The Real Seeds of Deception

By Keith Kloor | March 11, 2013 11:15 am

In October, Dan Charles, NPR’s food and agriculture correspondent, wrote an excellent piece headlined:

Top Five Myths of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted

There is one myth, however, that should have been included because of its widespread dissemination and emotive power. It is the one GMO myth that exploits real human tragedy and for that reason, I find it so offensive. It is a myth that, in 2008, Prince Charles fueled and the UK’s Daily Mail blew up, tabloid style. It is a myth that has since become part of the GMO discourse, largely unchallenged in the media. It is a myth that Vandana Shiva, a celebrated environmentalist, feminist hero, and globe-trotting icon, repeats every chance she gets, as she did on Friday, in an interview with Democracy Now: 

Two hundred and seventy thousand Indian farmers have committed suicide since Monsanto entered the Indian seed market. That’s more than a quarter-million. It’s a genocide.

That seems pretty clearcut. Monsanto–the poster child for GMO evil–is responsible for farmers in India killing themselves. Lots of people, from the nutty fringes to respectable green media, have parroted this myth. A recent highly praised documentary gave it currency. I’ll get to that film in a minute, but first let’s check out one of the few articles that actually unspools this madness. Here’s some helpful context it provides:

The issue of farmer suicides first gained media attention in 1995 as the southern state of Maharashtra began reporting a significant rise in farmers killing themselves.

Other states across the country began noticing an increase in farmer suicides as well.

But it wasn’t until seven years later — in 2002 — that the U.S.-based agribusiness Monsanto began selling genetically modified cotton seeds, known as Bt cotton, to Indian farmers. The seeds produce insecticides and led to higher yields, but can be up to 10 times more expensive than regular cotton seeds.

Within years, a narrative began to take shape that farmers were getting into debt to pay for the seed and when they couldn’t repay the money were killing themselves. Another version was that the GM crop failed, leading to debt, leading to suicide.

It is a narrative that is hard to break.

Finally, a reporter figured out the real story. What I love most about this article is that it’s written by a journalism student–Rubab Abid–interning at the National Post. She took the time to investigate a claim taken at face value by many other journalists, including the esteemed Bill Moyers. In doing so, Abid also provided essential context to the larger (and very real) tragic story of suicide in India, a story with complex and heartbreaking cultural and socio/political dynamics.

Ironically, the documentary (Bitter Seeds) that perpetuates the GMO/Indian farmer suicide myth also indirectly captures those complex factors. I was actually quite moved by the film, which showed a side of the story that indicts Indian cultural mores and predatory lending practices way more than it indicts Monsanto. This is a side of the story that the Vandana Shiva’s of the world choose to ignore. But don’t take my word for it; watch the movie for yourself.

The truth is that the real causes of farmer suicides in India cannot be pinned on Monsanto, however venal you may regard the company. To discuss those causes you have to wade into a very complex equation that includes institutional, social, and governmental factors in India.  Doing this requires a cold objective eye and cultural sensitivity. I’m fairly certain that Vandana Shiva, in her heart,  knows well why so many Indian farmers have taken their lives over the last several decades. Just as I’m sure that she knows all about India’s high rate of suicide and the reasons for it. After all, she is a student of inequality and social justice. That Shiva prefers to keep the conversation squarely and inaccurately focused on GMOs and Monsanto reveals to me that she cares more about advancing an ideological agenda than addressing the root causes of suicide in India. That she has succeeded in exploiting real tragedy and distracting conversation away from those true causes is something I find utterly offensive.

Over the weekend, Shiva visited New York City to give a talk at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which is close to my home. My wife and I love to stroll through this oasis with our two boys. It’s also a venerable institution that regularly hosts terrific educational programs, which we have attended. So what would my fellow Brooklynites learn from Shiva, I wondered? I had to find out.

To start, they would first learn a few things from Robin Simmen, the director of a community horticulture program at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, who introduced Shiva before her talk. Simmen said that when she and her colleagues were considering last year who could give the lecture, they decided to think big and reach out Shiva. “We are so, so grateful that the universe responded by blessing us with a true ecological visionary,” she told a capacity crowd  seated in an indoor auditorium. After listing some of Shiva’s career highlights, Simmens foreshadowed one of the topics that would be discussed, when she said “over a quarter million Indian farmers have committed suicide because of GMO seed.” The crowd gasped.

