Monday, January 3, 2011

Suicide by Pesticide: Hidden Face of Climate Change in India

[Naryamaswamy Naik went to the cupboard and took out a tin of pesticide. Then he stood before his wife and children and drank it. "I don't know how much he had borrowed. I asked him, but he wouldn't say," Sugali Nagamma said, her tiny grandson playing at her feet. "I'd tell him: don't worry, we can sell the salt from our table."
Ms Nagamma, 41, showed us a picture of her husband – good-looking with an Elvis-style hairdo – on the day they married a quarter of a century ago. "He'd been unhappy for a month, but that day he was in a heavy depression. I tried to take the tin away from him but I couldn't. He died in front of us. The head of the family died in front of his wife and children – can you imagine?"
The death of Mr Naik, a smallholder in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in July 2009, is just another mark on an astonishingly long roll. Nearly 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past decade. Like Mr Naik, a third of them choose pesticide to do it: an agonising, drawn-out death with vomiting and convulsions...
"Every suicide can be linked to Monsanto," says Ms Shiva, claiming that the biotech firm's modified Bt Cotton caused crop failure and poverty because it needed to be used with pesticide and fertilisers. The Prince of Wales has made the same accusation. Monsanto denies that its activities are to blame, saying that Indian rural poverty has many causes...

For Mrs Devi and Sugali Nagamma, though, such debates are meaningless. I asked Mrs Devi if she had a question to ask me. "If these industries and factories stop burning petrol and sending poison into the atmosphere will it bring our rains back?" I had to tell her I did not know.]

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