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21. Monsanto and India’s “Suicide Economy”

Monsanto has a long history of contamination and cover-up. In India, another Monsanto cover-up is ongoing. Since 1995, nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide due to massive debt. Monsanto has argued that these suicides have no single cause. However, there is clear evidence that Monsanto’s Bt cotton is implicated. Physicist and author Vandana Shiva has been monitoring what is going on in these rural farming towns. Shiva noted, “The price per kilogram of cotton seeds [has gone] from 7 to 17,000 rupees. . . . Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1,500 kg/year when farmers harvest 300–400 kg/year on an average.” Shiva and other critics have concluded that Monsanto’s profit-driven policies have led to a “suicide economy” in India.

A new documentary film, Dirty White Gold by Leah Borromeo, goes beyond the issue of farmer suicides to explain how the global fashion industry and international consumer habits contribute to Indian farmers’ hardships. Dirty White Gold examined the cotton supply chain, with the aim of generating support for legislation that will, in Borromeo’s words, “make ethics and sustainability the norm in the fashion industry.”

Monsanto’s horrific impact in India is also showcased in an earlier documentary, Bitter Seeds, directed by Micha X. Peled, which follows a teenage girl whose father committed suicide due to debt. Bitter Seeds showcased the major problems people in India are having, and how Monsanto lies directly to Indian farmers, going as far as making up fictitious farmers who “have success” with the new Bt cotton. Monsanto has claimed that there has also been a 25 percent reduction in pesticide costs. In Bitter Seeds, both of these claims were proven false.

Censored #21

Monsanto and India’s “Suicide Economy”

Belen Fernandez, “Dirty White Gold,” Al Jazeera, December 8, 2012,

Jason Overdorf, “India: Gutting of India’s Cotton Farmers,” Global Post, October 8, 2012,

Student Researcher: Nicole Anacker (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)


  • suicide cleaner October 1, 2013

    Monsanto is a horrible company – putting farmers out of business and becoming an enforcer of government backed food control.

  • Paul von Hartmann October 1, 2013

    Cannabis vs. Climate Change three minutes that will rock your world to peace not pieces

  • Paul von Hartmann October 1, 2013

    Cannabis vs. Climate Change, three minutes that will rock your world to peace, not pieces.

  • Paul von Hartmann October 1, 2013

    Transgenetic neurotoxins in the seed can also be anticipated to effect the mental health of people who work with and ingest chemically and genetically altered agricultural materials.

  • Ian Tregoning October 10, 2013

    Grapes of Wrath all over again.

  • Ziggy Gaji October 11, 2013

    Shame on your ethics Monsanto. Buisness cannot function without people. So why not… do the right thing by people and clean up your ethics.

  • Marc Brazeau November 2, 2013

    This has been thoroughly debunked.

    ‘What is striking about this story is that the farmers of India — often branded as peasants in the narrative — have survived so long with such a high level of incompetence’

    ” . . .

    But in 2008, the International Food Policy Research Institute, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations that aims to end hunger in the developing world, reached an entirely different conclusion.

    “It is not only inaccurate, but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India,” said the report, stating that the introduction of Bt cotton in India had actually been effective in producing higher yields and decreasing pesticide usage by nearly 40%.

    In 2009, Ron Herring, professor of agrarian political economy at Cornell University, pointed out that many Indian farmers were relying on outdated farming methods and were dependent on the frequently erratic monsoon season.

    “The lure of ‘white gold’ is strong,” he wrote. “Without water, cotton fails. In thin red soils without irrigation, the risks are very high. Farmers know this; the alternatives are often worse. Cotton is often the only cash crop that has real potential to change a family’s financial circumstances, but at considerable risk.”

    Mr. Das added, “Even now, 60 years after the British left, 70% of India’s farmland depends on the monsoon. That means if the monsoon fails and rains fail, there is drought and the government has not invested enough in water irrigation facilities.”

    He said farmers were under many pressures: loss of government subsidies; cheaper foreign imports; the steady privatization of health care; soaring costs of education and an increase in the basic cost of living.

    And if Indian farmers found the GM seeds to be uneconomic, then why weren’t they abandoning them, asked Mr. Herring.

    “The peasant is constructed as vulnerable to crafty representatives of the market economy, as well as simple and gullible,” wrote Mr. Herring.

    “In this narrative, over the last 10 years Indian cotton farmers have not figured out that they have been deceived — or are sufficiently innumerate that they cannot tell profit from loss and therefore do not know whether or not they are being duped.

    “What is striking about this story is that the farmers of India — often branded as peasants in the narrative — have survived so long with such a high level of incompetence.”

    • Nota Bene December 16, 2013

      “…if Indian farmers found the GM seeds to be uneconomic, then why weren’t they abandoning them…”
      Indian farmers are abandoning GM seeds now that they’ve learned the truth, which has certainly not been debunked.

  • Ruth February 26, 2014

    Does Monsanto care? Do the Rothschilds and Rockefellers care when millions die because they have an “idea” to reduce the population? This is the ultimate enemy of life, of humanity and of Gaia. How long before we all wake up to their infamy?