The myth had been successfully reseeded once again.

Shiva dutifully repeated and elaborated on this myth during her speech, the substance of which I will discuss in a follow-up post tomorrow. For now, let me jump ahead to the brief exchange I had with Shiva after her talk, outside the auditorium, where she was signing copies of one of her books. When it was my turn to approach the table where she sat, I introduced myself and mentioned to her that my NYU journalism class had done an exercise this semester, in which they looked into the facts of the GMO-Indian farmer suicide story.

As a point of reference, I had them read the infamous 2008 Daily Mail story. I also explained to my students that the central claim in the story–that 250,000 farmers had committed suicide because GMOs–has become popular lore. I then gave the students 20 minutes to root out legitimate sources of information that either supported or contradicted this narrative. To a person, they found that the main claim didn’t hold up and that the true story was much more complicated than people have been led to believe.

“My students found the Indian farmer-GMO link to be way overstated,” I said to Shiva.

“Not overstated,” she shot back. “Look at government data.”

I said they did. The students also found several comprehensive reports (such as this one) casting doubt on the link, I said. “Those are the Monsanto studies,” she replied. I realized this would not be a fruitful exchange, and didn’t want to hold up the line, so I said my thanks and moved on.

I have previously attempted to untangle this story, and I intend to keep doing so. Meanwhile, if you want some larger insight into it, read this by Cornell University’s Ronald Herring, and watch his talk.

  • bobito

    Interesting that her two answers to your questions were ‘trust government’ and ‘distrust corporation’.
    I guess stick with what works!

    • Joshua

      Good point. When will these eco-Nazis get it? Obviously, the way to go is to ‘trust corporations’ and ‘distrust government.’ I mean it’s not like that every turned out to be a bad idea – right?

      • bobito

        Why trust either? Both are equally capable of deceptively cherry picking facts to suit their needs.

        • Joshua

          Why distrust either? Both are equally capable of accurately investigating and conveying facts to suit their (and effectively our) purposes.

          So it seems to me that what works is to not make assumptions either way. Binary thinking is the problem.

          Agreed?

          Do you think that Shiva has a blind trust in government?

          • bobito

            Why distrust either? Track records! ;)

            Yes, binary thinking is a huge problem regardless of what issue you choose to discuss.

            I’m not sure about Shiva’s motivation, but I’m sure the India government is very happy to have a scapegoat for the high suicide rates in India…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468472758 Carol McCormack Stone

        I really cannot put my trust in a entity who’s sole purpose is to make a profit, no matter what. Sorry. It’s been shown over and over again that they will skip safety, push through contaminated products, and pollute to their hearts content if they can get away with it. That shows a complete lack of caring for one’s client or neighbor or consumer. Take a look at super-polluted China with their total lack of safety and health regulations.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003154764200 Bill Lockhart

          So, Carol, you live in a self contained little bubble? Completely self contained so you don’t have to depend on anyone for anything? Your waste is somehow recycled for you to consume again I take it?

        • http://www.facebook.com/JOJORAEHART Joleen Hart

          DEAR CAROL, I AM NEW TO THIS FORUM AND I LOVE THAT YOU ARE CHALLENGING ALL OF THESE DEVIL WORSHIPPERS (MONSANTO). BRAVA, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND WORK IT IS OR PERHAPS A BETTER ANALOGY WOULD BE BANGING YOUR HEAD AGAINST A WALL BECAUSE FROM WHAT I CAN TELL FROM MY BRIEF INTRO TO THIS BLOG IS THAT A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THESE FOLKS ARE STUCK ON STUPID. BEST REGARDS….

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

          But Carol, all of you have poisoned the process with lies and misinformation to the point where nobody can commercialize products except Monsanto and their big-ag cohorts. Anyone with kind intentions and profit-free motives (like those around Golden Rice) are ripped apart by overzealous activists. We can’t do well-meaning non-profit work because you won’t let us. You allow MON et al to thrive.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rjvg50 Kirk Holden

    Next you will probably conjecture that life in 13th century Europe would have been miserable for a serf whether there was a Roman Catholic church or not. Or that someone with a diagnosis of severe depression sometimes commits suicide whether the federal government oppresses them or not. Narratives trump complexity.

  • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

    After debating two anthropologists recently I’m beginning to question the point of challenging people like this. They will never change. Its hard for me to understand why battling these imaginary demons is so important but if anyone finds out, let me know. It seems like its about social cues and belonging to a group.

    • Kevin Bonham

      Agree that it may not be worth discussing with these people in private, but it’s important to challenge them in public forums. Even if you won’t change the minds of the thought leaders, you might be able to keep other people out from under their spell.

  • http://janiceperson.com/ Janice Person

    Thank you for such a well-done article on a complex topic. You may also like this article from another person who took time to go through the story that she had believed was true who then saw Shiva speak http://onehundredmeals.com/2012/11/06/what-our-fields-actually-need-is-a-heavy-application-of-honesty/

  • Kevin Bonham

    The thing that gets me about this fable is that **even if it were true,** it would be an indictment of Monsanto, not of GMO technology. I just cannot fathom why so few people are able to wrap their heads around the difference.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468472758 Carol McCormack Stone

      Comeon, do you really want to eat Salmon GMO’d with eel genes? Ick! Or crops with plastic polymers in them?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003154764200 Bill Lockhart

        Well, Carol certainly doesn’t understand anything about it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/JOJORAEHART Joleen Hart

          YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A GENIUS TO UNDERSTAND DEEP WITHIN YOURSELF THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG…

          • Roy Graham

            What’s with the shouting? State a fact calmly or take a Valium.

            Hint…. caps on doesn’t make your argument any truer.

          • rhansing

            amen…

      • http://www.facebook.com/bwallan Brian W. Allan

        The bigger question is, for most people in 3rd world countries, is “do you really want to eat”!

      • rhansing

        Don’t want to eat GMO… start a business and lable the food GMO free, and make a ton of money.You can charge ten dollars for a GMO free cabbage.

      • Kevin Bonham

        Salmon GMO’d with eel genes? Sure! I love salmon, I love Eel. To my stomach, all proteins look the same, regardless of what organisms they come from.

        And plastic polymers? Haven’t heard about that, can you give me a link? That seems like something that you’d want additional safety testing of if you’re going to eat it, but if you’re using it to make bottles without hydrocarbons, that sounds great!

        But again, even if you found that making polymers from crops was unequivocally bad, that’s a particular USE of the technology, not an indictment of the technology itself. Do you think rockets are good? If your first thought is of missiles and nukes, then probably not. But rocketry is also used to put satellites in orbit, which allows my phone to know where I am and how to get where I’m going, not to mention weather prediction, TV, global communications etc etc.

        ANY technology can be used for bad things, but if you just dismiss a technology outright because a few uses are bad, you’re cutting yourself off from a world of potential innovation.

        • First Officer

          And the same people have no problem eating flounder sutffed with crab meat. Both chocked full of their own genes, which get all mixed up in your digestive track.

        • ozlanthos

          Let me ask you something. If Monsanto grows all the salmon, why should we bother keeping our salmon runs going? I mean, why bother even having rivers or lakes at all? I mean we can just go to the store and BUY Monsanto’s Frankensalmon! As for water? We can go BUY all the water we could ever want from Earth20! Isn’t it great to have to PAY someone just to be able to feed and hydrate yourself?

          -Oz

          • Kevin Bonham

            Let me ask YOU something. Can you explain to me the thought process that brings you from what I actually said, that GMO technology is worth pursuing, to the conclusion that I want to drain all of our rivers and lakes, kill everything that’s not GMO, and live an entirely artificial life?

            The irony here is that I’m an environmentalist – I want to preserve our natural habitats. I just don’t fetishize consuming “natural” products. If we can use technology to make better plants and animals for human consumption, maybe we can stop raping the land as much as we’re currently doing.

            Think about drought-resistant crops that GE might help us achieve, that could use less water. This could help *preserve* those lakes and rivers, rather than draining them dry. Think if we could grow all the salmon that people want to eat in fish farms, so that we can stop depleting natural salmon and *preserve* those salmon runs.

