Fred Perlak, the Monsanto Vice President in Hawaii, has flatly denied that there have been 200 000 farmer suicides in India and also refused to comment on whether Monsanto feels guilty for the Indian farmer suicide rate.
In a Youtube video, published in Hawaii Tuesday, Perlak is shown to deny that 200 000 farmers in India have committed suicide:
Interviewer: “Hey Fred, 200,000 farmers in India committed suicide…”
Perlak: “That’s not true”
Interviewer: “Do you feel that you are responsible for that?”
Maybe, Perlak means that the suicide figure is not 200 000 but far more – but we at Sustainable Pulse doubt that this is what he was suggesting!
The 2011 report, from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, entitled, “Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights and the Agrarian Crisis in India,” explains that Indian policy has stripped many farmers of their livelihoods by greatly decreasing the value of their crops. Combine this with the introduction of GM crops that trap farmers into an endless cycle of debt without providing any benefits, and you end up with a society marked by despair, hopelessness, and a huge increase in suicides.
“It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years—the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history. A great number of those affected are cash crop farmers, and cotton farmers in particular. In 2009 alone, the most recent year for which official figures are available, 17,638 farmers committed suicide—that’s one farmer every 30 minutes. While striking on their own, these figures considerably underestimate the actual number of farmer suicides taking place. Women, for example, are often excluded from farmer suicide statistics because most do not have title to land—a common prerequisite for being recognized as a farmer in official statistics and programs,” the report states.
This Report focuses primarily on the human rights of cotton farmers in India. The government has long been alerted to the cotton farmer suicide crisis, yet has done little to adequately respond. Cotton exemplifies India’s general shift toward cash crop cultivation, a shift that has contributed significantly to farmer vulnerability, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of suicides in India are committed by farmers in the cash crop sector. The cotton industry, like other cash crops in India, has also been dominated by foreign multinationals that promote genetically modified seeds and exert increasing control over the cost, quality, and availability of agricultural inputs.
Bt cotton in India has been claimed as one of the industry’s biggest success stories but in 2012 the PR claims completely fell apart. First, a leaked agriculture ministry advisory to cotton-growing states admitted, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” Two new award winning films also helped expose the truth about GM cotton in India to a wider audience.
So too did a powerful report from India’s Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, after its committee members visited five States, examined thousands of documents and talked to large numbers of farmers and experts. The 31 MPs also met around a hundred widows of Bt cotton farmers, including 14 in a village promoted by Monsanto as a model for Bt cotton’s success. It turned out the farmers in Monsanto’s “model village” wanted a ban on Bt cotton. The shocked MPs issued a unanimous report saying GM crops were not the right way forward for India and called for an immediate ban on all GM crop trials. Not long afterwards an expert panel of scientists set up by lndia’s Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on GM crops.