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Bt Cotton and farmer suicides in India: Reviewing the evidence

Author

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  • Gruere, Guillaume
  • Mehta-Bhatt, Purvi
  • Sengupta, Debdatta

Abstract

"Suicides in general, including farmers' suicides, are a sad and complex phenomenon. Hence, their underlying causes need to be addressed within an equally complex societal framework. Here, we provide a specific case study on the potential link between technological choices and farmer suicides in India. Although officially recognized for having increased production and farmers' income, Bt cotton, genetically-modified, insect-resistant cotton, remains highly controversial in India. Among other allegations, it is accused of being the main reason for a resurgence of farmer suicides in India. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive review of evidence on Bt cotton and farmer suicides, taking into account information from published official and unofficial reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, published studies, media news clips, magazine articles, and radio broadcasts from India, Asia, and international sources from 2002 to 2007. The review is used to evaluate a set of hypotheses on whether or not there has been a resurgence of farmer suicides, and the potential relationship suicide may have with the use of Bt cotton. We first show that there is no evidence in available data of a “resurgence” of farmer suicides in India in the last five years. Second, we find that Bt cotton technology has been very effective overall in India. However, the context in which Bt cotton was introduced has generated disappointing results in some particular districts and seasons. Third, our analysis clearly shows that Bt cotton is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the occurrence of farmer suicides. In contrast, many other factors have likely played a prominent role. Nevertheless, in specific regions and years, where Bt cotton may have indirectly contributed to farmer indebtedness, leading to suicides, its failure was mainly the result of the context or environment in which it was planted. We close the paper by proposing a conceptual framework for empirical applications linking the different agricultural and institutional factors that could have contributed to farmer suicides in recent years in certain districts of Central and Southern India." from authors' abstract

Suggested Citation

  • Gruere, Guillaume & Mehta-Bhatt, Purvi & Sengupta, Debdatta, 2008. "Bt Cotton and farmer suicides in India: Reviewing the evidence," IFPRI discussion papers 808, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:808
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Benjamin Crost & Bhavani Shankar & Richard Bennett & Stephen Morse, 2007. "Bias from Farmer Self-Selection in Genetically Modified Crop Productivity Estimates: Evidence from Indian Data," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 24-36, February.
    2. Matin Qaim & Arjunan Subramanian & Gopal Naik & David Zilberman, 2006. "Adoption of Bt Cotton and Impact Variability: Insights from India," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 28(1), pages 48-58.
    3. repec:oup:revage:v:28:y:2006:i:1:p:59-71. is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Richard Bennett & Uma Kambhampati & Stephen Morse & Yousouf Ismael, 2006. "Farm-Level Economic Performance of Genetically Modified Cotton in Maharashtra, India," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 28(1), pages 59-71.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Stone, Glenn Davis, 2011. "Field versus Farm in Warangal: Bt Cotton, Higher Yields, and Larger Questions," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 387-398, March.
    2. Raney, Terri & Matuschke, Ira, 2010. "Genetically Modified Crops In Developing Countries: Back To The Future," 14th ICABR Conference, June 16-18, 2010, Ravello, Italy 188106, International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy Research (ICABR).
    3. Antoine Bouët & Guillaume P. Gruère, 2011. "Refining Opportunity Cost Estimates of Not Adopting GM Cotton: An Application in Seven Sub-Saharan African Countries," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 33(2), pages 260-279.
    4. Gulati, Ashok, 2009. "Indian Agriculture: Changing Landscape," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 53205, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    5. Gulati, Ashok, 2009. "Emerging Trends in Indian Agriculture: What Can We Learn from these?," Agricultural Economics Research Review, Agricultural Economics Research Association (India), vol. 22(2).
    6. Gruere, Guillaume P. & Sun, Yan, 2012. "Measuring the contribution of Bt cotton adoption to India's cotton yields leap:," IFPRI discussion papers 1170, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. repec:laf:wpaper:201002 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Shew, Aaron M. & Nalley, Lawton L., 2015. "Indian Acceptance of Cisgenic Rice: Are all GMOs the same?," GMCC-15: Seventh GMCC, November 17-20, 2015, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 211492, International Conference on Coexistence between Genetically Modified (GM) and non-GM based Agricultural Supply Chains (GMCC).
    9. Gandhi, Vasant P., 2011. "ICT Based Knowledge and Information System for Brand-Variety Selection by Farmers: Study and Design Using the Crop-Cutting Survey System in Cotton," Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, vol. 66(3).

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    Keywords

    Cotton; Genetically modified crops; farmer suicides;

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