Previous reports have linked mass suicides among farmers in India to mounting debt and crop failures as a result of GMO crops, particularly cotton, as it was forcibly converted to patented, transgenic varieties owned by large agrochemical companies. But now we’re learning that pesticide exposure may be to blame for a new wave of suicides among farmers in India.
Some 80 farmers in the village of Badi committed suicide between January and March of this year, according to the Times of India. Home to more than 2,500, Badi village (Madhya Pradesh) has had more than 350 suicides over the last two decades, affecting nearly every family in the village.
“There are 320 families in our village and at least one person from each has killed himself or herself,” said Rajendra Sisodiya, a newly elected sarpanch or political figure in Badi. Sisodiya moved into the position after the previous sarpanch, his cousin, hung himself from a tree outside his home. Sisodiya’s mother and brother had also committed suicide.
Are pesticides causing mental illness among Indian farmers?
While the epidemic likely has several contributing factors, excessive pesticide exposure and financial stress are being singled out as two major contributors. A psychiatrist based in Indore, the largest city of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, suspects that the suicides are related to depression and schizophrenic episodes among villagers caused by pesticides.
“Depression isn’t something people here are easily able to relate to or identify. When they are unable to find any reason, they associate it with locally explainable phe nomenon [sic] like demonic presence,” said Dr. Srikanth Reddy.
The psychiatrist’s assertion is based on prior research linking depression and suicide to agricultural chemical use. “Apart from financial distress, there could be other causes for this depression,” said Reddy.
Farming chemicals linked to suicides in China
“In a study some years ago in China, where a large number of farmers in a particular area were committing suicide, it was found that insecticides used there contained organophosphate, which is highly toxic and causes depressive mental conditions. Suicides in Badi and in Khargone at large, therefore, need to be probed.”
Many Indian farmers rely entirely on the success of cotton. When the crops fail, growers are sent spiraling into financial distress, feeling as if they have no recourse. The wave of suicides in Badi village almost seems contagious, as villagers lose more hope with each death.
“This is a very grave situation and we need to act fast. The villagers lack confidence and motivation and it’s very important to counsel them,” said Ashok Verma, who formed a committee to investigate the mass suicides.
Agrochemical companies take advantage of Indian farmers
As is the case in many countries, a social stigma is attached to mental illness, meaning sufferers are often reluctant to get help, turning instead to ineffective medicines rather than hospitals.
Since 1995, some 300,000 farmers in India have committed suicide, Natural News reported. India’s National Crime Records Bureau stated that the suicides were a result of “economic failure, poverty and bankruptcy caused by GMO adoption.”
The numbers are likely far higher if one were to include data from before the year 1995.
“As explained in a thorough report by philosopher, physicist and environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, GMO crop technologies are a Trojan Horse that multinational corporations are using to seize control of the global food supply.
“With false promises of increased yields and lower costs, corporations like Monsanto have swooped in and locked Indian farmers into contractual agreements that make them dependent on a centralized agriculture system that, in many cases, ends up bankrupting them.”