
The general trend over time is increasing suicides, despite the generally decreasing numbers of Indians performing farming each year, which makes the statistics even starker: It’s estimated that more than 250,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide so far. But this problem is not limited to India, as the suicide rate for farmers is higher worldwide than for the non-farming population.
In the Midwestern U.S., suicide rates among male farmers are twice that of the overall population. In Britain, one farmer commits suicide every week…..
Bt Cotton is a Debt Trap
Bt cotton requires more pesticide sprayings than indigenous cotton—MANY times more. Bt cotton has created new resistant pests, and to control these, farmers must use 13 times more pesticides than they were using prior to its introduction. Rates of infestation by aphids, thrips, jassids, and other pests have risen since Bt cotton’s introduction.
Meanwhile, yields for Bt cotton are disappointingly low. Monsanto claims Bt cotton will yield 1500 kg per year, but farmers have gotten only 300 to 400 kg per year, average. High costs and unreliable output make GM cotton a debt trap. According to Voltairenet.org:
“When Monsanto first introduced Bt cotton in 2002, the farmers lost one 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… 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.”
This has all been amplified by the dramatic fall in cotton prices as a result of the WTO’s free trade policies, which make cotton farming financially unsustainable. Foreign agricultural subsidies have driven down the price of crops on the global market, and unsubsidized Indian farmers can’t compete.
In 1994, one pound of raw cotton fetched $1.10. In 2006, that same pound brought in a meager 54 cents. A study carried out by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) shows that due to falling farm prices, Indian peasants are losing $26 billion annually. “