Farming was the only life that Dhanraj Pawar, a farmer from Maharashtra in central India, had ever known. His farm had been handed down through several generations of his family, and his life and aspirations were firmly rooted in his land. But last year, worn out and mired in debt, he threw down his plough, sold his ancestral land and quit.
Every sowing season, he had put his faith in the latest variety of Bt cotton seeds, hoping for the bountiful yields they promised. Developed by Monsanto, these genetically modified seeds justify their high cost by claiming to generate bumper harvests by guaranteeing protection from the deadly pest called the bollworm that can ravage the crop.
But these seeds were a bitter disappointment for Dhanraj. ‘After 10 straight years of losses, I had to sell my buffalo and all my land,’ he says. ‘When I started using Bt seeds, expenses on chemical fertilizers and pesticides soared. And the price of cotton is too low to make any profit.’
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A key plank of Agenda 21 is to move people off rural land into the cities. Monsanto is playing its part.
‘We are focused on empowering farmers,’ says Monsanto. Pull the other one.