New Delhi: The increase in the number of suicides among farmers in the country cannot be attributed to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops like Bt cotton, a US think-tank has said in a report.
“Our analysis clearly shows that Bt cotton is not a necessary or a sufficient condition for the occurrence of farmer suicide. Therefore, it should not be blamed for the resurgence of farmer suicides in the field,” a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said.
The finding of the report is contrary to arguments often cited by NGOs such as Gene Campaign. They say that the supposed increase in suicides is a tragic social consequence of farmers being forced into debt as a result of growing GM crops.
Citing reasons for suicides, it said, “The absence of a safety net or any other insurance support, the ineffective irrigation systems, the presence of abusive banking systems, the wide availability of highly toxic pesticides, and the potential rewards for suicide likely all contributed to farmer suicides. This has nothing to do with cotton or the use of new technology.”
According to government data, over 5,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last four years in Maharashtra, while 1,313 cases reported by Andhra Pradesh between 2005 and 2007. In Karnataka the number stood at 1,003, since 2005-06 till August this year. In the last four years, cases in Kerala were about 905, Gujarat 387, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26.
But the IFPRI study rejected the presence of a surge in farmer suicides in recent years and any direct or reciprocal role of Bt cotton introduction in farmer suicides, while noting that “Bt cotton may have played a role in specific cases and seasons”.