            It might be nice if we could go back to having the environmental impact we had as hunter-gatherers, but unless you’re advocating dropping about 90% of the human population and giving up all of our technology, that’s not going to happen. Going forward, we should try to use our technology to reduce our impact.

          • ozlanthos

            You misunderstand me. The only reason we have flowing water on the surface of this country is that we need it to maintain populations of wildlife. NO wildlife, no need for parks. Right now here in the upper Willamette range, we don’t have salmon runs, we have the SIMULATION of salmon runs! We capture the returning runs and move the fish behind our dams. Then they spawn in the lake. This would be all well and good if there were a way for the fish to enter and leave the lake as they will, but alas there is no effective means of escapement!!! The lakes have shown repeatedly to be excellent rearing ponds but ODF&W won’t invest or recommend any action better than draining the lake entirely during the winter so that 5000 fish can return in 4 to 6 years! Can’t have a residential populace of bass, trout, crappie, bluegill or a dozen other species if you DRAIN THEM INTO THE RIVER EVER YEAR! Gosh, you think I might be able to get a meal out of any of those species? I used to, but now I have to go to Albertson’s and BUY Monsanto’s lovely aquarium grown Talapia! We are fantasizing about replacing salmon with frankenfish because we have messed up the rivers salmon spawn in. However, we don’t need to replace salmon with frankenfish, we simply have to invest some money in building fish ladders! We designed and build the dams, we can engineer and fly space-craft, but we can’t afford to improve our dams so that anadromous species can pass over our dams whenever they want? More importantly rather than fix the problem so the run can work even better than it did before the insertion of the dam (because the lake created behind the dam has 9,000,000,000 times more shoreline than the trickling creek it replaced), we’d rather allow ourselves to become dependent on Monsanto!!! The problems you intend to fix with GMOs do not need to be fixed by GMOs! They are being fixed by GMOs though because the companies that make them have way richer lawyers than any loathsome farmer or fisherman does! If you want to have a hope of sustaining our populace into the future, we need to alter our ops to work with, and for the rest of nature! It’s fed us this long, and if help nature, it might just feed us until we get off this rock! We’ve turned our back on it, and all we will have to show for it following your route is megacities with no room left for so much as a pidgeon…

            Which would you like more? A river you can go to and catch fish that have been feeding other species since before time was time, or eat a fish crafted in a laboratory, with no natural connection with anything else on earth? You are what you eat!

            -Oz

          • Kevin Bonham

            I see where you’re coming from Oz. I haven’t fished since I was a kid, but I certainly care about protecting indigenous species and natural habitats.

            But let me ask you this: how long have people been constructing dams without regard to the natural fish population? I don’t know the history that well, but a quick google search turned up this article from 1953!! (http://goo.gl/jyNVG ).

            Monsanto’s salmon hasn’t been approved yet (or if it has, it’s only been within the past few months), but as you point out, this habitat destruction has been going on for years! Furthermore, plenty of fish-farming is already done on an industrial scale, and those aren’t GMO fish.

            So, while I completely agree with you that destruction of natural salmon runs is bad, and the fact that people aren’t willing to pay for solutions like fish ladders is a travesty, I don’t think that GMO has anything whatever to do with that.

          • ozlanthos

            Just to be clear here, Monsanto et al have one thing in mind, control the food, control the populace. I would consider it to be a total myth, but after having observed the evolving policies concerning wildlife (fresh and salt water fish populations and management/ take policies), I’ve come to the conclusion that several populations of fish are being artificially suppressed, while individual fishing has been further and further discouraged through sensationalism (convincing fishermen watching tournament shows that it is too expensive to go fishing by featuring fishing rods and reels stratospherically expensive, $60-$70,000 bass-boats w/another $30K worth of electronics on-board, and $6 5-bags of plastic baits) and over-regulation. In other words they want to control EVERYTHING you eat, charge you for all of it, and do EVERYTHING possible to keep you from ever being able to feed yourself without them….and then they will kill you.by starving you to death with hyper-expensive food, or killing you with state-funded storm-troopers while you are protesting in food lines! I’m against anything that facilitates this future, and replacing organisms that we have survived on since we left the caves, with GMO’s that are the product of Intellectual Property of Monsanto seems like a really good way to extort people into starvation…

