Bring an End to Indian Farmer Suicides

A woman picking up cotton in a field near Nagarjuna Sagar

Target: Pranab Mukherjee, President of India and Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Goal: Stop the farming of Bt cotton in India and force Monsanto to compensate Indian farmers for their losses.

In India, famer suicide has become an epidemic with more than 300,000 farmers ending their lives to date. Most of these farmers grow cash crops (crops which are grown for profit, not for sustenance), and most of them grow cotton. The variety of cotton they grow is known as Bollgard Bt cotton—a genetically modified, Monsanto patented variety of cotton which is resistant to the American Bollworm. By 2009, 85 percent of the cotton grown in India was of the Bt variety. However, due to the prohibitively high cost of the seeds, many farmers were forced to take out loans to grow the crop which then did not yield highly enough to cover their costs. With spiraling costs from interest on the bank loans, unable to pay their debts, many of the cotton farmers in India have taken to suicide as a way out. Many take their lives by consuming the very pesticides which they use to spray the cotton.

This tragedy began when India embraced free markets in their textile industry, opening the door to a flood of international money and the eventual corporatization of Indian agriculture. In doing so, small to medium farmers who traditionally controlled their productive process have all but vanished. For a few dollars a day, famers are contracted to spray their cotton with toxic fertilizers and pesticides. More often than not, these farmers are not afforded protection of any kind. Bt cotton is known to contain hydrogen cyanide which is deadly to most biological systems. The toxic effect of Bt cotton has been documented as far back as 2010, when a rash of animal deaths in Northern India was connected to the cash crop. Humans too are slowly becoming more vulnerable to the toxic effects as many farmers report growing allergies and possible poisonings across the subcontinent.

In 2009 alone, 17,638 farmer suicides were recorded. That translates into one death every 30 minutes. Today, farmers have grown so desperate for themselves and the plight of their fellow farmer they have taken to addressing their suicide notes to the Prime Minister and the President. In the case of Ramachandra Raut, the reason for his suicide was spelled out to his heads of state in his note. Said Raut, “The two successive years of crop failure is the reason…[Yet] bank employees came twice to my home to recover my loans.” Free market forces, corporate greed, and unsympathetic banks drove Raut to end his life over what amounts to a toxic strain of cotton. Sign the petition bellow to demand an end to farmer suicide in India by halting the growth and cultivation of Bt cotton.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,

In India, more than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide. Many of these farmers are in the business of growing Monsanto’s cash crop Bt cotton. This crop is both biologically and economically toxic. Biologically, the substance hydrogen cyanide—present in the Bt cotton—is deadly to animals and causes severe allergic reactions in humans. The owner of the patent on Bt cotton, Monsanto has done nothing to furnish farmers with appropriate protection. Far from it, the company has steadily increased costs to farmers who seek to grow the crop.

As such, most farmers are forced to take out exorbitant loans from cut-throat bankers. When their crop fails to yield enough to cover costs, spiraling interest rates leave farmers with unmanageable debts. Bank collectors then harass farmers until they feel they are left with no other recourse but to take their lives. This situation in untenable and must be remedied before suicides decimate India’s farmers. Please work to end the growth of Bt cotton.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Claude Renault via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. J Davidson says:

    Big banks again. When will they ever stop?

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