A 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?