The plight of Indian farmers has been a major area of focus in the organic and GMO Free movement, with reports of as many as “one cotton farmer suicide every 30 minutes” in the country surfacing in late 2014.
While Monsanto denies responsibility for the suicides, there is much evidence that problems caused by the GMO seeds and pesticides paradigm have had a serious hand in the problem (see this article for more).
Now, in the wake of a fall 2015 whitefly infestation in northern India that wiped out two-thirds of the state of Punjab’s mostly GM cotton crop and led to 15 additional suicides, as well as a failed lawsuit by Monsanto against the Indian government, the GMO giant is beginning to lose ground in one of the biggest overseas markets.
Sales of Monsanto seeds are dropping, and it’s already causing a sharp decline in the company’s bottom line to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Farmers Ditch GMO, Switch to Indigenous Indian Cotton
The Reuters article details the story of Ramandeep Mann, who planted Monsanto GM cotton for over a decade before the plague of whiteflies wiped it out last year.
His 25-acre farm in Punjab is now home to rows of “desi” or indigenous, natural cotton plants that Reuters said promise good yields and pest resistance at a “fraction of the cost.”
What many people don’t realize about Monsanto’s GM crops is that they can have a limited shelf life.
In the United States for example, GM soy farmers in Arkansas have been besieged by glyphosate resistant superweeds so big that farmhands have been hired to chop them down manually (see video footage here) so that they don’t destroy the tire tread on farmers’ tractors.
Filipino farmers have also experienced heartbreak with failed promises of GM corn.
And also in the U.S., the continued problem of glyphosate resistant pests and weeds has little end in sight. The problem has led Monsanto to petition the EPA to approve new “technology:” GM soybeans made to be sprayed with an even more toxic herbicide, dicamaba.
And also in India, cotton is being threatened by pink bollworms, which are reappearing in fields of Monsanto cotton designed to withstand it. While GM cotton still accounts for more than 90 percent of cottonseeds sold in India, sales of GM seeds are dropping sharply over these and other concerns.
The GM cotton boom has led to a doubling of the amount of fertilizer needed to support it (270 kg per hectare according to Reuters) from 2006-2015, yet another piece of evidence pointed out by critics.
So far in 2016, sales have dropped about 15 percent, with experts estimating Monsanto could lose as much as 5 billion rupees, or $75 million, in India.
Indian Government Gets Tough on Monsanto
The drop in profits was preceded by the Indian government putting a cap on seed royalties and choosing to promote natural, indigenous cottonseeds instead of the Monsanto varieties, the Reuters report said.
Monsanto challenged the law in court, but failed, and subsequently they declined to comment on the story. They threatened to pull their GM technology out of India, but farmers are already beginning to facilitate that change on their own.
Meanwhile, northern Indian farmers have planted over 72,000 hectares (each hectare is almost 2.5 acres) of non-GMO indigenous cotton this year, about 24 times the amount they did last year. Others are switching to different crops such as pulses and lentils following last year’s whitefly plague.
Whether or not the switch will be beneficial remains to be seen, with experts saying the transition could take time. But for Indian farmers in desperate need of a change, it could prove to be their best option.
Learn more in the Reuters article by clicking here.