This is an extract from the newspaper " The Guardian" where James Randerson reports on the Indian Farmer Suicides,published on 5th November,2008
Suicides among Indian farmers have not increased as a result of the introduction of GM crops, according to a large scientific study.
The finding runs counter to arguments often cited by NGOs in the country such as Gene Campaign that oppose GM crops. They say that the supposed hike in suicides is a tragic social consequence of farmers being forced into debt as a result of growing the crops.
Farmer suicides were recently cited by Prince Charles in a lecture via video link to the New Delhi based NGO Navdanya as one of the ills of GM technology. He spoke of "the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties."
But the new analysis suggests that if anything, suicides among farmers have been decreasing since the introduction of GM cotton by Monsanto in 2002. "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 from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC. "Despite the recent media hype around farmer suicides," it added, "fuelled by civil society organisations and reaching the highest political spheres in India and elsewhere, there is no evidence in available data of a 'resurgence' of farmer suicide in India in the last five years."
It also found that the adoption of pest-resistant Bt cotton varieties had led to massive increases in yield and a 40% decrease in pesticide use.
"What we argue is that it's far more complex than simply adopting a technology," lead author Guillaume Gruère told New Scientist magazine. The report identifies a lack of financial support for farmers as a key problem leading many to borrow money from loan sharks at crippling interest rates. The IFPRI is a thinktank funded by governments, private foundations and international and regional organisations.
The researchers examined data from a variety of sources on suicide rates among farmers and on their costs and yields from crops. Although there were initially some catastrophic failures of Bt cotton varieties for some farmers after their introduction the report said that conventional varieties did equally badly because of drought - particularly in Andra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
By 2006, Bt cotton covered 3.8m hectares or more than 39% of the total cotton area. Yields of the crop have nearly doubled since GM varieties were introduced and India is now the largest cotton producer in Asia and has overtaken the US to become the second largest in the world.