            -Oz

      • http://www.facebook.com/bob.arthur.7587 Bob Arthur

        Eel meat is a delicacy. I’ve eaten it from Chesepeake Bay, etc. So, what’s your problem with eel — the fact that they look like snakes?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jw-Saret/1806829726 J.w. Saret

      er perhaps we are but Monsanto is a convenient face of the concerns just as the polar bear is a convenient but very simplistic face of global warming concerns. GMO’s have a lot of worries unlike natural of farmers selection of plants the changes happen very quickly, the natural world adapts slowly we need to honour Hippocrates wisdom: First do no harm.

      • Kevin Bonham

        GMO’s have been used for decades with no negative health effects identified (http://goo.gl/1X9cU let me know if you need a link to the pdf w/o paywall). What you’re describing is the “precautionary principal,” which states that we need to make sure something is completely safe before adopting it. Though this idea seems sensible on it’s face, there’s no way to prove safety 100%, and appeals to the precautionary principal basically means stifling innovation completely.

        I agree that we should continue to look at the safety of *all* of our food, but saying that more testing is needed before proceeding at all, and without any demonstration of potential risk doesn’t make any sense.

        • ozlanthos

          You are what you eat…. As far as I am concerned, that is more than enough reason to avoid eating anything that has been genetically modified!

          -Oz

    • First Officer

      It’s hard to wrap a point around a concept.

  • Mike Bendzela

    Shiva is an awful person. Here is another article revealing what a crackpot she is:

    http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/vandana-shiva-brahmin-in-shudra-clothing/

    That Moyers swallows her swill is very depressing

    • Buddy199

      it’s too good not to be true

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468472758 Carol McCormack Stone

      Just because some suicides began in the 1990′s doesn’t mean they haven’t increased among a particular group (aka farmers) because of the bullying tactics of Monsanto since then. Mexico is already suing Monsanto over their royalty and insistance on farmers using ONLY Monsanto products or be sued & bullied.

      • http://www.facebook.com/JOJORAEHART Joleen Hart

        NO MATTER WHAT Y’ALL SAY ABOUT MONSANTO (AND YOU BOOT-LICKERS WILL SAY ANYTHING) DEEP IN YOUR HEART OF HEARTS YOU KNOW THEY ARE THE COLLECTIVE DEVIL OF OUR GENERATION WHICH WILL AFFECT MANY, MANY FUTURE GENERATIONS. THESE MONEY GRUBBING DICTATORS WILL PAY BACK THE UNIVERSE IN BLOOD AND I PRAY THERE ARE RIVERS OF IT.

        • Roy Graham

          All caps. Thus you must be right. Emotions like yours are what start wars.

          Chill out.

        • Terry Sanderson

          Get a grip…

  • Buddy199

    A gifted con man is able to figure out exactly what a mark wants to hear, then just repeates it to him. Reporters already sold on a narrative, however ludicrous, are as easily conned as anyone else. Except that reporters are supposed to be doing due diligence as part of their job, otherwise they’re just stenographers.

  • http://twitter.com/VinnyBurgoo Vinny Burgoo

    This blog links to one of the junkiest pieces of junk journalism I’ve ever seen. Click on ‘high rate of suicide’ and you’ll find that in India ’40 per cent of men and a whopping 56 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 29 commit suicide’.

    The source for that alarming claim actually said that if you’re Indian and you’ve reached 15 and you’re going to commit suicide then about half of you will do so before you reach 30 (40% of men and 56% of women). Not altogether surprising. Don’t most suicides occur in adolescence and young adulthood almost everywhere?

    (I followed the link because I doubted that India has a high suicide rate but the article’s source in The Lancet does actually say that it does. Hmmm. Maybe later.)

  • Tom C

    Esteemed? Please. Moyers is as much a [deleted] as this woman

    • kkloor

      Tom C
      No name-calling. That’ll land you on moderation next time.

