Environmental advocacy groups have claimed for many years that farmers in India have been committing suicide because of Bt cotton crops. Their argument seeks to draw a direct correlation between the deaths and some inherent toxicity of Bt cotton that was causing health problems for the farmers.
Finally, India’s government is setting the record straight. The government has denied that farmer suicides were due to the failure of the crop because it was from genetically modified cotton seed.
The Economic Times reported that Minister of State for Agriculture, Harish Rawat, said, “India has harvested an average of 5.1 million tonnes of cotton per year, which is well above the highest production of 3 million tonnes before the introduction of Bt cotton.”
Rawat said the suicides were due to multiple factors including a combination of indebtedness, crop failure, drought, socio-economic and personal reasons.
As a result, the government has taken steps to help improve the financial condition of farmers to help them overcome debt problems, which is likely one of the leading causes of the suicides. Measures that have been taken include issuing special credit cards and providing interest rate subvention for timely payment on crop loans and increasing credit flow to the ag sector.
The environmental activist groups sensationalized the suicides in the name of vilifying genetically modified crops. However, the deaths were more likely due to indebtedness and a result of failed agricultural policies, not GM crops.
This is not the first time farmers have committed suicide over poor economic conditions, production failures and debt. It occurred fairly recently in the spring and summer of 2009 when many dairy owners and operators committed suicide when prices for milk plummeted. During that time, many dairy businesses were plunged into debt, which lead to several suicides. However, the environmentalists cannot claim the suicides in the United States were due to genetically modified seeds.
Read more about the dairy industry suicides.
Read more about the concern over suicides in the U.S.