Karnataka: a Brief Study on Globalization, Farming, and Genetically Modified Crops

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Karnataka: A Brief Study on Globalization, Farming, and Genetically Modified Crops

Spring 2011

Introduction: A Historical Lens for Viewing Politics
Politics is often studied as a collection of individual events and moments, never truly connected but still influencing the lives of every individual. Many historians, especially those dealing with farmer suicides in India, note that politics cannot be seen as a series of events but as a process or continuum of interconnected moments that truly influence each other. As Palagummi Sainath has noted in his multiple articles regarding rural communities in the Times of India, instead of seeing farmer suicides as a singular event, they must be seen through the lens of a process, mainly “the process of commercialization of the countryside and its consequences.”[1] The problem in not seeing the suicides as a continuum of past policies is that until the media and government realize that, there will continue to be problems in finding the underlying causes of the suicides and in addressing the tensions that have led to the conflict in the first place. Until then, there will be few effective solutions that the communities or the government can put into action. This is especially important to the situation of farmer suicides in Karnataka from 1998 to 2006. The political climate of the time shows that the government saw the entire period as an isolated event that was completely blamed on the farmers and not on any external sources such as the processes of commercialization and globalization. When one considers the entire continuum of these processes since the 1980s, a completely different understanding comes to light. A fuller study shows that due to the introduction of genetically modified crops into the Karnataka economy, there have been negative socio-cultural, political, and economic impacts on the region, even though the Karnataka government could have organized multiple methods of action to alleviate the suffering of many farmers and their families.

In order to understand this interpretation of the farmer suicides in Karnataka, this paper will go through the following areas. First, there will be a discussion on Karnataka and a brief description of the agricultural sector over time. Then there will be a brief summary of the rise of genetically modified crops in India and patent rights in Karnataka. Then, in order to give a fuller perspective on genetically modified crops, there will be a section devoted to the positive impacts of these crops and also on the companies that produce them and what they have to say about their products. This will be followed by a discussion on the far-reaching negative effects of these crops, specifically in Karnataka. First, there will be an analysis of the socio-cultural impacts, specifically the farmer suicides, and the amount of suffering and harm these products and companies have caused in rural Karnataka communities. Next, there will be a discussion of the economic impacts of these crops, specifically focusing on debt but also on the destruction of products considered ‘capital’- such as the crops, the land in rural communities, as well as natural genetic biodiversity. Third, there will be a consideration of the negative political impacts of the introduction of these crops as well as the farmer suicides and an in-depth look at how these problems were handled by the Karnataka government. Finally, a two-pronged approach will be taken at looking at the solutions to these problems. First, there will be the current solutions that have been put in place through the political lens of a singular event-based history. Then, this paper will offer a few solutions that would be more long-term if the process-based approach of politics was instead used to look at farmer suicides and genetically modified crops in Karnataka. The paper will continually contrast the two methods of looking at these events and use the example of Karnataka to show how one...
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