Caveat emptor, Africa: Nearly every day, Indian newspapers report more farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh, an Indian state of 80 million people where 70% of the population depends on agriculture and where small farmers are increasingly in debt. "More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006…At least 160,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997," reports the Associated Press. Drought in the region has brought yields down, and caused debt to rise — farmers turn increasingly to high-interest loans to buy "fertilizer, irrigation equipment and increasingly expensive high-tech seeds" (fun fact: Monsanto intends to raise its prices on GMO seeds by as much as 42% next year, reports Bloomberg). The debts that Andhra Pradesh farmers are killing themselves in shame over — often, in a macabre twist, by drinking the very insecticides they're in debt for buying — seem ridiculously low, from $300 to $1,200. But for families earning less than $2 a day, they're a death sentence. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Pie-in-the-sky, Saturday-morning Ethicurean musing: Wouldn't it be great if some nice forward-thinking foundation had a couple million bucks to pay off these inconsequential debts and help small, developing-country farmers kick the cycle of high-input biotech agriculture in favor of sustainable, compost- and push/pull-based methods like these?