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Biodiversity – the answer to farmer suicides

September 13
01:47 2010

Recently I was in Vidharbha where we have started a  “Seeds of Hope” campaign to stop farmers’ suicides. In village Dhodra, a farmer called Lakshman Vaidya had ended his life a few days before our visit. His widow Anjana told us how he had taken Rs. 56,000 loan over three years ago to buy genetically engineered Bt. Cotton seeds. The empty packets of “Bollgard” seeds were still lying in a corner of the hut. Every eight hours a farmer like Vaidya is ending his life in Vidharbha.
The monocultures of Bt. Cotton speak the hidden story of scarcity, even while the advertisements falsely announce how Bt. Cotton will make the farmers millionaires.
India was once home to 1500 cotton varieties. Today, the cotton is sold under different brands, but it is all Bt. Cotton.
According to the late Dr. Richeria, India’s leading rice researcher, India had more than 200,000 rice varieties. Most of these were pushed to extinction by the Green Revolution varieties that came from IRRI in Philippines.
India was also home to more than 1500 varieties of wheat. These were displaced by the dwarf varieties brought from CIMMYT in Mexico.
The disappearance of biodiversity from our farms is not just the loss of species and variety. Biodiversity erosion is in fact at the root of India’s agrarian crisis and food crisis.
Farmers in Vidharbha who have joined our “Seeds of Hope” campaign are growing organic cotton along with tur, urud, moong, jowar and other crops. They do not spend any money on costly seeds and costly chemicals. They grow better crops with higher outputs. They are not in debt and are not being pushed to suicide.
In West U.P, a typical chemical farmer growing sugarcane earns Rs. 11,000 – Rs. 12,000 per acre. But farmers growing sugarcane with jowar, cotton, onions, mango, papaya, turmeric, chilli, ginger are earning Rs. 1,41,655 per acre.
Our research has shown that the higher the biodiversity, the higher is the farmers’ income. Biodiversity is the answer to farmers’ suicides and an answer to hunger.
Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, editor, author. Navdanya, the International organization she founded, is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

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