India is in the midst of a flood of suicides among farmers. A new feature film written and directed by Anusha Rizwi and produced by Bollywood megastar Aamir Khan, called Peepli Live, takes a look at this grim topic.
The vast majority of people in India still farm for a living, but are caught between deep debt and the erratic nature of seasonal change.
Indian farmers are pressured into mortgaging their farms to purchase genetically modified seeds, pesticides, and fertilizer from American companies like Monsanto.
According to AlterNet:
“Since GM seeds are patented by Monsanto, their repeated use each year requires constant licensing fees that keep farmers impoverished. One bad yield due to drought or other reasons, plunges farmers so deep into debt that they resort to suicide. One study estimates that 150,000 farmers have killed themselves in the past ten years.”
Meanwhile, in the U.S., District Judge Jeffrey White, a federal judge in California, has banned the planting of genetically modified Roundup Ready sugar beets created by Monsanto. The beets are engineered to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
White said he was “troubled by maintaining the status quo that consists of 95 percent of sugar beets being genetically engineered while [the USDA] conducts the environmental review that should have occurred before the sugar beets were deregulated.”
The ban does not affect crops already planted and harvested for sugar.
The St. Louis Business Journal reports:
“Environmental groups ... filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in January 2008 to challenge the deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets by the USDA ... Opponents say the beets promote superweeds, weeds that cannot easily be killed because they have developed a tolerance to weed killer. They also raise concerns about the contamination of conventional and organic crops.”
I believe genetically modified plants and foods are one of the most significant threats against humanity and life on this planet, for a number of reasons.
Biotechnology has changed the face of farming as we know it, and with each passing year, we move further away from the ancient farming practice of saving the best seeds for replanting the following season – a method that is both inexpensive and proven successful for optimal crop quality.
Now, the increased use of genetically modified seeds that must be purchased anew each year are starting to take its toll. A mere 15 years into commercial GM seed use, we’re now seeing GM crops contaminating conventional and organic crops; different GM varieties combining with each other in the wild, creating unintended GM hybrids; and farmers driven to desperate acts due to financial devastation.
Genetic Engineering May Sterilize Nature. Then What?
Consider this: Monsanto’s “suicide gene” has not only been inserted into certain food crops, rendering them sterile in order to force farmers to buy new seeds. This technology is now spreading to other industries, such as forestry.
Scientific American reported on this in January. Two paper industry giants are planning to replace the native pine in the forests of southwestern US with genetically engineered, sterile, eucalyptus. By making the trees unable to reproduce naturally, they propose there’s no need to worry about the GM eucalyptus turning into an invasive species…
Earlier this week I wrote about two GM varieties of canola spreading into the wild, and cross-breeding with each other, creating a third hybrid that is resistant to not one but two herbicides. Science has already discovered that the genome is more “intelligent” than previously thought, and by planting non-native trees that have been gene spliced to reduce proliferation does NOT make me rest easy.
On the contrary. I believe there are plenty of indications that the introduction of sterile plants of various kinds may allow this genetic ability to “turn off” reproductive capability to spread into other parts of nature, in ways that none of us can predict.
For an eye opening look at the genetic engineering now overtaking the forestry industry, I highly recommend watching the documentary film “A Silent Forest,” available in full on MEFEEDiA.com.
How are GM Crops Provoking Farmers to Commit Suicide?
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, more than 182,900 Indian farmers took their own lives between 1997 and 2007. It estimates 46 Indian farmers commit suicide every day. That equates to roughly one suicide every 30 minutes!
Some will argue that natural events are to blame, such as lack of rain, but crop failures have occurred before, and it didn’t push thousands of farmers to end their lives by drinking pesticide.
No, the increased desperation can be traced directly back to the use of patented, and therefore expensive, seeds, and the unconscionable tactics of Monsanto.
Monsanto has been ruthless in their drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops. Over the past decade, millions of Indian farmers have been promised radically increased harvests and income if they switch from their traditional age tested farming methods to genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds.
So, they borrow money to buy GM seeds, which need certain pesticides that were previously unnecessary, which requires even more money. When rain fall is sparse, the GM crops actually fare far worse than traditional crops – a fact that these farmers oftentimes don’t learn until it’s too late and they’re standing there with failed crops, spiraling debts, and no income.
