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SAM recommends: ‘Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint’ May 11, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India, South Asia Masala Recommends , trackback

Sandy Gordon

P. Sainath is a well known journalist whose forte is exposing rural misery. In this detailed and well researched article he deals with a push by Monsanto to have legislation passed to support the introduction of genetically modified cotton seeds, including through good news stories in Sainath’s former paper, The Times of India. Sainath shows the original Times of India story was subsequently ‘cannibalised’ in the form of advertisements.  The stories point to the apparent success of GM cotton in two villages in Maharashtra in preventing farmer suicides and debt, two acute and related problems which many commentators, including P. Sainath, have attributed to globalisation.

In this article, Sainath is able to show that suicides and debt are, indeed, acute problems in the two villages and that the profits claimed for GM cotton are simply absurd.

But the article is much more important than that.

India is caught up in a long-running debate about the supposed benefits and woes of globalisation. Recently the battle ground concerned foreign direct investment in retailing, with a move by Congress, which is a minority in the Lok Sabha, to allow 51 per cent FDI in retailing being overturned in the Parliament – a move widely seen as a signal that India’s economic reform process has stalled.

As to agriculture, India continues to have relatively high sets of agricultural tariffs and a range of other government controls.  Popular concern about farmer suicides and the role of globalisation have played a significant part in maintaining that position. Many economists, however, argue that more, not less, reform of agriculture would be the best medicine against farmer poverty, debt and suicide.

Read P. Sainath’s article here.

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