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 argues that these suicides have no single cause. However, there is clear evidence that Monsanto’s Bt Cotton is implicated. Vandana Shiva, physicist and author, has been monitoring what is going on in these rural farming towns. Shiva notes, “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 1500 kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average.” Shiva and other critics conclude 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 the lives and deaths of Indian farmers. Dirty White Gold examines 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 a previous documentary, Bitter Seeds, directed by Micha Peled, which follows a teenage girl whose father committed suicide due to debt. Bitter Seeds showcases 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 says that there has also been a 25% deduction in pesticide costs. In Bitter Seeds both of these claims were proven false.
Peled’s movie was going to air on PBS’s independent film network, but PBS ended up withdrawing their offer. Since Monsanto is one of the leading funders of PBS, they didn’t want to offend them and risk losing a big funder of their television program.
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