'Seed-Keepers': Female Farmers Take on Corporate Monopolies in India

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How the rise of GMOs sparked a suicide epidemic, and what women are doing to stop it

On a journey across Asia to document sustainable agriculture and delicious food, The Perennial Plate series pauses to train its lens on a serious issue. Since the mid-1990s, hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have taken their own lives – husbands and fathers, drowning in debt. The epidemic arises from the cruel economic impact of genetically modified seeds, promoted and sold at ever-increasing prices by the U.S. biotech giant, Monsanto. The company's cotton crop, Bacillus thuringiensus in particular, requires more pesticides than usual, eventually making land nonrenewable. As farmers take on skyrocketing debt to buy new seeds and land, their families are eventually forced off their land. 

In the video above, producers Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine speak with environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva about her efforts to fight back. Families that have lived on the land for centuries face an indomitable enemy in corporate monopolies, but women, in particular, are bringing much-need attention to the crisis as they re-harvest the land with a renewed focus on conservation and seed replacement. "When women do farming, they do it for life," Shiva explains. "They do it for their children, they do it for nutrition, they do it for taste. When corporations breed seed, they do it for monopoly, for toxics (because they are the toxic sellers too) and for long-distance trade. They do it for all the wrong things!" 

For more from The Perennial Plate, visit their site

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Alessandra Ram is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic Video Channel. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy.

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