But tonight I was captivated.
Bitter Seeds, which aired on our WQEC station tonight, told the compelling story of rural Indian farmers in a cycle of debt because of biotechnology which, from my estimation, does not seem suited to their environmental and financial circumstances.
Farmers are charged a premium for BT Cotton (this is all farmers - Indian, American, German, etc). For those of you, who like me, are wondering, What's BT cotton? It's cotton that's been genetically modified to prevent infestation of boll weevils, theoretically improving the plant and yields. In India, the beginning of the problematic cycle starts with BT cotton being the only option for seed these rural farmers are given. Conventional seed (i.e. non-GMO seed) is not available. While BT Cotton seed is supposed to be low-maintenance, these farmers are forced to borrow money in order to buy the necessary fertilizer in addition to the cost of the seed. And because of harsh growing conditions, particularly low rainfall, the costly seed often does not yield as it should. They are so poor they could never dream of the luxury of irrigation for their modest 2 acre farm...they are too strapped trying to scrape together a dowry for their daughters.
This broken system in India is producing farmers who are so indebted, so despondent, they are committing suicide. By the thousands. The rate of suicide among these rural farmers is four times...FOUR TIMES the rate of suicide in urban areas of India.
Since watching the program tonight, I've had an internal struggle about where the problem really exists. My emotional pendulum swung from blaming Monsanto for not being a responsible distributor to vulnerable populations, to blaming the Indian seed dealers who are likely taking advantage of kick-backs they receive for selling high-royalty seed. But to place blame so hastily would be wrong. Like so many things, I believe it is a systemic problem. A dysfunctional cycle which is self-maintaining. My heart breaks for the fathers who struggle to provide but can't. For the wives who can only watch helplessly as their husbands' toil leads only to further dejection. For the children who no longer have fathers; Who, as the program so poignantly notes, are victimized twice - once, when losing their father's protection, and twice, when losing their childhood.
I am reminded of how fortunate we are in America. I have no easy solutions to the problems presented in Bitter Seeds. Many of the technologies developed by Monsanto are very good, very helpful to American farmers. But are they more suited to larger-scale farms? Perhaps to those farms which have more capital to purchase fertilizers and irrigation, if necessary? I don't have the answers. Just a lot of questions.
While I pray for a resolution to the farmers' dilemma, ultimately my prayer is for these farmers, and for everyone, to know the One who is Life...to have God's Word planted in their hearts, producing eternal life and the love of Christ. Then it could be said of them, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." (Psalm 126:5).