India Farmers Beat Monsanto Rep

BT Cotton, Monsanto, GM CottonA senior representative from Monsanto Corporation traveled from Mumbai to the nearby village of Munjala to investigate reports of crop failures of Bt cotton seed. When he denied any problems with the crop, (even though they had clearly not grown) he was severely beaten up by the farmers. Don’t you just love this?

I don’t support physically assaulting someone, but I can only imagine the overwhelming anger the farmers felt when they were promised healthy crops and wound up with failure. Not to mention the thousands of farmer suicides in India since 2005, when BT cotton seeds were introduced. When the crops failed, the farmers lost everything and tragically took their own lives.

The states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have experienced the highest number of cotton farmer suicides, according to the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Farmers Associations.  The numbers of suicides always increase from April to June because it is when farmers find out whether their crop has failed. It is also the time when money lenders come to collect their payments. Vidarbha is a region in the eastern part of Maharashtra that is frequently referred to as India’s ‘cotton belt.’

Vandan Shiva, a nuclear scientist who became an anti-globalization activist 20 years ago says,

peasant farmers used to use natural fertilizers and pesticides, and they grew and saved their own seeds to plant the next year’s crop. In the ’70s, coaxed by the government and international aid donors, farmers began to use hybrid seeds bought in the store. These offered the promise of better yields and disease resistance, but they can require careful management, including chemical fertilizer and pesticides (my italics).

More recently, genetically modified BT cotton seeds were introduced by St. Louis-based Monsanto, licensed and sold under the names of well-known Indian seed companies. BT seeds are patented, so farmers aren’t allowed to grow and replant them. They must be bought every year from the seed companies, (my italics) which market them with film stars and even Hindu deities.

It certainly challenging to farm cotton in India. They have three m’s against them: markets, monsoons and more recently Monsanto. The market can be unpredictable and the government has responded by making more loans available. Government official, Sudhir Goel, admits that loans to farmers may keep the local cotton economy going and it may keep some moneylenders at bay, however, it doesn’t address the low cotton prices in the market. For that, he blames the subsidies the E.U. and the U.S. governments give to their farmers.

This is where having taken an economics class pays off. I understand how government subsidies to farmers keep prices low. This helps the huge farm corporations that we have here in the U.S. But it really hurts small local family farmers like those who supply our wonderful pastured products. It also hurts small farmers as far away as India.

Getting back to the assault on the Monsanto Rep, apparently, there have been bogus Monsanto seeds being sold because of a shortage in supply of the GM seeds. No one knows where the bogus seed is coming from, but apparently the BT seeds cost more than the local seeds which were in the bogus packets. So someone is trying to make a buck.

Of course the local seeds would no longer grow if they were being strayed with Roundup. If you are spraying Roundup you have to use the Roundup Ready seeds which are genetically modified to survive the massive doses of pesticide sprayed on these cotton plants. This makes me think twice about buying 100% cotton if it’s not organic. What about you?

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  • Ricki

    The poetic justice here is really lovely. Unfortunately, the farmers are still without cotton.

  • Lori


  • amy

    …so sick of monsanto…go farmers!

  • Donna

    I really thought that when Roundup first came out that it said on the label “not to use where you intend on growing plants for food.” I still have that label, but it is no longer legible.

    Also, when I used the Roundup on a few dandelions growing in my yard, it did not kill them. The dandelions grew back but the flowers were deformed. The centers were not round like they used to be, but elongated.

    There is an article in Vanity Fair, the green issue with MaDonna on the cover (2008 or 2009), that discusses Roundup and hybrid seeds. It is an excellent article — a little scary — but definitely worth the read.


  • jean

    It seems that sooner or later, people will wise up and backlash at Monsanto. Hopefully, it will be sooner. It is outrageous and criminal what they are doing and they are getting away with it for now. Their day is coming.

  • Pavil, the Uber Noob

    Good point about looking for non GMO cotton products.
    Not sure how to proceed, though.

    Ciao, Pavil

  • Melissa @ Dyno-mom

    Well, still a sign that people are sick of Monsanto though I was really hoping for a legal battle win. We need to see Monsanto’s absolute power questioned before we can disarm them. Thanks for making sure we all know about the “fight”.

  • Nicole Feliciano

    Thank you so much for sharing on Momtrends. I love checking out all the Friday Food submissions. This story fell off my radar–that’s why I love checking in here. I’m with you–violence isn’t the answer, but I can only imagine the plight of those farmers.

  • Nancy @ Real Food Allergy Free

    Hasn’t Monsatan caused enough trouble in the US? And while I’m not a fighter, I’ve wanted to beat up a Monsatan rep or two myself.

  • Miz Helen

    Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week. Have a great week end!
    Miz Helen

  • Rajan Alexander

    As Bt Cotton turns 10, observational data certifies it a Super-Flop

    2011-12 will mark ten years since the GoI permitted the commercialization of transgenic cotton commonly known as Bt cotton. The issue of transgenic cotton had been and continue to be one that generates heated controversy with claims made by civil society and counter claims made by Bt seed manufacturers. This paper, in 3 parts, tries to analyze whether 10 years of observational data gives us any clues that can dampen the fires of this controversy. Specifically, it tries to answer two questions, both related to the main touted claims of the Bt industry:

    a. Is Bt either a necessary or a sufficient explanation for increased cotton productivity?

    b. Have Bt succeeded in decreasing pest infestation in cotton to indirectly boost productivity and consequently bring about reduction in pesticide expenses?

    Read more:

  • Jill

    Hi Rajan,
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about this controversial topic. I would also like to answer the questions about how the Bt cotton is affecting the health of the farmers and surrounding community. There have been reports about skin rashes and other health problems stemming from exposure to the plants. I would like to see data about the cancer rates in these farmers exposed to the Bt plants.

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