Monday, July 21, 2008

Fewer Pesticides = Fewer Suicides

A story came out from the German Press Agency (DPA) this week discussing yet another benefit of reducing pesticide use: decreasing suicide rates!

India has been experiencing increasing numbers of farmer suicides in the last decade or so as a consequence of its Green Revolution (a US 'encouraged' movement in the late 1960s to increase crop yields through the development of greater yielding plant varieties) and the resulting structural adjustment policies of the World Bank in 1998, forcing farmers into increased use of input-intensive, single-season crops. Mounting debt due to investment in the expensive chemical inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) required to grow demanding hybrid seeds have resulted in more than 100,000 government-acknowledged cases of desperate farmers “drinking the same pesticides that created their liabilities”. Not only have these ‘advanced’ technologies racked up impressive debts for farmers in India, they have substantially lowered both water tables and land fertility, furthering the difficulty of survival for the some 600 million Indians who depend on agricultural activities for their livelihood.

But there’s hope! Programs helping farmers return to traditional and organic farming are proving to be successful in lowering suicide rates by bringing in higher yields and incomes. By returning to local pest management techniques and the tradition of saving and trading seeds (saving money on chemical pesticides and GM seeds) farmers have been able to begin pulling themselves out of debt and recovering mortgaged land. The reach of these programs is increasing as the price of chemical pesticides goes up with the price of oil. Vandana Shiva, creator of the founding organization of India’s current organic movement, Navdanya, is confident that “When chemical farming has led to a total collapse, traditional and organic farming is the solution, the way of the future.”

As the price of oil continues to rise, it will be interesting to see its effects on the use of petroleum-based, chemical pesticides and fertilizers in farming around the world. If it can change the way we drive, why not the way we farm? Sustainable agriculture advocates and the like: lets take advantage of this new incentive for organic or pesticide-free agriculture, and act to encourage and support farmers in making the change.

1 comment:

Alina said...

Proof that we need to move away from using oil in our transportation sector as well as in other areas.

A truly sad story but good to know that there is even more incentive to show support alternative energy and organic practices.