Chris Van Es

Harvest of Suicide

According to official data, more than 160,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997. These suicides are most frequent where farmers grow cotton, and appear directly linked to the presence of seed monopolies, as global corporations like Monsanto force poor farmers into a vicious cycle of crushing debt.

NEW DELHI – An epidemic of farmers’ suicides has spread across four Indian states – Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Punjab – over the last decade. According to official data, more than 160,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997.

These suicides are most frequent where farmers grow cotton, and appear directly linked to the presence of seed monopolies. For the supply of cotton seeds in India has increasingly slipped out of the hands of farmers and into the hands of global seed producers like Monsanto. These giant corporations have begun to control local seed companies through buyouts, joint ventures, and licensing arrangements, leading to seed monopolies.

When this happens, seed is transformed from being a common good into being the “intellectual property” of companies such as Monsanto, for which the corporation can claim limitless profits through royalty payments. For farmers, this means deeper debt.

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