News | April 6, 2017 | Read Time: 4 minutes
Is Bt or GMO Cotton the Reason for Indian Farmer Suicides?
Farming in rural India brings with it a set of systemic and social issues that can lead to hopelessness among farmers and an unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides. Significant research has documented the problem is complex and disproved the claim that GMO crops are the leading cause. Monsanto is committed to helping improve the lives of farmers globally, and we have implemented several projects that have been recognized for positively impacting Indian farmers and their communities.
Research indicates multiple societal issues are contributing to an unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides in India.
The international community has conducted several studies to identify the reasons for the unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides in India over the last three decades. For example:
- A 2008 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found indebtedness among Indian farmers can be linked to numerous causes, including a lack of reliable credit, changes in government policies, cropping patterns, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, and even shifts in the crops planted on the farm.
- The Council for Social Development’s (CSD) June 2012 study, Socio-Economic Impact assessment of Bt Cotton in India, identified the key reasons leading to farmer suicides as lack of irrigation facilities, unavailability of timely credit and fluctuating cotton prices over the years.
- Other studies include: “Measuring the Contribution of Bt Cotton Adoption to India’s Cotton Yields Leap,” International Food Policy Research Institute Discussion Paper 01170, Guillaume P Gruere, Yan Sun; Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in India, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, May 15, 2012; and Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research Study: Suicide of Farmers in Maharashtra (January 2006).
Despite claims by those who oppose GMO crops, research also demonstrates there is no link between Indian farmer suicides and the planting of GMO cotton.
Farmer suicides in India have been a problem for nearly three decades – starting well before the first GM crop (biotech or Bt cotton) was introduced in 2002. Following are a few key points noted in the Council for Social Development’s (CSD) June 2012 study, Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Bt Cotton in India that illustrate the benefits of GM cotton to Indian farmers:
- Cotton yields and return per hectare have increased significantly, providing improved economics for the majority of farmers using biotech cotton. 86 percent of farmers reported higher yields and returns with Bt cotton seeds than non-Bt cotton and 99 percent of farmers claimed Bt cotton has significantly reduced the attack of bollworms.
- Indian farmers and landless laborers also identified improvements in the quality of life of their families. On average, 85 percent had invested in better quality education for their children; 80 percent reported intake of high value and nutritious food; 82 percent mentioned the health of their family members; and 81 percent reported on the health of livestock.
Monsanto is committed to helping improve the lives of Indian farmers, and several of the projects we’ve implemented have been recognized for positively contributing to the lives of our customers and their communities.
Farmers around the world are Monsanto’s customers, and we are successful only if our customers are successful. At Monsanto, one of our three core commitments is to improve the lives of farmers and their families. We look at this in terms of the products we develop and the programs we launch.
With hundreds of employees in India – many of whom call rural communities home – we have implemented several projects in the region that have been recognized for their ability to positively impact our customers and their communities.
In addition, Monsanto works with industry organizations to improve the lives of Indian farmers and their communities. For example, Monsanto India and the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professional (ISAP) partnered to create Project SHARE (Sustainable Harvest: Agriculture, Resources and Environment). Project SHARE works to communicate the importance of modern cultivation practices to farmers, enabling them to augment yields and thereby incomes.