Indian farmer suicides

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From a post on Facebook:

Vandana Shiva while a hero of the eco-left is unfortunately very prone to anecdote and repeating outright falsehoods to further her ideological (not science based) convictions. For a great book on GMO please check out Mark Lynas “Seeds of Science”. Excerpt below about her Farmer suicide claims.

“Ian Plewis, a professor of social statistics at the University of Manchester in the UK. Examining official suicide rates, Plewis found that non-farmers were more likely to commit suicide than farmers in six out of the nine Indian states that extensively grow cotton. ‘If anything,’ he writes, ‘[annual] farmer suicide rates, at about 29 per 100,000 are a little lower than for non-farmers (35 per 100,000)’ across the whole cotton-growing region.29 In other words, India’s ‘suicide belt’ exists as much in its cities as on its farms.

The absolute number of suicides looks big to outsiders because there are simply so many farmers in India; 40 million in the nine cotton states alone.

What matters therefore for comparative purposes is not absolute numbers of suicides but the rates per unit of population.

Reassuringly, these show that suicide rates in India are not much different to those in other countries. The annual Indian farmer suicide rate is higher than in England and Wales, Plewis reports, but ‘similar to the best estimates of the rates in Scotland and France’30 (neither of which, I might add, currently grow GMO crops).

Plewis also compares suicide rates before and after the introduction of GM cotton. If Bt cotton were driving a ‘GM genocide’, one would expect a leap in suicides after its widespread adoption.

But this is not what the data shows. ‘In 2001 (before Bt cotton was introduced) the suicide rate was 31.7 per 100,000 and in 2011 the corresponding estimate was 29.3’ – actually a small reduction.31

Plewis concludes, in contrast to the widely believed Indian farmer suicide story, that ‘the pattern of changes in suicide rates over the last 15 years is consistent with a beneficial effect of Bt cotton, albeit not in every cotton-growing state.’32

So not only is the ubiquitous Bt cotton-suicides story incorrect, but ‘there is evidence to support the hypothesis that the reverse is true: male farmer suicide rates have actually declined after 2005 having been increasing before then’.

The Indian farmer suicide story is a myth built on tragic individual anecdotes and extrapolated to a whole country by those like Vandana Shiva with an ideological axe to grind and little concern about the true facts.”

See also: Dedicated Thread: Vandana Shiva and Farmer Suicides In India from GMO Skepti-Forum on Facebook