Organic Consumers Association

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The Tragedy of Farmers Suicides in India

Last week, a blog I wrote entitled 1500 Farmers Commit Suicide: A Wake Up Call for Humanity was virally shared online, and was the featured story on the home page of Huffington Post. Referencing a story from The Independent that was vague on details and called them "mass" suicides, undoubtedly, I participated in the sensationalization of this story. But, for this I do not apologize.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, 182,936 Indian farmers have committed suicide between 1997 -2007. It estimates 46 Indian farmers kill themselves every day - that is, roughly one suicide every 30 minutes. An estimated 16,625 farmers across India killed themselves in 2007, the last year that was reported. The numbers are horrifying, and they indicate the sense of despair that the poorest people in the world are facing today.

The current fate of farmers in India is a tangled hierarchy that involves politics, agro-business, multinationals, trade liberalization, global subsidies, the environment, water, ethics, and human rights. Activists point out the role of agrochemicals, particularly genetically engineered seeds, that have been aggressively marketed to Indian farmers by companies like Monsanto--an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation that also wields a powerful influence on the farming practices in America.

Companies like Monsanto promise farmers that these genetically modified (GM) seeds, which cost significantly more than traditional seeds, require less pesticide and will potentially produce higher yields than traditional, renewable seeds. However, farmers are usually not told that GM seeds also require more water, making crops more susceptible to drought, irrigation and lower water levels. These genetically modified seeds also do not produce viable seeds of their own to be saved for the next season's harvest, which means that farmers are forced to buy the patented seeds and fertilizer again and again every year.

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