      • Tom C

        Keith – is the problem that I used the word “crackpot” or that Bill Moyers is beyond criticism? In fact, Moyers has a history of spreading outrageous lies on environmental themes. He repeatedly wrote and gave speeches claiming that evangelical Christians wanted to despoil the environment becuase it would hasten the Second Coming. The fact that he had not a scrap of evidence for this claim did not matter at all. That is why I put him in league with Shiva.

        • kkloor

          Name calling degrades the commenting environment. I wouldn’t call either Shiva or Moyers a crackpot.

      • rhansing

        Moderation??? ” the author? or Tom C? Is kkloor the the political corrector? I do not think that “crackpot” is justified for moderation… “Esteemed” maybe… but I better not say so, since me too will be subject to moderation.

  • RogerSweeny

    “Simmen said that when she and her colleagues were considering last year
    who could give the lecture, they decided to think big and reach out
    Shiva. ‘We are so, so grateful that the universe responded by blessing
    us with a true ecological visionary,’”

    Change “the universe” to “God” and this could be sh*t from Pat Robertson’s 700 Club.

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    I am so glad that you confronted her on this. I think she’s been one of the most serious deceivers in this debate, with a very large megaphone. I don’t expect it will make any difference to her, but I don’t think she gets challenged very much and I’m very pleased to see someone tried.

    She continues to also claim that the terminator seeds are part of the enslavement and subsequent murder. But we know she’s smart enough to know they don’t exist in the Bt cotton (or anywhere, of course). So there are layers of deception too. Did she play the terminator card too?

    I saw the Herring talk a few months back, and it is excellent. Academic and wonky. But it’s no match for slick and appealing lies that are flogged as evidence on YouTube by Smith, Mercola, Mike Adams, and Alex Jones. Or the emotional “activist-umentary” genre [is there a good moniker for activist documentaries like "mockumentary"?].

    • hurricanechelsea

      crockumentary?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468472758 Carol McCormack Stone

    For Monsanto to be suing farmers because they are using seeds from last year’s crop and not paying a royalty to that poison-producing company is simply wrong. Monsanto also has been known to bully independent farmers who use wholesome, normal seeds to grow their crops as well. Monsanto has already duped the farmers and many scientists into believing that their GMO corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa and beets won’t hurt them, when private studies have found that they do indeed cause problems in our systems. Animals fed these GMO crops also have been shown to suffer in many instances, and the fact that those are fed to the animals we eat (aka chickens, fish, cattle, pigs, turkeys, goats, etc.) means it gets back to us again and again.

    • http://foster-boondoggle.myopenid.com/ Foster Boondoggle

      Carol, what form does this bullying by Monsanto take? What do they do?

      Also, how do you account for the large acreage of “brown bag” GMO plantings in India, by farmers who want to plant GM seed but don’t want to pay the full freight for the “name brand” seeds? Who is forcing them? Or are the farmers all just dupes?

      Finally, out of curiosity: you mention “problems in our systems” caused from GM cotton and beets.Since we don’t eat cotton, and the beets are grown for refined sugar (which contains no protein or genetic material), what is the mechanism of harm?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

      Carol, nobody tells farmers what to do. If any company told any farmers I know what to plant… Farmers pick what works best, and transgenic seeds simply outperform others when costs and farmer profits are considered.

      Patents. Do you think it is okay to steal someone’s technology or the results of their hard work? Do you steal music, copy art or clone software? Personally I’m against that. Plant breeders take many years and millions of dollars to generate new varieties. Same with biotech. Why do they have to give it away?

      Farmers/nurseries can’t propagate Cornell apples, UC-Davis strawberries, or blueberries from U Florida. You can’t propagate any patented inbred lines of corn, tomatoes, etc from thousands of companies. Plant patents allow plant breeders to do their work and continue to produce elite varieties. They are a good thing.

      You anti-GM folks don’t know this and you keep posting nonsense, like this is some big monsanto issue. It is the reality of making new plants and new food. That’s all.

