The Monsanto murders

Other | Monday 6th February 2017 | Annalisa

Over the past 20 years, nearly 300,000 farmers from India’s countryside have committed suicide. 60,000 of these took place in Maharashtra where most of India’s cotton is grown.

Whilst there have been many factors contributing to this shocking figure including debts and crop failures, locals point towards one corporation as the instigator and guilty party. That corporation surprisingly enough is Monsanto.

In a recent exhibition, Global Justice Now collaborated with photgrapher Jordi Ruiz Cirera to document the stories of some of the widows left behind. The photos tell the stories of Baby Bai Viwodratnod aged 52, Sampati Tara Songh aged 58, Vimal Vishnu Chavan aged 40, Anita Raju Pawn aged 36. All widows who tell the story of how their husbands borrowed money to pay for Monsanto’s GM cotton seeds as well as chemicals and other supplies.

When the seeds failed to produce enough crops, and without being able to keep leftover seeds for the following year, the stress levels and pressure of mounting debt led the farmers to take their own lives.

Monsanto’s GM cotton seeds contain a gene that gives the plant the ability to produce a natural pesticide inside its leaves. This is intended to kill the ‘bollworm,’ a common pest for cotton farmers. But local farmers are reporting that the cotton plants are losing their resistance to the bollworm over time and that they are paying for expensive chemicals to get rid of other pests such as whitefly.

As farmers have to add more chemicals to combat the resistant pests and other issues, the soil loses its nutrients and quality. The start of a vicious cycle.

But it’s not all bad news. Farmers are turning their backs on Monsanto and taking control over what they grow and how they grow it. In the first eight months of 2016, Monsanto’s sales in Bt cotton in India have fallen to 15 percent, according to Kalyan Goswami, executive director of the National Seed Association of India.

The move to using local seeds is being actively encouraged by the Indian government. It is claimed to be less than half the price and the crop yield almost as high.

Video from The Monsanto Tribunal in 2016