Monsanto has a long history of contamination and cover-up. In India, another Monsanto cover-up is ongoing. Since 1995, nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide due to massive debt. Monsanto has argued that these suicides have no single cause. However, there is clear evidence that Monsanto’s Bt cotton is implicated. Physicist and author Vandana Shiva has been monitoring what is going on in these rural farming towns. Shiva noted, “The price per kilogram of cotton seeds [has gone] from 7 to 17,000 rupees. . . . Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1,500 kg/year when farmers harvest 300–400 kg/year on an average.” Shiva and other critics have concluded that Monsanto’s profit-driven policies have led to a “suicide economy” in India.
A new documentary film, Dirty White Gold by Leah Borromeo, goes beyond the issue of farmer suicides to explain how the global fashion industry and international consumer habits contribute to Indian farmers’ hardships. Dirty White Gold examined the cotton supply chain, with the aim of generating support for legislation that will, in Borromeo’s words, “make ethics and sustainability the norm in the fashion industry.”
Monsanto’s horrific impact in India is also showcased in an earlier documentary, Bitter Seeds, directed by Micha X. Peled, which follows a teenage girl whose father committed suicide due to debt. Bitter Seeds showcased the major problems people in India are having, and how Monsanto lies directly to Indian farmers, going as far as making up fictitious farmers who “have success” with the new Bt cotton. Monsanto has claimed that there has also been a 25 percent reduction in pesticide costs. In Bitter Seeds, both of these claims were proven false.
Monsanto and India’s “Suicide Economy”
Belen Fernandez, “Dirty White Gold,” Al Jazeera, December 8, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/201212575935285501.html.
Jason Overdorf, “India: Gutting of India’s Cotton Farmers,” Global Post, October 8, 2012, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/america-the-gutted/india-cotton-farmers-monsanto-suicides.
Student Researcher: Nicole Anacker (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)