  • Gopinathan Krishnan

    “The Real Seeds of Deception”
    Good to know that World knows it!
    In India few get the news. It is systematically suppressed by the Media, the Govt.
    Instead “Rape” is freely distributed. It is free for all.
    Monsanto created some problem. The business men in India are very Crooked. While whether may have been a contributing factor, other seeds dis appeared from the market. The ignorant farmers had no option; but buy the Genetically modified verity.
    To me the wealth of India is created by farmers and other manual workers. But those who get pay from ”thin air” enjoy the real life. Others are supposed to survive or commit what they like.
    Gopinathan Krishnan, a Scientist belonging to India, part of the “7 th world”:

  • rhansing

    Shiva, the Destroyer God of the Hindu religion… Can we not also say, that Shiva is the Destroyer incarnate? I simple use the same logic as she… so, this must be true. Shiva was the one who destroyed a quarter of the million.

    As far as the documentary, caution beware… documentaries are really propagandmenitories that are agenda driven. The only purpose of these, is that they are excellent tools to study the subtle techniques of brainwashing, hence, each one is a great lesson in critical viewing. 3.15.13 ron hansing

  • Anurag Singh

    There might be some truth in the fact you cant link suicides to GM & Monsanto. Bt trait actually made the farmer economics better and vastly reduced insecticide spray on indoxocarb. The share of Monsanto seed went from 0 to 95% in 3-4 seasons in a free economy proves beyond doubt that the farmers found it economically beneficial to use the seed.

    Having said that Vandana Shiva is more about genetic diversity. This Bt trait adoption has wiped out thousands of genetically different strains of cotton and replaced it by fewer than 15. This is where we are playing with nature. We don’t understand enough about what we lost. The strains that stood the warth of nature over thousands of years are in threat of being lost. Typical life of genetically modified seed is 10-12 seasons, and by that time nature catches up. If you look a decade ahead, a century ahead, we are going at 90 miles an hour inebrieted with quest for yeild down the dead end road.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

      Playing with nature? Anurag, cotton never grew in India naturally, at least not polyploid cotton with any improved performance. “Diversity” is introduced, not natural. I could be wrong, so please get us up to speed on “The strains that stood the wrath of nature over thousands of years”. What species are they? Are they polyploids? I’m a huge fan of cotton genetics and would love to hear your insight.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dean.hovey.3 Dean Hovey

        For those who are unaware of the dangers of “monoculture,” here’s a link to the award-winning website Understanding Evolution. The Irish Potato Famine, which devastated the people and economy of that country; the 1970 billion-dollar loss in the U.S. due to the planting of a single corn variety (destroyed by fungus); the forced replanting of 2 million acres of California grape vines in the 1980s, when the planting of a single type of grapevine root led to insect depradation by the grape phylloxera–these incidents should have served as cautionary tales. But the prospect of short-term profits blind us to such exigencies. “Kick the can down the road” seems to be a popular game.

  • Chris Lee

    Your desire to correct the myth is fine but you should not have tried to pull a “gotcha” in public during a book signing. No wonder she snapped at you. You would have reached her (and your readers) better had you begun a conversation via email or other correspondence, or tried to arrange a lunch meeting where you could discuss your information in person, when she really has time to converse. Even if someone is wrong, your first approach should be respectful. That is the foundation of our democracy. Is “gotcha” journalism any better than her public and apparently inaccurate statements? Does “gotcha” journalism serve the public good overall? Or, does it only appease a short-term desire to be right, further contributing to the public myth that our media always tells the truth, regardless of circumstance?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dean.hovey.3 Dean Hovey

    “Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.” — The Editors, Scientific American, “Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?” August 13, 2009

  • Rhead

    This is an example of how our brains work. The brain always wants a complete story to explain things. Once it gets a narrative it will usually only accept info that agrees and reject that does not. A favorite response to opposite info is to dismiss it because it came from a untrustworthy source, or the reader mis read it etc, One persons facts are not accepted by another.
    How many times,after a debate with many facts presented. have you sen anyone of the debaters change their mind? hardly ever. We are all very closed minded and choose to reenforce and protect those stories we want to be true.

  • First Officer

    I find it amazing how people believe Monsanto is the head of some vast conspiracy network, financing their will in hundreds of governments and thousands of universities, all on gross revenues that are less than Sara Lee or Staples.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.thompson.984 Aaron Thompson

    No one cares what assurances the industry or their spin doctors provided about genetically modified food. We want a choice, and when the likes of Monsanto lobby to take away that choice by not having modified food labelled; they lose every right to argue GMOs are safe. Arguments of safety become redundant when you don’t even know if you’re eating it or not.

    I don’t want to eat genetically modified food, it’s my choice as the customer to not want to consume these products. It should really be as clear cut as that, let market forces determine whether consumers want to accept these products or not.

    If you’re trying to sneak it into people’s diets, you’re only adding to the paranoia and mistrust.

  • http://profiles.google.com/edgeben Benjamin Edge

    Considering that the suicide rate in the rural population of India is about half that of the population as a whole — if anything, GM could be said to be REDUCING farmer suicides.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Dickman/100002193091518 Chris Dickman

    I’m glad you can sleep at night by piping up to defend poor old Monsanto. What would they do without you and your tireless search for the truth. Given their track record, I have no reason whatsoever to not believe the worst of them. You’re one naive puppy to think otherwise.

  • Label GMOs

    This story doesn’t live up to its title. The author makes a lot of statements without backing up his assertions. I want some hard numbers and references I can look up.

    If you read the only report he references, you would see that they state in the beginning as part of the research focus that Bt seeds didn’t cause any problems and, even if they did, Monsanto seeds weren’t to blame. So, either way this report would find Monsanto blameless.

    If you are interested in what US farmers think about Monsanto seeds check out: http://gmcropsfarmertofarmer.com/

    He never brings up India’s response, which is that they are now labeling and considering banning GMOs. Maybe they didn’t read the report?

  • jjm

    Today’s young generation carries very little wisdom. This is because wisdom cannot exist without first being handed down from previous generations. So my conclusion to that is the idea that today’s youth is vulnerable ot being played the fool.

    There is a large agenda to cutting off traditional wisdom. Dumb down the population and you pave the way for any number of schemes that seek to dominate the masses. GMO is not fooling the wise population. The ones that grew up during a time when we didn’t have (or need) produce that was tampered with. We had a thriving community of small farmers to feed the communities that surrounded them. But here comes the greed filled minds of corporates, taking over every aspect of society. All forms of large profited business is being corrupted. There is a separate story to tell for every one. The music industry. The movie industry. The water industry. The new weather industry. Etc etc etc. And the food industry is next.

    Your rationalization of indian suicides is flawed. Shiva was correct. And there is far more to the evidence against GMO than you have suggested. You merely left it out I suppose to promote your own idea. This is nothing new on the pro-GMO side. The usual Republican style tactic to sway the public perception. But people like me who do not have a short term memory will continue to fight tooth and nail to promote the REAL seed of deception which is actually a seed. A poisonous one that grows even without sunlight.

  • AP

    As a 4th generation American farmer, when I read articles like this, it is glaringly obvious how disconnected the general population and even more so the “media” are from the realities of agriculture. While I am not in India on a regular basis, I have a pretty good idea of the pressures and complexities farmers might encounter. While the GE companies might not have DIRECTLY caused farmer suicides, the market conditions and costs involved in competing in conventional farming ARE a huge factor in the survival of family farms. Sorry, but having dealt with Monsanto and the like in the USA over years and seeing how they deal with farmers – sure they like it when you buy their products and seeds but they get quite snippy and protective when you suggest that maybe they shouldn’t hold the monopoly on the world’s genetic food bank. Again, when I read articles like this (and sadly even those who think they are advocating for farmers sometimes), I am awestruck at the ignorance and arrogance of the writers/interviewers. Spend a year or two in the shoes of your subjects and then maybe you might just get a real clue. And saddest of all is that people will read these articles and think they know what farming – real farming is like, all the while demanding cheap food and clothing. The problem is complex and yes, GMO’s are part of the problem. Controlling large scale global markets are part of the problem. Consumers demanding cheap goods that are made at a loss to the producers are part of the problem. Farmers who think debt and GMO’s can somehow save them from the cycle of poverty are part of the problem. Maybe it’s time to call some people out and find some solutions.

  • http://www.orientalgardensupply.com/index.php/acer-shirasawanum-garden-glory-45762.html japanese garden plants list

    Thanks for share………………………….

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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