By Akshay Jain:
In the last 20 years, nearly 300,000 farmers have ended their lives by ingesting pesticides or by hanging themselves. Although successive governments have tried to help farmers by implementation of various schemes, there is no change on the ground. What is the reason behind such an alarming rise in number of suicides?
India has now shifted from natural cotton seeds to BT Cotton. The firm Monsanto has claimed that crop yields will improve and the dependence on chemicals and high irrigation will decrease. It has now been found that the claims were not true and farmers have to resort to buying more pesticides to spray in the fields. Ironically, the chemicals used like pesticides and insecticides, are provided by the sister companies of Monsanto.
The farmers take loans to buy seeds and an assortment of chemicals. But, what happens if the yield is less? Farmers go into cycles of bad loans and are unable to pay them back. Many thus resort to suicide to end their grief.
Chemicals used in traditional farming methods have a devastating effect on the people who contact them. Some of the chemicals used, such as Aldicarb, can be lethal to people, while others can cause sickness or birth defects. Many farmers are in direct touch with the cotton, increasing the risk of exposure. Cotton is a “dirty” crop. Despite making up about 2.5 percent of all world agriculture, it uses about 25 percent of world’s insecticides and 10 percent of world’s pesticides.
Thus, there has been a call by activists to ban BT cotton and increase cultivation of organic cotton.
Besides helping the environment, there are other benefits from organic cotton products. Working environments are better for those on farms and small-scale farmers save money by not having to buy large amount of pesticides. Consumers benefit too, as organic cotton products are softer and easier on your skin.
Brands like OrganicThreadz are trying to create a market for Organic cotton products by selling Organic clothing through their website. Me and my friend Avishek Kataria started this venture to improve livelihoods through our passion for change.
Since college, we shared a passion for India and a desire to work for a better India. After spending some time in IT jobs, we quit and planned to set up a fashion brand with an aim to improve livelihood. As we researched about different materials, we came across organic cotton and also became aware of all the troubles farmers are facing because of genetically modified cotton. The maintenance of this cotton is very expensive, due to which farmers get into cycle of bad loans and then commit suicides. We realized the need to switch to organic cotton and commercialize it. That’s what shaped our vision and got us going.
More awareness is required in consumers to shift to organic cotton. As people get aware more organic cotton would be cultivated to cater to the demand of the people. As an agrarian economy it is very important to care for our farmers and improving our choice of clothing can go a long way in supporting them.