The government of Maharashtra, a state in western India, has acknowledged for the first time that Bt cotton is a failure that will likely reduce yields by 40%, from 3.5 to 2.2 million quintal. The region’s cotton farmers will face about Rs6,000 crore, over 1 billion USD. Accumulated losses are to be even more staggering: Rs 20,000 crore, or about 3.6 billion USD, due to rising cultivation costs.
Faced with unbearable debt and health problems, the National Crime Records Bureau predicts that 5,000 farmers will have committed suicide by the end of the year, compared to last year’s 3,500. If you’re surprised by this number, know that Monsanto’s cost-inflated and ineffective seeds have been driving farmers to suicide for quite some time, and is considered to be one of the largest — if not the largest — cause of the quarter of a million farmer suicides over the past 16 years.
“The agrarian crisis sweeping through the state due to Bt cotton failure has only widened,” says Kishore Tiwari from the farm advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti. “Unlike when cotton crop failure was reported only from Vidarbha and Marathawada, reports of such crop failure are now coming in from Khandesh in north Maharashtra, too.”
Government Role in GMOs
Maharashtra dedicates 4.2 million hectares to Bt cotton production, but has been reporting the lowest yield of 5 quintal per hectare since 2006. Tiwari adds that the number is likely to fall to 3 quintal this year, meaning “a net loss of more than Rs38,000 per hectare.”
Bt cotton has failed the region for three consecutive years. The Mahahrashtra state government compensated 4 million farmers Rs2,000 crore last year This year, even farmers with adequate irrigation are facing crop failure.
Tiwari intends to lead farmers on a march to the legislative council in December. “We demand compensation of Rs20,000 per hectare and fresh crop loans for every farmer for the ensuing kharif season. We also want food security and free education, along with the implementation of land development, soil enrichment, and watershed development under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.”
GMOs Not the Solution
Major Monsanto shareholder Bill Gates has called GMOs the solution to world hunger. Well, he may be right, if one doesn’t feel too squeamish about sterilizing and killing billions of farmers and consumers through pesticide exposure and alteration of the human genome, that is. But it probably isn’t the solution.
Even the World Bank and United Nations-funded organization International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAAST) has come to the conclusion that GMOs will serve no meaningful position in solving world hunger. A 2009 report by the Union of Concerned Scientist, aptly titled “Failure to Yield,” found that unlike with traditional farming respectful of nature’s rotations, GMO crop yields decrease over time. This is something Maharashtra and even American farmers are seeing first-hand.