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Amid a rising epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India, an organic farmer appeals to the father of the Green Revolution to embrace organic agriculture

UN slams India for farmer suicides

India has enough food to feed her population of one billion, yet hunger and food insecurity at household level increased at the end of the 20th century. A new UN report casts doubt on the government’s claim that poverty declined from 36 to 26 percent between 1993-2000. It criticizes the shift to cash crops that reduced the cultivation of grains, pulses and millets for household consumption. The report slams the rise of farmer suicides in India and links them to the unremitting growth of a market economy that does not benefit all Indians equally.

Impassioned plea to India’s government

great-agricultural-challengeBhaskar Save is an 84-year-old farmer from Gujarat who has petitioned the Indian Government to save India’s farmers from exploitation and worse. In an open letter to Prof M.S. Swaminathan (chairperson of the National Commission on Farmers in the Ministry of Agriculture) he puts the blame squarely on his shoulders as the ‘father’ of the ‘Green Revolution’ that has destroyed India’s natural abundance, farming communities, and soil. He writes: “Where there is a lack of knowledge, ignorance masquerades as science! Such is the ‘science’ you have espoused, leading our farmers astray – down the pits of misery.”

The Green Revolution defines the forty years after India’s independence in 1947 when technology was widely introduced into agriculture. Farmers came under intense pressure to provide marketable surpluses of the relatively few non-perishable cereals to feed the ever-expanding cities. Since then, India’s integration into the global economy has served transnational corporate interests championed by the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO, but not her farmers. Fifteen years of market reforms guided by the international financial superstates have unleashed a second wave of agrochemicals, biotechnological seed and pesticides into the Indian countryside with devastating effect.

A silent revolution of suicide

Mumbai and Bangalore have benefited from the boom in the information technology sector that contributes an eight percent growth to India’s economy each year. The two cities are now poised to take advantage of the boom in the biotech industry. The picture of “India Shining” touted by an expensive government backed media campaign is considerably clouded by the rural areas being torn apart at the roots by biotechnology. The countryside is home to 70 percent of India’s population.

Read more: Stem Farmers' Suicides with Organic Farming

The world's biggest genetically engineered seed owner destroys time-honoured traditions of seed saving and drives American farmers to destitution and bankruptcy.

Odds stacked against farmers

Monsanto vs FarmersFeudalism has returned to farming in the US and Canada, according to the US Center for Food Safety's report detailing the domination over American staple crops by the corporations and their ruthless prosecution of farmers.

Once the ink is dried on the "technology agreements" signed by the farmers buying genetically modified (GM) seed, they enter into contracts that effectively relinquish to Monsanto their right to plant, harvest and sell the GM seed. From that moment on, they are also vulnerable to harassment such as having their property investigated, litigations and out of court settlements that are part and parcel of licensing a Monsanto patented product.

No grower is safe from this onslaught as third generation Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser discovered when he lost to Monsanto in court for failing to pay royalties on GM canola seed that had contaminated his non-GM canola crop. "The corporations are becoming the barons and lords, which are what my grandparents thought they had escaped." Schmeiser said.

To-date, Monsanto has filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers; and 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or farm companies have had to fight for their lives to avoid paying additional court costs, attorneys' fees, and in some cases, costs incurred by Monsanto while investigating them.

Read more: Monsanto versus Farmers

Food agencies are feeding corporate greed while an estimated 880 million people in the world go hungry.

FAO report condemned, GM food aid rejected

stop-corporate greedThe United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has upset a broad coalition of consumers, farmers, environment groups, peasant organisations and social movements by producing a report overtly biased towards promoting the interests of multinational corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta. The report omits to mention that Monsanto control over 90% of total world area sown to transgenic seeds.

The FAO report, Agricultural biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor? states that GMOs could be key to solving world hunger, and pushes for more funding. The report was denounced by 650 worldwide civil society organisations in an open letter to the Director of the FAO in Rome. The letter, signed by 800 individuals from more than 80 countries, demanded structural changes in access to land, food and political power, to be combined with support for sustainable technologies in farmer-led research. It was also rejected by five international NGOs at a Hunger, Food Aid and GMOs meeting at Maputo, Mozambique in July 2004.

Via Campesina, an organisation representing the interests of peasant-farmers worldwide said that promoting a technological solution to the problem of hunger in the form of GM crops is “a slap in the face for those who defend food sovereignty.” The development of industrial agriculture has already caused millions of rural people to be displaced from their lands and condemned them to lives of misery. GM crops, the latest offering in industrial agriculture, will only intensify that trend.

Read more: Feeding the Corporations