“Every 30 minutes an Indian farmer commits suicide as a result of Monsanto’s GM crops. In the last decade more than 250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves because of Monsanto’s costly seeds and pesticides.”
This is pretty appalling story, and it’s easy to see why people who read it become angry about GMO’s and start to hate Monsanto. If I hadn’t seen the other side of the story, this claim would make me angry too. But the story is not true- at least not the part about Monsanto causing farmers to kill themselves. It’s not just farmers in India who are committing suicide in India- it’s a nation-wide problem, and GMO’s are not the cause.
The number of farmer deaths in India is much less than the general population. According to the report, the rate of suicide deaths among agricultural workers is around seven deaths per 100,000 people, whereas the overall suicide rate in India is close to 15 deaths per 100,000.
“In fact, our study found that the numbers of deaths of men in occupations other than farming was twice as great, meaning there were more deaths in clerical occupations, students, and other occupations than in agricultural work,” he said.
So it’s not just farmers who are affected by this high suicide rate. In fact, they’re less affected than other parts of the population. So why does the anti-GMO movement ignore this important fact? Do they not care about the other countless Indian people who are driven to kill themselves even more frequently than the farmers?
Or do people’s lives only matter if their deaths can be used to support their anti-GMO agenda?
Sadanandan confirms that more than 250,000 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide during the last two decades. But he says that the real seeds of despair are financial policies that were implemented by the Indian government in the early 1990s.
In particular, the entry of foreign and new generation private banks has made banking in India competitive and led to fewer loans to agriculture and farmers. With increased competition, banks saw lending to the farm sector as unprofitable and unreliable. This drop in institutional lending forced farmers to borrow from private moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates and increased farm indebtedness. When faced with heavier debt burden that they could not repay, many farmers in India took their lives. This, I argue, happened more in some states—particularly, in states where banking became more competitive with the increased presence of foreign and private banks.
The cause of the Indian suicide rate among farmers is not GMO’s, but the nation’s bad banking policies that are driving people into debt. Other social and economic factors are also likely contributing to the nation’s general suicide problem. But there is no evidence that GMO’s are the cause, or even a supporting cause, of these suicides. Cotton is thriving in India, it’s not failing at all.
But myths are hard to stamp out once they’ve been spread long enough… Especially when the myth is a powerful emotional story that can be used to convince people that Monsanto is pure evil and GMO’s are poison. Fear, not bad banking policies, sells news.
“An evil corporation dumping genetic monstrosities on impoverished farmers makes for a much sexier narrative than the nuances of financial reforms in the banking sector. And therein lies the real tragedy of farmer suicides in India. Anti-GMO activists, by hijacking this story to cultivate sympathy for their own agenda, are distracting us from the solutions that could actually work.” [emphasis mine]
And this is why I am rapidly losing respect for the anti-GMO movement in general (not individuals who oppose GMO’s, I always respect people even if I disagree.) It enrages me to see the plight of these people turned into an emotional ploy to promote the anti-GMO agenda. Instead of addressing the actual causes of these suicides, which need to be addressed immediately, the attention is erroneously directed against GMO’s and the bad banking policies and other societal injustices are left unchallenged. India is not very friendly to the LGBTQ community, there is a lot of violence and injustice that would certainly be affecting how often LGBTQ Indians take their own lives, but do we hear about that when we talk about the nation’s high suicide rates? Of course not. That doesn’t help the anti-GMO cause.
If GMO’s are really that bad, then surely they should not have to twist the facts and create sensational stories like this to make their point.
If Monsanto is truly an evil company, then crying wolf with stories like these is only hurting the anti-GMO cause because now I am skeptical of all stories about Monsanto being evil. I’ll certainly research each issue on an individual basis, but the anti-GMO movement has really turned me off to their cause even more than I was before by promoting this despicable false narrative.
I want facts, not lies and deceit. And I’m sick and tired of hearing about how evil Monsanto is when the anti-GMO movement has no qualms about deliberately lying to promote their own agenda, even if it means the real issues get ignored and real people continue to be harmed. But that’s ok as long as GMO’s get banned, right? The end justifies the means?