Cotton Farmers are switching back to Indigenous Seeds

November 8, 2019

Monsanto is making the news these days for losing. They have lost three court cases in which Roundup has been linked to cancer. In India, they are losing, too. After years of pushing a strain of Bt Cotton, Indian farmers have had enough and are switching back to native seeds for the cotton industry. 

It’s been a hard road for cotton farmers in India dealing with Monsanto. To begin with, Monsanto illegally began open field trials of its GMO Bt cotton in 1997 and announced it would begin selling seeds the following year. In turn, the Indian Supreme Court would not allow the biotech giant to sell seeds until 2002. Since then, over 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide. It is believed that many of these suicides were linked to major debts incurred by the systematic control of Monsanto and Bt cotton. Expensive seeds and the pesticides needed can only be bought from Monsanto. The agricultural ministry of India stated, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds have been dubbed “Seeds of Suicide” by residents in India.

And now, India is waking up and ready to fight back. The Indian government has begun to promote the use of native varieties of cotton, seeds more specific to each area. In the time that farmers have begun switching back to indigenous seeds, Monsanto has seen a loss of $75 million. Leaders, like Vandana Shiva, are helping farmers to attain native seeds for the cotton they grow, seeds that can be saved and regrown the next year (as opposed to GM seeds, which produces seeds that lose vigor and forces the farmers to purchase seeds every year). Shiva, an environmental activist in India began ‘Fibers of Freedom‘ in the heart of Monsanto’s Bt cotton/suicide belt in Vidharba. “We have created community seed banks with indigenous seeds and helped farmers go organic. No GMO seeds, no debt, no suicides.”

Encouragement for farmer prosperity from the Indian government is coming in other ways, as well. Paving the way for an organic, non-GMO India, the states of Goa, Rajasthan, and Sikkim have begun to transition to produce 100% organic agriculture. The State Department of Agriculture has launched a state sector plan titled, “Assistance for use of organic inputs by the farmer,” in which farmers can receive significant assistance from the government when it comes to obtaining organic agricultural inputs, such as organic fertilizers and bio-pesticides.