Seeds of Discontent


“Free” trade has taken a vicious turn for the worse in India, where in the state of Karnataka alone more than 3,000 people, most of them farmers, committed suicide in 2000 because they couldn’t make a go of it. Since 1997 25,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves. While the government tends to blame the deaths on such causes as alcoholism or a bad attitude, economic causes are discounted. But it was in 1997 that the multinational companies began gaining control of India’s seed sector.

Indian farmers have been tied to the land forever. But artificially lowered prices, due in part to the effect of World Trade Organization policies, are one reason. Another is their being pressured to buy seeds every year from agribusiness concerns, instead of producing them for free on the farms. When the farmers buy seed they’ve got to buy other ag inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides. The seeds are often untested and sometimes can’t be used, with the result in one state of literally all farmers completely losing their crops.

Additional reporting: Phoebe St John, Alicia Ng, and Ashley Glacel

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