Seeds of Despair – Biotech and Farmer Suicides in India

To the farming families of India, this seemed like a dream come true. The promise of bigger crops and more money caused a huge adoption to the genetically modified seed system. But the farmers didn’t realize all of the implications by committing to this new farming technology that was aggressively marketed.

The World Bank‘s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The World bank was also investing in India’s agriculture market with the use of micro-loans to help bring in these new hybrid and genetically modified seeds technologies.

Saving seed is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits. So the genetically modified seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. Political pressure was also applied in efforts to promote the uptake of GM seeds,traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.

Says global justice activist Vandana Shiva: “Under globalization, the farmer is losing her/his social, cultural, economic identity as a producer. A farmer is now a ‘consumer’ of costly seeds and costly chemicals sold by powerful global corporations through powerful landlords and money lenders locally.”

The price difference for the genetically modified seeds is staggering, usually at least 1000 times more than traditional seeds. In addition to the huge seed costs, large amounts of herbicide must be purchased with the crops planted. This in effect locks the farmers into a farming method that spirals into increased poverty and indebtedness.

Year after year, the debt increases until the interest on the loans becomes overwhelming. In desperation, farmers are compelled to sell body organs such as kidneys or even commit suicide. Since 1997, 182,936 Indian farmers have taken their lives and the numbers continue to rise. According to a recent study by the National Crime Records Bureau, 46 Indian farmers kill themselves every day – that is roughly one suicide every 30 minutes – an alarming statistic in a country where agriculture is the economic mainstay.

Shrikrishna Kalamb was a farmer with a large family that started with the promises of the genetically modified “magic seeds”. But the dream became a nightmare as the strain of financial debt increased year after year.

Not willing to burden his family, Shrikrishna wrote about his feelings of despair in his poetry, over 50 poems, that were later discovered by his family. Two days before he committed suicide by hanging himself on March 24, fifty-year-old farmer of five acres Shrikrishna Kalamb penned his last poem….

My life
Is different
My death will be like untimely rain.

The cotton in black soil is like a poem to me
Its roots as sweet as sugarcane…

Family of Shrikrishna Kalamb


Dr. Vandana Shiva. Indian physicist, ecological campaigner, women’s rights activist and writer, she has received numerous awards for her commitments. She founded Navdanya International to defend and protect nature and the rights of people to access to food and water and dignified jobs and livelihoods.

Sourcewatch: Monsanto in India

University of Oregon lecture by Dr. Shiva

The Largest Wave of Suicides

Monsanto Child Labor used for Cotton Production


About Krell

I used to have superpowers… but a therapist took them away.
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11 Responses to Seeds of Despair – Biotech and Farmer Suicides in India

  1. timwaters1 says:

    Man what is the ultimate goal of the profiteers? They get rid of enough poor, there won’t be anybody left for them to kick. I so hate the greedy bastards.

    Nice one Krell!

  2. D4 says:

    To make matters still worse, there’s a very real concern about the impact the pervasiveness of Roundup-Ready (Monsanto brand name) seeds has on genetic diversity and therefore how prone crops could be to wipeout by epidemic. Another Irish Potato Famine-type situation could be on the way because of this.

    • KRELL says:

      The effects of the GM seeds has already started an epidemic in a way. Just research the subject of “SuperWeeds” that are RoundUp resistance. Everything is being used to combat these weeds, including using paraquat and a combination of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, which is a very potent combination. You may have heard of it by it’s nickname….”Agent Orange.”

  3. D4 says:

    Oh, yeah – as Tim says, NICE ONE, Krell! Very good.

  4. Among the atrocities and injustices marketed and exported by American Corporations and lets not forget the role Ag schools play (Cornell, eh?) … the squeezing of poor farmers like this is of the most despicable.
    Opened eyes, Krell. Opened eyes. I had no idea.

    • KRELL says:

      Remember those urban myths of the Heroin pusher that would hang around the playground and give out free samples of heroin to the kids to get them hooked. Once they got hooked, the trap was set.

      That urban myth reminds me of this real events. The farmers in a way were just kids. And they got hooked….

  5. oso says:

    Thanks for this post, it amplified something I’d only had a vague understanding of. Similar attempts have been made to disrupt/weaken/effectively poison the corn crop in Mexico, extending the damage to farmers which occurred when NAFTA sleazed its way onto the scene.

    • KRELL says:

      Oso, it’s going on all over the world. Under the auspices of world food shortage, markets are being forced opened up in these countries by the World Bank and WTO that allow corporate control of food by the use of GM seeds.

      According to a recent paper by Food First analysts Eric Holt-Gimenez and Loren Peabody, three companies control the world’s grain trade: Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge, while Monsanto controls around 60 percent of global seed production.

      To add to the horror, they are starting to go after the water resources of the world. As the Monsanto strategy paper states:

      “… Monsanto’s water and aquaculture businesses, like its seed business, aimed at controlling the vital resources necessary for survival, converting them into a market and using public finances to underwrite the investments. “

  6. The Beekeeper's Apprentice says:

    Seed saving is Agriculture 101. WTF is Monsanto et. al. doing, using India as it’s testing ground??

    • KRELL says:

      India is not a testing ground. More like a strategic plan for Monsanto and the likes. They are cornering the farming seed market in several parts of the world and damn the consequences.

  7. Mother Hen says:

    That the entire world is now the easy prey of America’s plutocrats is absolutely sickening. Even if we got our shit together and passed a bill demanding that American corporations adhere to the same environmental laws and wage conditions no matter where they “do business” or hire, they would move operations elsewhere (like they have already moved their money.)

    How long before the rest of the world wakes up to the reality that Capitalism (for the benefit of the few) is a cancer spreading throughout the globe?

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