Micky's picture
Have farmers in India committed suicide by drinking Monsanto's Round-up Ready?

A:Expert Answer

We think it’s possible that two issues could be getting confused here, and we want to make sure that the question you are concerned about is answered. 


First of all, although glyphosate-containing herbicides (such as Roundup products), when used according to the label, have a long history of safe use, they can be harmful when ingested.  No herbicide should be ingested.


Second, there is a widespread claim that failure of Monsanto’s GM cotton product caused farmers in India to commit suicide.  Tragically, farmer suicides in India began long before the introduction of GM cotton in 2002.  This claim was studied by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C., which found that, if anything, suicides among farmers have been decreasing since the introduction of GM cotton.


The report states, “It is not only inaccurate but simply wrong to blame the use of Bt cotton as the primary cause of farmer suicides in India.” It also found that the adoption of pest-resistant Bt cotton varieties had led to massive increases in yield and a 40 percent decrease in pesticide use.  The report can be found here:  IFPRI discussion paper: Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India -- Reviewing the Evidence (Oct. 2008).


WillingToListen's picture

Thank you for finally clearing that up. I have been hearing that rumor a lot lately.

NeedsTheTruth's picture

NO HERBICIDE SHOULD BE INGESTED. your quote. yet you are feeding us herbicide?

virtualskeptic's picture

What Goldstein obviously meant by "No herbicide should be ingested" was no formulated product should be ingested purposefully, such as has been documented in the literature as a means of committing suicide. If you think about the statement, and substitute shampoo for herbicide, then you can see the statement is applicable to the product in the bottle. Every time you shampoo your hair, you unavoidably take in some of the chemicals in the formulated product. However, you would not ingest the product by intentionally drinking it.

Cornlover's picture

NeedsTheTruth you know what he ment.

Ravichandran Vanchinathan's picture

As a farmer from India, I would like to respond to this question. Suicides committed by farmers who feed the world is a national shame. Cotton is grown in few Indian States like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Maharashtra,Gujarat,Punjab and Rajasthan. There are suicide incidents all over India. Farmers in states like Kerala,Bihar,West Bengal etc where cotton is not at all grown commit suicide. Bt Cotton was approved only in the year 2002. Farmers were committing suicides even prior to 2002.Most of the crops are cultivated under rain fed condition. The success or failure of the crop depends on the monsoon condition such as arrival of South West monsoon,overall amount of rain fall, extent of rain in each spell, interval between two successive spells and so on. Therefore yield depends on monsoon. The adverse monsoon condition results in crop failure resulting in huge loss for farmers. Secondly most of our farmers are small and marginal farmers. They often fall in to the debt traps laid by the village level money lenders. Instead of approaching Commercial Banks for their working capital needs, they are lured by the local money lenders who are easily approachable. Rather than availing finance from commercial banks, who emphasize compliance various formalities, these poor farmers find it easier and convenient to get their working capital needs from the village level money lenders, who charge exorbitant interest which ranges any where between 60%-120% per annum. These money lenders get the farmer's signature/thumb impression on blank papers. Whatever the farmer and his family members get from their small farm are seldom sufficient enough to serve even the interest leave alone the principal.What ever they produce, they can sell it only to the supplier of finance at the price fixed by them as per the agreement. In adverse years the principal and interest swell due to snow balling effect. As a last resort the farmer pledges his land to the money lender. Some of them take the extreme step of sadly ending their lives by committing suicides. This is the ground reality. Though our Govt is striving hard to provide farm finance through commercial banks, not many farmers get the loan on time and they fall into the debt trap by money lenders.Instead of addressing these grave issues, the anti GM Crop lobbyists, take undue advantage of such tragic suicide cases and correlate it with Bt Cotton to accomplish their agenda of opposing Bt Cotton. Let the sad farmers suicides be not trivialized by diverting the whole issue.

achood4mu's picture

@Ravichandran Vanchinathan - Thanks so much for your insight. Your perspective is appreciated!!

Community Manager's picture

Forbes recently published an article discussing Vandana Shiva's remarks regarding GMOs, as well as farmer suicides in India. You might be interested in reading it here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/01/29/vandana-shiva-anti-gmo-....

Stacyd's picture

"No herbicide should ever be ingested". Then why are GMO farmers dousing our food with it? So...if I drink a cup of glyphosate all at once it will kill me fast. If I ingest it at a much slower rate, over a long period of time, it will kill me slowly. What's the difference? In both scenarios I'm ingesting herbicide(s) and your expert pointed out clearly that "no herbicide should ever be ingested".

alx9tlz's picture

Bt cotton is not to blame for the worst spree of suicides known to man, solely. The suicides began in 1998 when a shift in the World Bank's policy forced open India's previously private seed sector, thus letting massive bio-tech companies pillage a market previously run by family farms. Needless to say, this changed the entire industry and through a bit of marketing and cohersion, soon farmers found themselves growing gm seeds with terminator genes that they could no longer save. These gm crops required fertilizers and pesticides that they could not afford, as well as required much more water that India could not give. This led to droughts, poverty, unrest, depression and in turn suicides. So, yes, Bt cotton is not the primary reason for the largest wave of suicides known to human history, it is but a small part of your company's and compatriot's actions as a whole that led to this horrible atrocity. It's not the cotton that led to the suicides, it's your total monopoly over the seed market that led to the destruction of heirloom breeds (that are clearly more accustom to the Indian enviroment) and in turn led to the destruction of a cherished way of life. http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1226402334-BtCottonAndSuicides.pdf By the way, Roundup when used according to the label has a history of safe use? You didn't give much heads up on safe handling to these guys. http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/04/10/45469.htm And "can be harmful when ingested"? Quite harmful actually. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/15/glyphosate... And considering the dependency on Roundup was a major cause of, again, the worst spree of documented suicides known, no, no we are not getting two issues confused here, they are truly one in the same. But hey, way to downplay what is one of the worst tragedies in human existence.

alx9tlz's picture

1: Yeah, when I'm looking for genuine information that can't possibly be corrupted by big business, I think Forbes. (pfft) 2: Her background and merit as a scientist can be questioned all day, to no real purpose. Discrediting her as a scientist is merely a ploy to avert attention from big bio-tech takeover, to which this article fails in discrediting her and also fails to defend bio-tech's role in the largest spree of suicides known to man. #3: Did anyone note this is an opinion page? Opinions are different from facts. Editorials are different from actual stories.