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About the anti-GMO petition

May 18, 2014 - Harry Eagar
CORRECTION: I let a decimal point get adrift and have thus revised the numbers in the post downward to correct them. The conclusion remains robust. (I failed to make the basic reality check of asking if my numbers were in the ballpark. For US suicides, they weren't. Suicides and auto deaths should be roughly the same.)

RtO was not planning to say anything more about GMOs (see "GMOs love you," Feb. 6), but Tricia asked me to revisit it in light of the petition to get a Luddite proposition on the county ballot in November.

Some background: Tricia probably knows more about genetic engineering than I do and she for sure has more field experience with plant breeding, having worked for a time for the NifTAL Project. (Nitrogen fixation in Tropical Agricultural Legumes, an excellent idea whose money was taken away by Bush I and given to Russian mobsters.) On Friday, while she was being a docent at the Makawao Histoy Museum, she was approached by a woman seeking signatures for the petition

Tricia has far more patience with these ignoramuses than I do and spent some time listening to her spiel. The woman knew nothing about farming or genetics, but what alarmed Tricia the most was the claim that Monsanto caused "hundreds of thousands" of farmers in India to commit suicide.

Statistics are very uncertain, but the number of reported farmer suicides in India is under 20,000 a year, in a population of close to 700,000,000 rural people. This is certainly an undercount, as landless rural laborers are not treated as "farmers."

Still, that is not a huge number compared to the United States. Some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest 37,000 successful suicides a year here, of which farmers' share would be around 750.

Since there are about 100 times as many farmers in India as in the United States, for there to be an epidemic of suicides (from any or all causes), there would have to be 75,000 suicides a year in India.

Whatever the accurate number is, nobody claims it is that high.

'Nuff said about the gullibility and ignorance of the anti-GMO crowd. But a word about the alleged mechanism provoking these deaths, which is debt incurred by farmers using Monsanto seed leading to despair leading to suicide.

Now, the issue of income and debt in India goes way back before there was ever a Monsanto (and if you are interested, the histories of Mike Davis and Eric Hobsbawm are a good place to begin), but the perfervid campaign against Monsanto led some researchers to ask real farmers about debt:

"Ron Herring, a professor of government at Cornell University, interviewed Indian farmers in 2006 after 200,000 suicides in 10 years. He called 'the media construction baseless,' and told the Cornell Chronicle, 'Farmers were insulted and incredulous: If farmers committed suicide every time they fell into debt, they said, there would be no farmers.' "

(If I were to go into more detail, I would link today's anti-GMO drive to the evil anti-Green Revolution propaganda of the '70s. The illustration makes the link graphic.)


Article Comments



May-22-14 8:08 PM

Pot calling the Kettle Black. Right PTSD retard?


May-22-14 3:58 PM

Well it is either that or you're retarded. Perhaps the best explanation is that you are simply retarded.


May-21-14 7:14 PM

Keep assuming. I enjoy when it comes around and you are left in a loophole. I think you should practice your Russian. Say . ???????????? ???? Snowden .. ?? ?????? ??????????. If that is the best you can come up, proves without a doubt you are a genious.

Seems English was a second language to many 100% Native Hawaiians but you are mixed.


May-21-14 5:57 PM

The best explanation I can come up with is that English must be a second language for you.


May-21-14 2:52 AM

Seems the bkaahui is PTSD candidate. Needs to take a drug test.

Gibberish to those with a propane problem. Gibberish to those who are full of methane. Truck on genious.


May-21-14 2:45 AM

You are the genious that you are, bkaahui. Run for office and if you lose, you can blame your lack of understanding gibberish.

"Yes I agree with the minimum wage because I went to Coastal Carolina University and ate an apple."

I look forward to your gibberish on facebook. I look forward to your campaign speeches. Run Forest Run.


May-21-14 1:30 AM

See my point? It is like you are trying to put an idea into words but there is some breakdown in logic during the transition. Everything you say amounts to gibberish, it is like listening to a schizophrenic trying to explain their day.

"Yes I agree with the minimum wage because I went to Houston and ate an apple."

That is really what you sound like.


May-20-14 4:41 PM

Bwaahhaa like most "Pinocchios" do not answer questions but avoid them and start to Ad Hominem. Genious at work on facebook. Politicians get their strings pulled like marionettes, except this one, someone has their hand up his posterior motives.


May-20-14 4:38 PM

[quote]You want small gummint?: take a look at Cliven Bundy.[/quote]

Elvira Kaahui "I am desperately trying to make sense of what you are saying but I'm afraid that is impossible. All I see is gibberish and nonsense, your ideas and sentences do not flow or make any logical connections. You seriously need to go back to school and learn how to write a proper sentence." bkaahui

Contradicting itself. Take a look at conservatives who are RED States and wear RED clothes and think one party...Seems a cadidate for office but cannot even quote a sentence correctly...Makes a fool of itself, all the time. Bwaahhaa is a genious...


May-20-14 3:42 PM

"Like the Founding Fathers, I think government is a good idea."

They believed in limited government, unlike you.

[quote]You want small gummint?: take a look at Cliven Bundy.[/quote]

Guilt by association. You want big government? Take a look at Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.


May-19-14 12:39 AM

I was considered a 3rd grader...seems my history class taught me about our Government, as in the Constitution, is also repeated in a Speech by President Abraham Lincoln...Our goverment has forgotten who they represent..The our government..without the people we have no government..


"We the People of the United States"

"that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln November 19, 1863"

Libertarians believe in their own law and make up as they go along...yet when comes time to settle, they cry for help..seems that one that plans to run for office best learn, what a Government is..The People.


May-18-14 9:01 PM

Like the Founding Fathers, I think government is a good idea.

You want small gummint?: take a look at Cliven Bundy.


May-18-14 7:56 PM

correction: no longer...


May-18-14 7:55 PM

Seems one contradicts by saying facts are longer important in politics..proves that one assumes by making a suppository remarks is the very one running for office...Golytely..but you do need it..Right Elvira...

Facts are for dummies...Just Assumptions and Approximations made by those who are educated and everyone else is a genious like Elvira Kaahui..take meaning to the word genious...not what is looks like..


May-18-14 7:08 PM

Reason and facts are no longer important in politics.

Facts used to end debates. Now each side gets to have their own set of facts. Facts are now treated as a "point of view" in our society. Look at all of the global warming skeptics in the world, even when the evidence is basically undeniable at this point.

It seems you enjoy at least some level of a healthy rational skepticism. I wish you would apply this same logic towards the government.


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