Over 17,000 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009. The majority of these farmers had outstanding agricultural loans. At the turn of the century, the southern state of Kerala, India had the third highest suicide rate within India, despite being renowned as a “model for development” among development practitioners and environmentalists such as Bill McKibben. In the past twenty years, Kerala has faced a severe agrarian crisis: farmer suicides and extreme indebtedness, massive crop losses from fungal diseases, declining commodity prices for coffee and spices, biodiversity loss, and birth defects from exposure to pesticides such as Endosulfan, a persistent organic pollutant.
Sapna Thottathil will explain how these agricultural troubles have been the result of intensive chemical use from Green Revolution technologies, trade liberalization agreements pursued by the Government of India in the 1990s, and historical and political economic land-use arrangements and labor laws. She will lead a discussion exploring the recent scholarship arguing that organic agriculture is becoming increasingly corporatized, and how organic farming can provide an ongoing solution to India’s agrarian troubles.
Sapna Thottathil is a PhD Candidate in Geography at the University of California-Berkeley and a Program Associate for the Healthy Food in Hospitals Initiative of Health Care Without Harm.