A Soil Association report, released Wednesday, reveals how genetically modified (GM) cotton grew to almost obliterate all other cotton production in India, and how the promised GM success rapidly turned to failure, with disastrous, even lethal, results for some of the world’s poorest farmers.
The report, launched at the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference in Washington D.C., reveals how alternative, more sustainable cotton production is now successfully replacing GM.
GM cotton was introduced to India in 2002 by Mahyco Monsanto (India) Ltd. The initially promising performance of GM cotton proved short-lived as crops experienced severe pest attacks. Production costs rose threefold due to the more expensive pesticides needed to control problem insects and widespread crop failure.
This led to huge debts for small-scale cotton growers, which represent most of India’s cotton producers. A spate of suicides followed. In just one region of Maharashtra province, factors linked to the cultivation of GM cotton are reported to have led to 7,992 farmer suicides between 2006 and 2011. One of the ministers responsible for introducing GM cotton to India was recently quoted as saying, “In the 1990s, I introduced GM cotton in India. Twenty years later, I regret…I am responsible for suicide of thousands of cotton farmers.”
Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association said: “Many people assume that GM crops will work miracles when, more often, the harsh reality is that GM creates nightmares. That is what GM cotton is doing in many countries, none more so than in India, the largest cotton producer in the world. Some of the poorest farmers in the world have been subject to a crude GM experiment that has gone disastrously wrong – and many have paid the price with their lives. Thankfully, with Indian government support, non-GM and organic production is now in a positive position, offering lower production costs and supporting healthier agricultural, environmental, and social outcomes.”