Monsanto Indian Farmer Suicide


Too risky to tolerate

Small farmers distribute risk and harvest different things from different sources . Heribicide Tolerant crops strike at the very root of such proven strategies relying on diversity, writes Suman Sahai.

24 July 2009 – The seed producer Monsanto India Ltd has sought regulatory approval in India to sell its genetically modified (GM) corn that is tolerant to herbicides. Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops are genetically engineered crops which contain genes that allow them to resist the application of herbicides – the chemicals that kill weeds as well as all other plants except the ones that are genetically engineered. The logic of creating HT plants is to have crops that will remain unharmed when chemicals are applied for weed control.
But there is more. HT plants can only be used together with the specific herbicides that they are programmed for. These are the company’s proprietary herbicides, so the farmer who buys HT seeds from a company also has to buy the company’s matched herbicide. This means double profits for the company, but are there benefits for the farmer as well?

A different scenario

Controlling weeds by using chemicals like herbicides becomes necessary in the large-landholding, labour starved agricultural conditions in industrial countries. In developing countries like India weeds are controlled manually. Farm operations like weeding, sowing, harvesting, threshing and winnowing are the key sources of rural employment, especially for women.The herbicide tolerance trait is essentially a labour saving and hence also a labour displacing trait . In a labour-surplus country like India, it will have disastrous economic implications. The Agbiotech Task Force chaired by M S Swaminathan has warned against introducing labour displacing technologies like herbicide tolerance.

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