The Suicide Crops

2006-2007 - Maharashtra, India
Summer 2006. One farmer commits suicide every height hours in the Vidarbha, a region in eastern Maharashtra, the cotton belt of India. The disastrous situation went from 122 suicides in 2002, 622 in 2004, to more than 1300 in 2006… leaving behind it entire families in a profound despair and hundred of villages very worried. A crisis with pure political origins, and an outward sign of a deep agrarian crisis unequalled since the Green Revolution of the 70s.
Monsanto, the american multinational company of biotech business receives in 2002 New Delhi’s authorisation to cultivate and put on the market its genetically modified seeds called the Bt Cotton. This kind has actually already been experimented by the firm for five years on the indian lands, and an important contamination in 2001 has obviously sped up the authorisation process. Follows an intense marketing and advertisement campaign. The farmers jumped on this seed of hope. /.../
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/.../ The final tragedy is due to an accumulation of factors ; to cultivate Bt Cotton is four times more expensive than with the traditional seeds, then the expected yield is not always there - this variety needs a good irrigation - and the buying price for cotton has gone down year after year, based on the world rates. American subsidized cotton that arrives in India is 40% less expensive than the local one, and moreover the Indian State has put an end to its policy of public aid since two years, it doesn’t guarantee the buying of the whole production any longer. In the best of cases, the production will cost 20% more than the selling price. The farmer incessantly asks for credits, first to the bank, but as land credit has considerably gone down into the countryside, and the banker refusing another loan before first one has been paid back, the peasants have to turn to private money-lenders using an exorbitant interest rate. A merciless stranglehold. It’s complete cynicism considering that the buyers are more and more the people selling the seeds…and the private money-lenders themselves !
The great majority of the peasants who ended up excessively indebt and who committed suicide had gone to genetic cotton.
« India is taking the direction of wiping out smallholding farming in favour of corporate farming. That’s what the decks are being cleared for. The indian farmers are the last surviving body of small farmers in the world. They’re being finished. The agricultural policy is one of calculated neglect and gutting of agriculture. (…) What is Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar doing for farmers ? He wants us all to be out of business and hand over the land to US companies on contract. » (P. Sainath Rural Affairs Editor at The Hindu).
Finalist at PhotoEspana Ojodepez Volkswagen Award 2008, Spain.

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