And by next season, they have to do it all over again because the GM seeds cannot be saved and replanted. They must be purchased again.
In addition, GM crops have spawned:
- Bt resistant pests
- New pests
For example, the evolution of Bt resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented, and what used to be minor pests are now becoming major problems – such as mirid bugs, which have increased 12-fold since 1997 in China, and can be directly linked to the scale of China’s Bt cotton cultivation.
In addition, the promise that GM crops would reduce pesticide/herbicide use has turned out to be entirely false.
The use of Roundup herbicide has increased dramatically since the GM Roundup Ready crops were introduced. In the first 13 years, American farmers sprayed an additional 383 million pounds of herbicide due to these herbicide-tolerant crops. And now the repeated exposures have given Mother Nature all she needs to stage her comeback in the form of devastating superweeds.
Since 1996, when GM crops were first introduced, at least nine species of U.S. weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, which means farmers must use additional herbicides, some of them even more toxic than Roundup.
In the end, we’re left with all of the downsides and none of the intended benefits.
Bollywood Brings Indian Farmers’ Plight to the Big Screen
“The story is set in an Indian village named Peepli where one young debt-burdened farmer named Natha is talked into taking his own life after he learns that his family will be financially compensated through a government program created to alleviate the loss of farmers taking their own lives.”
The film features Bollywood megastar Aamir Khan. An interview with him about the film and the plight of Indian farmers can be found here.
Hopefully this film is successful in raising awareness about the destructive power of this technology.
US Judge Halts Deregulation of Roundup Ready Sugar Beets – For Now…
Meanwhile, the US has been granted a temporary reprieve from yet another GM food.
The U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, a federal judge in California, recently banned the planting of Monsanto’s GM Roundup-resistant sugar beets. The ruling, which can be read here, does not affect any crop that has already been planted or harvested, however, so GM sugar will still reach the market place.
The GM sugar beet is called Genuity, and was introduced during the 2008-2009 season.
Although considered a victory, the judge’s ruling did not grant plaintiffs’ motion for a permanent injunction against GM sugar beet plantings.
“White ruled in September 2009 that the USDA will have to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for the sugar beets. The USDA has estimated that an EIS may be ready by 2012.
Monsanto has said in court papers that revoking regulators' approval of sugar beets would cost the biotech giant and its customers approximately $2 billion in 2011 and 2012.”
Roundup Residue Causes Cell Damage
The increasing use of Roundup on crops engineered to survive being doused in the herbicide has its own set of health consequences.
Residues of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide found in GM food and feed has been linked to cell damage and even death, even at very low levels. Researchers have also found it causes membrane and DNA damage, and inhibits cell respiration.
So not only are you exposed to foods that contain built-in toxins, you’re also consuming larger amounts of toxic residues on the food, for the simple fact that more is now being used.
Pesticide and herbicide residues are very difficult to remove from grains, fruits and vegetables. Even meticulous washing cannot get rid of it all.
What Can You Do to Affect Change?
Did you know that genetically modified foods are so prevalent in the US that if you randomly pick an item off your grocery store's shelves, you have a 75 percent chance of picking a food with GM ingredients?
It’s true. At least seven out of every 10 food items have been genetically modified, and there’s more to come.
The potential health ramifications of these world-wide experiments with our food supply are frightening to say the least. If you care about the health and future of your family, I strongly urge you to refuse to participate in this destructive trend.
It’s actually simpler than you might think... By buying only non-GM foods.
Must-Have Guide to NON-GMO Foods
The True Food Shopping Guide is a great tool for helping you determine which brands and products contain GM ingredients. It lists 20 different food categories that include everything from baby food to chocolate.
Additionally, here are four simple steps to decrease your consumption of GM foods as much as possible:
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods in your diet. The fact that 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients is only one of the many reasons to stick to a whole foods diet.
- Read produce and food labels. Conventionally raised soybeans and corn make up the largest portion of genetically modified crops. Ingredients made from these foods include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu.
- Buy organic produce. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.