Bt Cotton and farmer suicides

One of the main goals of the genetic resource policy program at IFPRI is to assess the actual or potential economic impact of new seed-based technologies, constraints to their delivery and adoption, and conditions under which they are most likely to perform successfully. These evaluations facilitate the selection and effective introduction of technologies adapted to the need and demand of farmers in developing economies.

Within this research program, in a specific project in India, IFPRI conducted research on the interaction of seed-based technologies and social issues, particularly suicide. Suicides, including farmers’ suicides, are a sad and complex phenomenon. Hence, their underlying causes need to be addressed within an equally complex
societal framework. Although officially recognized for having increased production and farmers’ income, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton—a genetically modified, insect-resistant variety of cotton—remains highly controversial in India. Among other allegations, it is accused of being the main reason for a resurgence of farmer suicides.

The IFPRI project’s research results provide a comprehensive review of evidence on Bt cotton and farmer suicides, based on official and unofficial reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, published studies, news clips, magazine articles, and radio broadcasts from India, Asia, and international sources between 2002 and 2007. Researchers then evaluated a set of hypotheses on whether there has actually been a resurgence of farmer suicides and the potential relationship suicide may have with the use of Bt cotton.

Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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