India has a large rural farming population, with more people in India farming for a living than in any other nation in the world. Within the last decade, there has been an epidemic of farmer suicides, which eerily coincides with the introduction of genetically modified seeds into Indian farms illegally by American companies, most notably Monsanto.
Bitter Seeds, directed by Michael X. Peled and released in 2011, is a film that follows aspiring journalist Manjusha Ambarwar as she attempts to piece together a story that will put her village’s hardships on the map. As the daughter of a farmer who committed suicide, she is deeply impacted by the tragedies striking the Indian farming community. Her desire to answer the questions of the families impacted by the chain of events that lead to the suicide is a necessary part of the justice process, if there is ever to be justice for these families.
The genetically modified seeds can be traced back to the American multinational corporation Monsanto, which is no stranger to controversy. For years, people all over the world have been calling out Monsanto for its dangerous genetically modified food products. In India, this phenomenon is no different.
Monsanto began distributing genetically modified seeds to farmers in India with the promise that the plants that would sprout from the seeds would be stronger than plants grown from natural seeds. In the film, it becomes evident that this promise was not entirely true. The plants grown from the Monsanto seeds were ultimately weakened due to harsh weather conditions in India. Although the plants could grow without a lot of water, they were unable to ward off pests in such conditions.
Due to the lack of crop yields that could turn a profit and the high cost of running a farm in India, many men choose to commit suicide when they cannot pay off their debts, or pay a dowry for their daughters. This leaves the family without a leader and, according to Manjusha Ambarwar, causes the children of these farmers to grow up far sooner than they should have.
It is unfortunate that an American corporation is behind all of these events and, within the film, it is mentioned that the seed trade practices being used by Monsanto in India are illegal. Rather than fix the problem, the United States pays millions of dollars in fines. This is disturbing and highly unethical. It points to the fact that we need to stand together against actions such as these and hold the multinational corporations responsible for their disgusting acts against humanity.