Sonntag, 22. Juli 2012

"Bitter Seeds": Conventional Harmony

(kj) "As usual, in every scheme that worsens the position of the poor, it is the poor who are invoked as beneficiaries." (Vandana Shiva)

Technology is often proclaimed a panacea for economic stagnation and lack of development. But does it hold true to its vast and suspiciously luring promises?

The final film in the Micha X. Peled's Globalization Trilogy provides a perturbing insight into the world of dubious promises of genetic engineering in the cotton-producing rural belt of Maharashtra. Genetically modified seeds and its impact on the life of Indian farmers caught Peled’s attention while shooting for ‘Blue China’ and tracking the source of raw cotton all the way from Shaxi, Guangdong (China) to Maharashtra.

After discovering the pitiable condition of the local farmers, Peled could hardly visualise a film based entirely on a character of a desperate and indebted farmer. Instead he interacted with a few dozens of youngsters especially girls in and around the cotton fields and it was in one of the local high schools where he finally met his leading character Manjusha Amberwar. A girl who would normally have been considered to be of "marriageable age" aspires to be a journalist. Ever since her father succumbed to the burden of debt, continuous harassment of money lenders and societal pressure, Manjusha pronounced the spread of knowledge about farmers' suicides her mission. Even though her only armament is a ballpoint pen and a few sheets from a modest copy book, she receives support from the regional newspaper and a farmers' rights activist.

While gathering information for her article Manjusha interacts closely with the family of the cotton-farmer Ram Krishna. As a father of two girls Ram Krishna has to collect a large sum of money to provide for sufficient dowry for their marriages. This year he decides to plant a new BT-Cotton seed which had been thoroughly advertised in his area as one of the most insect-resistant cotton seeds. The poor farmer can not afford neither the expensive seeds nor the fertilisers which are necessary for a rich crop. After his loan application is rejected by the bank he is bound to yield to despair and accept the inhuman conditions of a money lender. If he fails to repay the loan he would have to part with his ancestral land.

The genetically modified seeds require not only developed irrigation system, but also an enormous amount of pesticides for the output to exceed the investment. The dependency on rain and manual labour along with intense fragmentation of fields make the GM seeds completely unsuitable for Indian farming. However since the companies like U.S.-based Monsanto had flooded the Indian market with the GM seeds and tricked the farmers into planting them, it has become next to impossible to purchase conventional seeds nowadays. Many farmers choose to end their life in the quest of fighting the desperation. Ram Krishna is left with no money to repay the money lender after he sells his crop. He has to reject the marriage proposal for his daughter and is forced to promise his entire next year's yield as his only asset to retain the land. Manjusha's article gets printed and it strengthens her hope for a better future. A future where technology does not destroy livelihoods.

Watch the Official Trailer on Youtube here: