The Exploitation of Indian Farmer Suicides

By Keith Kloor | May 5, 2014 12:36 pm

From The Economist’s Demography and Development blog, several months ago:

FACTS can be stubborn – and irritating. It is satisfying—perhaps even gratifying—to accept the idea that genetically modified crops are causing thousands of Indian farmers to commit suicide (as this article claims). The notion seems plausible: farmers take out higher debts on the promise that GM seeds will be a bonanza and then lose everything when the harvest fails. There is genuine distress: farmers are indeed killing themselves. Their cause has been adopted by high-profile campaigners such as Britain’s Prince Charles and India’s Vandana Shiva, who blames the spate of deaths on Monsanto, an American biotech firm.

Shiva, a prominent environmentalist, has spread this false narrative in the media for years. To understand how she’s done it, and who has enabled her, read my recent feature in Issues in Science and Technology.

The Monsanto-Indian famer suicide connection is a recurring motif for Shiva. She raises it when she references Monsanto or GMOs in her many writings, media interviews, and public talks. I heard her expound on it during a recent talk on sustainability that she gave at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York City.

Shiva’s words are treated with earnest respect in liberal and environmental circles, where she is held in great esteem. If she insists that Monsanto and its GMO seeds have driven hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers to suicide—and she has said this frequently—then there must be something to it.

There isn’t. But that doesn’t matter, because a compelling media narrative–no matter how false–builds on itself in such a way that it becomes received wisdom. The latest example:

The Guardian’s cynical clickbait headline doesn’t lead you to an actual discussion of the question, of course. (You were expecting as much?) Instead, the pictures and captions conflate the story of agrarian hardship with the introduction of genetically modified cotton seeds. It is a conflation that anti-GMO campaigners have seeded globally, with much success.

In my piece, I show how the GMO suicide myth has been crafted and perpetuated; I also lay out the evidence demonstrating that genetically modified cotton has improved the economic fortunes of many Indian farmers. The editors who operate the Guardian Development blog are either lazy, ignorant, or doing the bidding of anti-GMO activists. They don’t even seem to be paying attention to the work of their own journalists.

The photo essay they published, combined with the suggested culpability of Monsanto and GMOs, is shameless exploitation of personal tragedies for a political cause. I have to think that people–including more of my colleagues in the media–will eventually wake up to that truth.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: GMOs, India
  • Robert Wilson

    Rather bad stuff from the Guardian, but we are seeing it more and more. Newspapers should not rely on activists to provide their content, as has happened here.

    What’s worst is that all of the content including the text comes direct from Lynda Laird’s website. Yet the Guardian merely states that Laird provided the photographs. And who appears to be Laird’s main source of information? Vandana Shiva.

    This is not Guardian product, yet you would think it was if you read the site. Perhaps this hints at the future business model of outlets that don’t go behind a paywall.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      Yes, I noticed the cut and paste, job, too.

      As for the journalism business model, there is that old saying, “you get what you pay for…”

  • mem_somerville

    I wrote this over at Steve Novella’s recent take on this:

    The other really insidious thing about a false claim like this is that it prevents people from looking into the actual causes and getting
    to real solutions for the suicide issue. If you think that it’s the GMOs, maybe you ban GMOs. Ok–now what?

    If the cotton was actually a successful crop for farmers and was reducing debt, you could get more suicides. If it was irrelevant, you still haven’t done a damn thing to help with whatever the real issue was.

    There are downstream issues too. If this myth perpetuates the fear of
    GMOs, you don’t get Bt brinjal approved. Then those farmers are unable to reduce their used of pesticides and you have more health issues, including possibly suicide since access to pesticides does seem to be a contributor.

    I wish NGOs (and the media) would be held accountable for misinformation. But there’s no mechanism for that.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      Excellent points, but on this:

      “I wish NGOs (and the media) would be held accountable for misinformation. But there’s no mechanism for that.”

      That mechanism would be journalism, but as another commenter in that thread observed:

      http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/gmo-and-indian-farmer-suicide/#comment-66629

      Additionally, I see little appetite for accountability journalism that I do (mostly on this blog) on media misinformation on GMOs. Pollan, Shiva, UCS et al pretty much have teflon in science and env circles.

      • Bearpants42

        If you charged these liars with 500,000 counts of attempted murder by deliberately misleading and starving people out of their livelihoods, they’d stop pretty quick. Forced to prove their cases in court, they’d be doomed.

        • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

          Not only that Bearpants42, but these anti-GMO organic activists won’t even enter into debate! And no one in the media calls them on that.

          • Bearpants42

            They don’t deserve a debate. They dwell in a land of anti-science earth fetishism and that’s not something you can debate because they’re impervious to reason.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Those are the funnest people to debate!

          • DoubleCheck

            Popoff is an anti-science anthropogenic climate change denier working for Heartland Institute. He’s so impervious to reason that he will fabricate genocide accusations out of whole cloth.

          • Bearpants42

            All the more reason to not waste time debating him.

          • DoubleCheck

            Good point. But I’m doing an investigation on right ring connectivity and the psychology involved.

  • anand

    There is a lot to digest on both sides of the fence so I’m just going to leave this latest from the Vandana Shiva side out here for reference, maybe it’ll help.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/shiva100114.htm

    • DoubleCheck

      Interesting allegations here:

      “We have been studying the creation of seed monopolies since 1987, during the period of the Uruguay Round of the GATT, when corporations like Monsanto pushed intellectual property rights over seeds and life forms into trade treaties. This led to the TRIPS agreement of WTO. Monsanto has admitted that it was the “patient, diagnostician, and physician” in defining intellectual property in WTO. In this way, GMOs are the vehicle
      for introducing patents and IPR in order to collect royalties. With the introduction of Bt. cotton, the price of seed jumped 8000% because of royalties. Every year more $200 million flows from the Indian peasants to Monsanto. This is at the heart of the intensification of farmers suicides in the cotton belt of India.”

  • Claire Wheeler

    I find it extremely shocking that anyone would defend Monsanto! That’s all I can say. I am flabbergasted that people would think them innocent. Well they are just about to do the same in Africa so let’s watch this space.

    • Bearpants42

      It’s important for both sides of the GMO issue to cherish facts and reason. Believing any crazy accusation (or not believing it) without looking at the facts does not make for a better world. Circular logic like, “Of course Monsanto is responsible because they’re Monsanto!” doesn’t prove anything.

    • Michael Phillips

      No one is defending Monsanto here. We are defending the truth, as much as we can discern it based on the facts. And if those facts point to another cause for these tragedies, it would be an additional tragedy to attribute it to Monsanto just because they make a convenient scapegoat, versus determing the actual cause and trying to find a solution. Blaming all the world’s troubles on Monsanto does nothing towards finding solutions to those troubles, if in fact Bt cotton does not cause people to kill themselves. The best indications are that it does not. Using these deaths as a political weapon to further a political agenda based on GMO fear would be a dire insult to the bereaved families.

    • rick

      Claire — I at one time myself bought into the narrative that the suicides were a result of Monsanto imposing itself on Indian cotton farmers who were unprepared for the capitol commitments and agronomic practices that would be needed to successfully utilize the bt technology correctly. My knowledge was very passive, based primarily on mainstream media. The more I have learned, however, the more I am convinced that the Indian farmer suicide – bt cotton link is at best a grossly exaggerated causal relationship. For one thing, I now know that the rates of suicide among rural farmers in India is less than urban rates. The evidence also shows that suicides were high in areas where cotton is not grown. Virtually every graph I have seen, even some from anti-biotech sites, shows that any spike in rural suicides began nearly a decade before the approval of cultivation of bt cotton, and the rate of suicides has actually declined since the official introduction of bt cotton in 2002 and that since that time, India’s cotton production has seen a dramatic upswing. I have seen articles that document a surge of young people entering cotton farming.

      Ron Herring of Cornell has done some good work that shows that the idea that Indian cotton farmers resisted bt technology and that it was imposed upon them against their will is wrong. In fact, there are a number of sources that reveal that before approval of Monsanto’s Indian affiliate to sell its bt varieties in 2002, Indian farmers and cottage scale local seed companies had already widely pirated the technology, some of it sourced from China. Some of the early incidences of failures of bt cotton resulted from farmers being taken by a black market hucksters who sold bt seed in varieties not suited to local growing conditions, and even misrepresenting seed as bt.

      There is a great deal that makes me question whether Vandana Shiva’s version of events is correct. While I don’t rule out that the capitol requirements associated with bt cotton production may have played a contributing factor in individual cases, I think it is increasingly clear that market reforms the Indian government implemented, banking system deficiencies that led farmers to rely on predatory credit sources, and unique cultural practices are a more likely explanation.

      The idea that I am obligated to believe something that the facts do not support because otherwise I am a defender of Monsanto is intellectually lazy, insulting, and an attempt at censorship. Far from conceding the moral high ground to you or anyone who clings to the Monsanto = Indian farmer suicides narrative, I am increasingly convinced that the obsession with Monsanto and bt cotton perpetuates the problem and diverts efforts from real solutions.

  • Balasubramanian Ponnuswami

    The real cause of farmers’ suicides is their indebtedness. Ms. Shiva attributes it to Bt cotton technology, in plain words, to Monsanto. Ms. Shiva conveniently ignores the facts that urban suicides are more in number and that urban India never patronizes Bt cotton. The common problem behind these suicides that are prevalent in rural and urban India alike is the age-old dowry system which drives the male member (head) of the family to commit suicide.The farm credit unions (rural banks in Indian terminology), as a rule, are infested with hard core politicians who are known money launderers. Possibly Ms. Shiva is a supporter of the Indian dowry system and thinks everything is fine with Indian rural banking systems run by these unscrupulous politicians.

    • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

      Interesting accusation! I’ve always wondered who funds Shiva.

      • Balasubramanian Ponnuswami

        Several European vested interests which have organic businesses which see GM crops as a big threat appear to be involved in funding Ms Shiva. I shall cull out the info from my fb posts (@balasubrap) and send in to you later. She is a seller of seeds at premium prices (http://www.navdanya.org/), though I have never seen her practice agriculture, but wax eloquence on tradition and agriculture while giving the audience an emotional picture.

        • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

          She sells “organic” seed? Wow, what a self-serving egomaniac!
          Please contact me through my website: http://www.isitorganic.ca

          • DoubleCheck

            He’s trying to get more “hits’ for his anti-organic site.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Argh… you caught me trying to line my pockets again DoubleCheck. Curses!
            I know… I’ll make up a fake identity like you did then no one will know my dastardly plan.

          • DoubleCheck

            Please do that! Especially since you’re trying to build a reputation that attracts the money of the far right corporate engines.

            Of course the ideological propaganda you always spew will betray you every time.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            You’re evidently unaware of the fact that the majority of organic farmers in America self-identify as conservatives, i.e. right wing.
            You learn something everyday on the blogs.

          • DoubleCheck

            Poor things, they’re learning the hard way as they lose their resources to the corporate vampires.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Silly… they’re not losing anything to corporate vampires. American organic farmers are doing quite well.
            Silly…

          • DoubleCheck

            “According to USDA between the years of 1961 and 2001, the number of U.S.
            farms fell from 3.82 million to 2.17 million. That is an average loss
            of 41,333 farms per year. No wonder the average age of an American
            farmer is 55. Children who grew up on farms are leaving and going on to
            bigger and better things.”

            http://voices.yahoo.com/a-dying-breed-american-farmer-3295910.html

            Also:

            http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/census-minnesota-wisconsin-losing-farms-farmers/article_8eef3b92-374d-5cce-8fb4-152039059917.html

            I got more references to make yourself silly over…

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Why are you only going back to 1961?
            In Medieval times 99% of us were farmers.

          • DoubleCheck

            It’s been going on for a long time and getting worse. Look at the other reference. Look at the age of the average farmer.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Are you a farmer?

          • DoubleCheck

            So that’s why you think I hate you?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            I think you have a romantic view of farming.

          • DoubleCheck

            This is romantic?

            “Lincoln, NE – The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) says Monsanto’s market power is driving up seed prices and increasing economic risk to farmers.

            “Monsanto’s market power has been quietly accruing over several years and has now begun materially impacting price,” said Keith Mudd, OCM’s board president. “The lack of competition and innovation in the marketplace has reduced farmers’ choices and enabled Monsanto to raise prices unencumbered.”

            “Monsanto executives recently told DTN that they expect to raise the price of some seed corn varieties to $300. The Monsanto executives consider themselves only restrained by the “red-face test.” “There is no competitive restraint to this price hike,” said Mudd.

            “A $100 price increase is a tremendous drain on rural America,” said Fred Stokes, OCM’s executive director. “If a farmer in Iowa who farms 1,000 acres plants one of these expensive corn varieties next year, the cost per acre will increase from $82 to $123, or a gross increase of more than $40,000. We believe Monsanto has quashed competition to the extent that it can raise prices with little restraint,” continued Stokes.”

            I guess it must be to you, since you’re on the side of the vampires.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Any farmer who doesn’t like Monsanto can stop doing business with them.
            You are aware, I trust, that Monsanto has lots of competition. Aren’t you?

          • DoubleCheck

            Did confirmation bias prevent you from reading the last comment, which had you question answered before you typed it. Here, I forgot to give you type reference for it. Why didn’t you ask for it?

            http://www.competitivemarkets.com/monsanto-corn-seed-price-hikes-a-threat-to-agriculture/

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            I have owned Monsanto stock many times in my life, but I have never been a fan of them. They’re just another big company you can invest in, or not, as you so choose.

          • DoubleCheck

            Why don’t you accuse them of wanting to do genocide? You’ve demonstrated that you need absolutely no grounds for it. Oh, that’s right, it’s not a part of Heartland Institute propaganda for Monsanto.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Well I… uhh…
            Oh darn you DoubleCheck! You got me again!!

          • DoubleCheck

            Maybe she was testing the Monsanto business model.

            I bet you think she was advocating genocide.

        • NoToGMOs

          “I have never seen her practice agriculture”

          Is everything that she does supposed to be done in your presence? How do you know that she has never practiced agriculture?

          Interesting…..your fb page. You equate Babes against Biotech to ‘sex against science’ just because they are ‘scantily clad girls deployed against Biotech products’ in your words. You can’t expect anyone to take you seriously after that??

      • DoubleCheck

        By your own admission you work as a “Policy Adviser” and a propaganda
        writer for Heartland Institute, key propagandists to the present right
        wing movement in the U.S, supporting any demand that increases corporate
        profits and weakens the peoples’ movements and democratic rights.

        • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

          So, you’re surprised that I work with likeminded individuals?

          • DoubleCheck

            I do think that they would be happy having you claim that they also do vicious slanders like you’ve done against Maurice Strong and myself.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Oh, you mean Maurice Strong, the man who founded the global-warming movement and who wants to commit mass genocide by eliminating 75% of the human race? That Maurice Strong?

          • DoubleCheck

            You double down on the libel. That’s truly despicable.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Maurice Strong is a genocidal maniac.

          • DoubleCheck

            Pull out your silly reasoning. Use direct quotes from Strong, not your hallucinations.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            “The reduction of the human population may well continue to the point that those who survive may not number more than the 1.61 billion people who inhabited the Earth at the beginning of the 20th century. A consequence, yes, of death and destruction — but in the end a glimmer of hope for the future of our species.”
            Maurice Strong, father of the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming

          • DoubleCheck

            Where in that does he say that he wants that to happen? That quote merely says that the world human population may be reduced to 1.61 billion, yet we still have a glimmer of hope.

            Reading advocacy for such a reduction into these words is delusion. How many English teachers have you flabbergasted?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            No. Maurice Strong seeks to bring this about, and he rationalizes it as “a glimmer of hope.”

          • DoubleCheck

            LOL. You can’t point to where he says he wants it to happen, but you just KNOW it because you can irrationally mix up words.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            The really hilarious part is that Maurice Strong is far from the only one in the organic movement who seeks to reduce human population levels. Ever heard of Ted Turner?

          • DoubleCheck

            Oh my, help yourself. Please tell me HOW they plan to reduce population levels. Using pop offs so everyone will die laughing?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Ah yes, President Andrew Jackson, the racist, genocidal Democrat who eliminated more Indian tribes than anyone else. Great point!

          • DoubleCheck

            Killed the Biddle Bank too.

          • DoubleCheck

            Come one now, you’ve had an hour to put out and source Strong’s words that you think give you a right to slime him. You’re starting to look like a really nasty liar.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Maurice Strong seeks to reduce human population levels to less than 1.61 billion.

            http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/story.html?id=7e5f9073-4b71-4690-868d-c2c4eb23551d

    • NoToGMOs

      If dowry is indeed the problem, wouldn’t it be the female member of the household (wife) who has greater reason to commit suicide? After all, she is the one who is supposed to bring the dowry to her husband (head of the house). Why would he commit suicide when he is receiving money??

      You are delusional if you think anyone will take seriously your accusation of Ms. Shiva being pro-dowry!!

  • Schratboy

    …kinda like the exploitation that “only GMOs can feed the world’s X number of people”

    • June Pagan

      thank you for saying so!

    • Benjamin Edge

      Who is saying that? And who would it be exploiting? What is being said is that we need every tool available at our disposal. Denying that GMOs can and should play a role in that process because of unwarranted ideology, fear, and scaremongering is unconscionable.

      • rick

        Well said. I think the “only GMOs can feed the world claim” is putting words into people’s mouths to reword the proponents vision of the role of ge into a straw man argument. It is a corruption of what is actually said — genetic engineering can make contributions toward food security and sustainability. Even Mark Bittman appears to be coming around to the understanding that genetic engineering is not a replacement of mankind’s accumulated agronomic wisdom, but is a potentially powerful source of innovation and solutions to agricultural challenges to add to our accumulated wisdom. (His beef is that he is not convinced that the applications of the technology thus far have been worthwhile)

  • Loren Eaton

    Another thing that Shiva and HRH seem to refuse to address is the actual timeline. Several reports that I’ve read have stated that there was a spike in suicides OF MANY GROUPS between 1995 and 2001. And then it leveled off. The Bt cotton product was introduced in 2002.

    • Viva La Evolucion

      When did Indian farmers first start growing Roundup Ready Cotton? I think Bt cotton is great, but I’m not a big fan of Roundup Ready anything.

      • Ce Gzz

        you rather have mycotoxins then?

        • Viva La Evolucion

          Are you referring to the increased prevalence of mold and mold toxins on crops treated with Roundup?

  • Viva La Evolucion

    I agree that GMOs causing Indian farmer suicide is not really an issue. I think a bigger issue is overuse of Roundup in developing under-regulated countries, and Roundup’s link to fatal kidney disease in farm workers in these regions. I would love to hear Keith’s thoughts on that.

    • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

      One thing I can think of that’s worse than kidney disease is dying of starvation.

      • June Pagan

        how about cancer?

        • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

          Sure, cancer’s no fun. But of course you’d have to prove GMOs cause cancer, which they don’t. Sorry.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            It is true that current GMOs don’t cause cancer, and have been shown to be safe. I am more concerned about Roundup residue on food, as Roundup is what has recently been linked to kidney disease in farm workers. Also, non-GMO foods can potentially have just as much or more Roundup residue than Roundup Ready corn/soy. For instance, wheat farmers spray their wheat crops with Roundup just before harvest to kill and dry out the wheat so it is a little bit easier to harvest.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Yes, that’s called desiccation. A questionable practice in my opinion.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Yes, farmers do commonly refer to the spraying of Roundup on wheat before harvest as a “drying agent” or desiccation, dehydration, but the fact is that the Roundup is not a desiccant, it simply kills the plant, and dead plants dry out cause their dead. And, I agree with you that it is a questionable practice. Do you also agree that it is a questionable practice to spray GMO corn and soy with Roundup?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            The benefit of spraying a standing, Roundup Ready crop with Roundup as opposed to tillage or using Roundup before seeding, is that as soon as the weeds die, the crop fills in and no more weeds can grow. As such, a lot less spray is required per-acre, and also far less fuel is used.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I prefer herbicide alternatives such as soil steaming, cover crops, mechanical weeding, and hydroponics/aquaponics. I also prefer not to support the inefficient food/energy production methods of GMO corn/soy for use as bio-fuel and animal feed, which are extremely water and resource intensive.

          • hyperzombie

            soil steaming is horribly inefficient. and tillage uses tons of fuel and wears out farmers equipment. No/low till ag is the best alternative.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Actually,hydroponics/aquaponics is the best alternative :-) Also, please note that there are high tech mechanical weeding methods that do not disturb soil and are not the same thing as tillage. In regards to inefficiency of soil steaming, It is true that most current soil steaming uses a lot of propane, but this could easily be replaced with hydrogen made from solar powered electrolysis of water.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Well, I grew up in wheat country in the Canadian Prairies where it routinely goes down to 40 degrees below zero in the winter, which my grandpa always said was the best pesticide God ever invented! We grew good wheat; certified organic too. Good times. I miss it. What you’re doing sounds wonderful too. Keep at it no matter what.

          • hyperzombie

            Go, Western Canada. Well BC not so much.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Yeah, BC has gone to pot just like Ontario and Quebec. But the Prairie provinces will always be king!

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Thanks

          • hyperzombie

            Yes, farmers do commonly refer to the spraying of Roundup on wheat before harvest as a “drying agent” or desiccation, dehydration, but the fact is that the Roundup is not a desiccant, it simply kills the plant, and dead plants dry out cause their dead

            Farmers call it ‘Burn down’ and they do it during very wet years to protect the wheat from a KNOWN human and animal health treat, Fusarium. It can be deadly for animals and humans if ingested. Burn Down if done correctly does not increase the amount of glyphosate in the crop.It is only done at 80-90% moisture not giving the wheat any time to incorporate glyphosate into the seed, 100% safe.

            Do you also agree that it is a questionable practice to spray GMO corn and soy with Roundup?

            Do you think that this is safe or environmentally friendly?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpfMHM75EJc

          • Viva La Evolucion

            From a recent study I read, crops treated with Roundup have been shown to have increased presence of the mold/fungus Fusarium and related molds and mold toxins, like aflatoxin. I believe that the study I read on that issue was on GMO crops, and not non-gmo wheat sprayed with the “burn down” method. Nevertheless, I do think that mold and mold toxins are a real and serious problem, but I think farmers can come up with a better solution than spraying their wheat with Roundup before harvest. In regards to flame weeding, I don’t think it is that great, but I do think soil steaming is a good method of weed control, along with cover crops, mechanical weeding, and of course the best method hydroponics/aquaponics.

          • hyperzombie

            mechanical weeding is just tillage which is horrible for soil structure.

            From a recent study I read, crops treated with Roundup have been shown to have increased presence of the mold/fungus Fusarium and related molds and mold toxins, like aflatoxin.

            I would like to see this study because it seems counter intuitive.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Actually, there are many forms of new high tech mechanical weeding that do not disturb soil. Look up “organic weed control in vineyard” on youtube. And, if these forms of mechanical weeding are used in combination/rotation with soil steaming and cover crops then they are quite beneficial for soil. In regards to the roundup increasing presence of mold please do google search for Roundup Fusarium.

          • hyperzombie

            What the study indicates is that yes there is more fusarium in wheat sprayed with roundup, but there would be even more if the roundup wasn’t used. Which makes sense because its only used when it is very wet, I going to file this study under the heading of “DUH”.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I don’t believe there would have been more fusarium if Roundup wasn’t used. “Glyphosate-treated wheat appeared to have higher levels of Fusarium headblight (a toxic fungal disease) than wheat fields where no glyphosate had
            been applied”.

      • Viva La Evolucion

        I’m not sure which would be worse way to die, but I can tell you that the majority of GMO crops grown are roundup ready GMO corn and soy. And, that the majority of GMO corn and soy grown are used for bio-fuels and animal feed, which are some of the least efficient forms of food and energy production. If one is concerned about feeding the world, they would surely choose a more efficient method of food production than GMO corn or soy. Sorry.

        • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

          GMOs aren’t the problem when it comes to converting food to fuel. the problem is the very idea of converting food to fuel in the first place! It was a dumb idea when President Carter came up with it in the 1970s. It’s a dumb idea today. And you’re right, it’s one of the least efficient forms of energy.
          But what’s wrong with GMOs for food? Like GMO Bt crops for instance. There’s no Roundup, and the Bt only kills insect that try to eat the crop.

          • DoubleCheck

            Until resistance develops because of unsound practices the EPA allowed because of the insistence of the seed companies (typical).

            http://www.wired.com/2014/03/rootworm-resistance-bt-corn/

            http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/03/12/1317179111

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Bt is widely used by organic farmers, and they use it indiscriminately, thereby giving rise to more Bt resistance.
            At least when Bt is spliced into the genes of a crop, only insects that try consuming the crop succumb to its effects.

          • DoubleCheck

            And become resistant because of the practices the seed companies pressured the EPA into allowing so they could sell more GMO seed and collect more royalties. Do you deny this?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            No, you didn’t read my comment. When organic farmers apply Bt indiscriminately to a field, this leads to more Bt-resistance.

          • DoubleCheck

            Yeah, I read the way you throw farmers under the bus to exculpate your beloved vampire corporations.

            These pests become resistant because of the practices the seed companies
            pressured the EPA into allowing so they could sell more GMO seed and
            collect more royalties. Do you deny this?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            You’ve never farmed, have you.

          • DoubleCheck

            Answer the question.

            These pests become resistant because of the practices the seed companies
            pressured the EPA into allowing so they could sell more GMO seed and
            collect more royalties. Do you deny this?

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            The organic practice of broadcasting Bt over an entire field not only kills non-target pests, but does more to give rise to Bt-resistant pests than the alternative offered by GMO Bt crops which only kill the target pest, and which have mechanisms built in to prevent Bt resistance.

          • DoubleCheck

            You keep dodging the question. Here are the references I gave before that you ignored in the hope of avoiding embarrassing yourself.

            http://www.wired.com/2014/03/rootworm-resistance-bt-corn/

            http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/03/12/1317179111

            Now answer: resistance develops because of unsound practices the EPA allowed
            because of the insistence of the seed companies (typical). Yes or no.

          • hyperzombie

            Simple
            NO

          • DoubleCheck

            As usual, you work off bias, not research.

            “But the scientists’ own recommendations —
            an advisory panel convened in 2002 by the EPA suggested that a full 50 percent of each corn farmer’s fields be devoted to these non-Bt refuges — were resisted by seed companies and eventually the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent.”

            http://www.wired.com/2014/03/rootworm-resistance-bt-corn/

            Please note that the refuge guidelines were set VOLUNTARY to please the seed companies, so many farmers set aside even less.

            (Why do think Popoff didn’t want to answer? Thanks for falling into the trap in his place.)

          • hyperzombie

            Why do think Popoff didn’t want to answer? Thanks for falling into the trap in his place.)

            No problem. that is what I am here for. LOL
            The worst thing that could happen is that we will be right back where we started, but had 16 years with lower insecticide usage. Win Win.

          • DoubleCheck

            But Monsanto wouldn’t be in the same place. They would be much richer by royalties they wouldn’t have gotten, all without any liability for extra farmer expense.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I think that GMO Bt crops, along with the GMO papaya, are the only worthwhile GMO crops currently in use. I am not a fan of Roundup Ready GMOs or other herbicide tolerant crops, be them GMO or traditionally bred (such as traditionally bred “Clearfield” herbicide tolerant Wheat, as herbicide tolerant crops result in overuse of herbicides. Overuse of herbicide is growing problem similar to overuse of antibiotics.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            I generally agree.

            But the problem from the farmer’s perspective is that the next generation of GMO crops are all stuck in limbo while companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta laugh all the way to the bank with only the handful of GMO crops they’ve already put out onto the market.

            Mammoth companies like these have no incentive whatsoever to hurry up and develop new GMO crops that will deal with things like herbicide tolerance. As long as there’s no competition from smaller companies below them, they have a de-facto monopoly.

            And smaller companies below the big ones can’t provide any competition because their only hope of becoming viable is to get bought out by a big company like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, because a small company can’t possibly muster the resources necessary to fight all the legal, political and public-relations challenges necessary to bring new GMOs onto the market on their own.

            This is why, ironically, big GMO companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta welcome all the flak from anti-GMO organic activists. It keeps them on the top of the heap.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            The problem is that most farmers have been brain washed into believing that the only way they can cost effectively grow their crops is to use herbicides. There are in fact a lot of cost effective herbicide alternatives currently available. I believe that the solution to the problem of overuse of herbicides is not to continually keep creating new and potentially dangerous herbicides every few years, but rather to begin increasing use of herbicide alternatives such as soil steaming, cover crops, mechanical weeding, hydroponics/aquaponics.

          • hyperzombie

            Herbicides are the most cost effective solution, if there was a more cost effective solution all farmers would use it. Or do you believe that most farmers are stupid?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            As much as I hate to say it, a lot of farmers I know are quite set in their ways, be that good or bad, cost effective or not. That is coming from an avocado farmer’s son. But, no of course I do not think farmers are stupid. Nevertheless, in regards to herbicides being the most cost effective form of weed control, one could argue that the rapid growth of organic, herbicide free, farming shows that crops can be grown cost effectively without use of herbicide. Also, being a person who buys both organic and non-organic groceries, I have noticed that more and more often the organic version is actually cheaper than non-organic with some items.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            What you’re describing could be summed up as the organic movement, a movement I was proudly part of for the better part of my life. I can’t predict where the organic movement will go in years to come, but right now I can attest that it’s suffering from rampant fraud and an overreliance on opposing the science of genetic engineering. If it is to ever succeed as you imagine, it will have to get back to basics first; i.e. proving its worth on its own merits.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I agree that the organic movement is suffering from fraud and over-reliance in opposing GMOs. I would like to see a new type of farming come into existence that embraces the benefits of each farming method…like GMO seeds grown organically. I love the idea of genetically modifying crops for resistance to disease and pest, and to use no pesticide, but I don’t like that the majority of current GMOs are the herbicide tolerant variety, which continues overuse of herbicide problem.

          • hyperzombie

            me too! +10 for the most common sence comment of the day.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Wow. It’s like I wrote that comment myself!
            It’s hard to comprehend, but the only think preventing what you describe is politics. the science is all there, just waiting for someone to get the activists out of the way and make it happen.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Yes, while I am not a fan of herbicide tolerant GMOs, I still believe GMO crops have a lot of potential for good in things like disease/pest resistance, drought tolerance, faster growth, bigger, tastier, more nutritious crops, I also love the idea of genetically modifying humans for increased lifespan, better eyesight, higher IQ, run faster, longer, etc..But, that’s a whole new can of worms.

          • Paul Shipley

            Mischa, I am intrigued I like your writing and now see that you wrote your own book of the fraud in organic farming. I also found another website decrying you and your book. All entertaining stuff the website goes on that you don’t like hybrid cars and also don’t believe in global warming. Very entertaining reading. Cornucopia.org seems to be a scare organisation that talks of back room deals by USDA and the like all paranoid stuff. Keep up the good work Mischa.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Well thanks Paul. Much obliged!

            Please visit my website to see my response to Cornucopia’s drive-by smear campaign against me: http://www.isitorganic.ca/attempted_drive-by_smear

          • Viva La Evolucion

            There is no problem with GMO for food crops if done properly. But, just as growing food crops for biofuel is a dumb idea, growing corn/soy for animal feed is also a dumb idea, and very inefficient method of food production. If one was looking for an efficient method of food production they would not choose to grow corn/soy for animal feed, which is one of the least efficient methods of food production known to man. Instead they might choose a highly efficient method of food production such as aquaponics, the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. I am not opposed to genetically modifying crops and fish so they grow more efficiently in aquaponics set up. But, by being a supporter of current GMOs (aka Roundup Ready corn/soy) you are indirectly supporting the inefficient energy/food production methods that the majority of GMO corn/soy are being used for.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            Aquaponics you say? Well what are you waiting for? Try it.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Funny you should say that as I actually just recently started selling aquaponics kits, similar to Scotts Mircale Gro’s AeroGarden, except mine are called AquaGarden. I just got the aquagarden domain name, dot com. Also, my family has a small avocado farm, but I haven’t figured out how to grow avocados hydroponically yet. Maybe they could be genetically engineered to do so :-) Growing crops hydroponically / aquaponically has many benefits like less water use, and no need for herbicide. I plan on selling bigger aquaponics kits in the near future.

          • hyperzombie

            Cool idea, once you get more info send it to me. I am always interested in new ways of doing the same old thing. There is some new GMOs that insert fish protein genes into soy that enables fish to grow faster without harvesting the oceans for protein.

          • http://www.isitorganic.ca/ Mischa Popoff

            That’s the way to do it! Ideas need to be sold, and when people accept them by buying them, we’re all better off. Free choice all the way!

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Funny you should say that as I actually just started a business selling aquaponics kits. My family has an avocado farm as well, but I haven’t been able to successfully grow avocados hydroponically. Maybe they could be genetically engineered to do so :-) Aquaponics has many benefits such as uses less water and no need for herbicide.

    • Ce Gzz

      that is more linked to dehidratation!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Ben Chen

    I am very impressed by your article. I want to come back to visit your site again. Reading your blog is really a big pleasure.

    http://www.nexiq-usblink.com

  • Gyanendra Shukla

    People are getting fooled by the false narratives propagated by anti’s. Bt Cotton except for the gene to control Bollworms (alternatives several round of the insecticides) is no different than normal cotton. Is usage less insecticides, saves cost, protects yield and helps farmers make more money. Farmers have choice and they choose to grow cotton willingly. They will switch to better alternative the anti’s can demonstrate to them.

  • Vm

    in 2013 Kerala was the indian state with the 3rd highest suicide rate. And after some research i found out that cotton is not grown in kerala in significant amounts

    makes you think right?

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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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