The Sunday Indian: Haryana is today reeling under an itch invasion... people say due to farming BT cotton, but state and central governments are rubbishing this. Report by Anil Pandey
Joe Thomas: I once respected New Scientist as a good journal. ... this little extract has me worried and disappointed.
GM cotton in the clear over farmer suicides
POOR Indian farmers are not driven to suicide by the pressures of growing genetically modified cotton, concludes a comprehensive review published last month - if anything, suicides among farmers have fallen since Bt cotton was introduced by Monsanto in 2002, quite steeply in some states.
"It is not only inaccurate, but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India," says the report by independent think tank, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
First, there is no evidence in available data of a “resurgence” of farmer suicides in India in the last five years. Second, we find that Bt cotton technology has been very effective overall in India. However, the context in which Bt cotton was introduced has generated disappointing results in some particular districts and seasons. Third, our analysis clearly shows that Bt cotton is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the occurrence of farmer suicides. In contrast, many other factors have likely played a prominent role. Nevertheless, in specific regions and years, where Bt cotton may have indirectly contributed to farmer indebtedness, leading to suicides, its failure was mainly the result of the context or environment in which it was planted. We close the paper by proposing a conceptual framework for empirical applications linking the different agricultural and institutional factors that could have contributed to farmer suicides in recent years in certain districts of Central and Southern India.
GM Watch: IFPRI has always been pro-GM, although that does not by itself mean that this discussion paper is invalid. As will become apparent, though, there are plenty of indications in the paper that suggest the authors have adopted a very limited pro-GM perspective.
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