Monday, 19 November 2012

Part 1: GMOs, Chapter 1: Manjusha


Manjusha Amberwar is an 18-year-old girl. She’s from Telung Takli, a tiny and remote village in Vidarbha. Known as the “White Gold Belt of [the Indian state of] Maharashtra,” Vidarbha is a key cotton production area.

Manjusha’s dream is to become a journalist. Her family are, however, against it. They say she’s not following tradition. But Manjusha’s mind is made up. She believes she has a mission, which is to tell the world about the farmers’ predicament. She adds: “Three farmers in my village killed themselves…I’m investigating why they did it.”

The suicides are part of a larger crisis. In August 2012, the Indian Parliament was told that there were 290,740 farmer suicides during 1995 – 2011. That translates into 17,102 suicides per year. At one point during that time, it got as bad as one suicide in every 30 minutes.

The situation is simply tragic. Which is why Manjusha feels compelled to tell the farmers’ stories. But something else is also driving her—her father was one of the many Indian cotton farmers who have committed suicide.

Manjusha (left) and her family

The suicides are, however, a rather recent phenomenon. An old-timer informs Manjusha: “In my time, there were no suicides. Even poor people could survive by working hard.”

So something must have changed. What is it?

In the course of her investigation, Manjusha discovers that her village no longer employs traditional agricultural practices. One big change is the cotton seeds. Specifically, the villagers are now using genetically modified cotton seeds.

But why did they change? And are the seeds linked to the suicides?

Stay tuned to find out.

Note: You can learn more about Manjusha by viewing the award-winning documentary, Bitter Seeds. The trailer is available at www.dailymotion.com/video/xlyhjp_bitter-seeds-trailer_shortfilms

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