vqreviewWelcome to the #VQRtruestory project, our new social-media experiment in nonfiction. First up: @meerasub and her series on a changing India.
Her fingers flutter across the stalks from bloom to bloom, like bees pollinating, like a bird seeking seeds. She tosses the cotton into a sling slung across her back. I reach for a boll, unprepared for the thorns that encase it, protecting the soft interior, the billowy seed head that opens into five folds. The woman—I never catch her name, meet her only fleetingly—and her fellow harvesters are artists. I am not. I yank awkwardly at the cotton. She laughs, her face framed in gauzy orange fabric. That one’s not ready, she motions, laying her hand upon mine, guiding me. We are surrounded by acres of cotton, the Punjabi state of cotton, the Indian nation of cotton. Though the farmer who has brought me here to his land is switching to organic on some of his land, in this field he grows from genetically modified Bt cotton seed. In this field, he sprays, but less with the Bt variety. “When I was growing non-Bt cotton, I would be using twelve to thirteen pesticides—broad-spectrum organophosphates—the worst ones,” he tells me. “But with Bt, I use maybe four or five sprays.” It’s what Monsanto brags about, this reduction of chemicals with Bt cotton. In 2002, the Indian government approved Monsanto’s cotton and it now dominates the market, pushing the old varieties that emerged from this region to the fringes. But the farmer knows: When one pest goes, another arrives. The woman before me is focused on her harvest. With cotton at six rupees per kilo, a good day will yield her a dollar. The cotton is piled at the end of field rows, loaded onto the bloated backs of trucks, added to downy mountains overflowing from concrete-walled depots in town, bound into bales, sorted through, and eventually spun into cloth in a factory far from Gandhi’s spinning wheel. (1/6)
#Punjab #RiverRunsAgain #ElementalIndia #earth #agriculture #organic #ecoswaraj #labor #truestory #cotton #vqr
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