Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Farmer Suicides and Bt Cotton Nightmare Unfolding in India

Institute of Science In Society Report 06/01/10


The largest wave of farmer suicides and ecological nightmare
unfolding around Bt cotton

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho exposes the “fudged” data and false claims of
‘successes’ that have perpetrated the humanitarian disaster

The Bt cotton killing fields

As the cotton growing season drew to a close in the state of
Andhra Pradesh, farmer suicides once again became almost
daily occurrences. Officially, the total number of suicides
within a six-week period between July and August 2009 stood
at 15, but opposition parties and farmers’ groups said the
true total was more than 150 [1]. Opposition leader N.
Chandrababu claimed in a speech that he had the names and
addresses of 165 farmers who ended their lives because of
the distress caused by the drought.

By November, similar reports were coming from another cotton
growing state Maharashtra. Farmers of Katpur village in
Amravati district sowed Bt cotton four years ago. Instead of
the promised miracle yields, huge debts have driven many to
suicide, and cattle were reported dying after feeding on the
plants [2] (see [3] Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt
Cotton, SiS 30).

One ray of hope was that the 5000-odd farmers of the
Maharashtra village have decided to shun Bt cotton, and are
now growing soybean instead. Some have also taken to organic

“We were cheated by the seed companies. We did not get the
yield promised by them, not even half of it. And the
expenditure involved was so high that we incurred huge
debts. We have heard that the government is now planning
commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. But we do not want Bt
seeds of any crop anymore,” said farmer Sahebrao Yawiliker.

Successive studies in Maharashtra have concluded that
indebtedness was a major cause of suicides among farmers

Within a week, two farmers in neighbouring villages in
Wardha district killed themselves. Their Bt cotton crops
were devastated by lalya, a disease that caused the cotton
plants to redden and wilt [5]. The first farmer, 55 year old
Laxman Chelpelviar in Mukutban, consumed the pesticide
Endoulfan when the first picking from his six-acre farm
returned a mere five quintals and an income of Rs15 000, way
below his expenses of Rs50 000. The second farmer, 45 year
old Daulat Majure in Jhamkola, was discovered by his mother
hanging dead from the ceiling. The cotton yield from his
seven-acre farm was a miserable one quintal, worth Rs3 000.

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