Monsanto blogs on Indian farmer suicides
The bottom line
Bt cotton is making life better in India. Unfortunately, critics of biotech do not like these favorable statistics or news reports, so they rely on baseless smear campaigns to create a visceral reaction in those who are unfamiliar with the facts. Debt is the reason for Indian farmer suicide but the economic benefits from Bt cotton may be the key to reversing the tragic statistics."
Below are extracts from some of the responses on the blog.
For GMWatch's comments on the study the Monsanto blogger refers to - "Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides: Reviewing the Evidence" (IFPRI) - see:
In India, the promise of genetically engineered cotton was that it would yield 1,500 kilos per acre. In four states, the average yield was 200 kilos.
Farmer incomes were projected to increase by 10,000 rupees an acre, but ran losses of 6,000 rupees per acre. The performance of these crops has been completly unreliable.
The hybrid maize seeds that Monsanto sold to the peasants in the poorests states of India, like Bihar, left them with total crop failure and losses totaling 4 billion rupees.
In the case of the failure of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradash, it was a billion rupees. A peasant switching to hybrid or genetically modified seed finds him or herself, in a year's time, two to three thousand rupees in debt.
The most authoritative view on this subject comes from none other than a Fact Finding team from the Planning Commission, at the behest of the Indian PM. The report of this fact finding team is damning, whatever Monsanto or IFPRI might speculate otherwise:
This team specifically looked at Distress in Cotton and at the cost of seeds and their quality and how it impinged on the cost of production. The FFT report recommended free, appropriate quality seed for the region, now infamous for its farmers’ suicides. The report recommended that “public sector seed companies and R & D institutions shoudl explore the possibilities of developing non-Bt strains of pest resistant hybrid cotton”. In terms of improving advisory and extension services to farmers, the report stated that farmers need to be well informed about the technological and risk factors for growing Bt Cotton particularly in low productivity rainfed situations, its susceptibility to sucking type insects, market prospects etc. In the executive summary, the FFT notes that “The study shows that while Bt cotton, in fact, does quite well in irrigated conditions, does not do as well in rainfed conditions (A mere 4% of the area under cotton in Maharashtra is under irrigated conditions,
notes the report elsewhere in the chapter on ‘Issues related to cultivation of cotton’). Besides, it is found that use of pesticides continued to be high in rainfed conditions and as a preponderant number of farmers in Vidarbha are without irrigation, the problem became acute”. It refers to Bt Cotton as “incorrect seed”.
Another point worth noting is that the indicus and IMRB reports on Bt Cotton have already been critiqued for their lack of scientificity. Citing them does not help to argue that Bt Cotton has been good for poor Indian farmers. If only immunisation, pre-natal care, literacy and nutrition for children can be reached through Bt Cotton, the UN should be planning to reach all its MDG goals through promotion of Bt Cotton alone!
The media reports cited have often been written after Monsanto's PR people have flown the reporters to districts and took them to certain farmers that they chose prior to the visit. You can ask the reporters about who paid for the trip and the answer is there for all to see! This does not mean that this reflects the true picture and representative picture.
Bt Cotton adoption is no indication of its desirability - by the same yardstick, chemical pesticide adoption by Indian farmers should be measured too”¦
Finally, indebtedness is not the root cause - indebtedness is caused by treadmill technologies like agri-chemicals AND GM seeds. Both are traps for farmers and markets for corporations like Monsanto.
You have provide many statistics with a warm fuzzy spin to them, but remove the spin and this post looks like big business trying to turn 3.17 million acres of proprietary seed sales into 9.5 million into 28.5 million. You have stated many reasons why Indian farmers fail, if Monsanto is genuinely concerned about the well-being of this massively growing market, I have to assume that Monsanto is, at least, funding or providing training and social improvement programs to help ward off some of the known failings listed above. Please share some of those projects with us. Or is it a case of "here, buy these seeds, in debt, to increase your yield. And oh yah, good luck if something problematic happens."