(Note from Erin: I’m not being petty when I write this, as we are talking about lives, suicides and when you fail to mention the elephant in the room, it’s a huge disservice to farmers who are now mad, around the world.
Update: When we looked back at our original article which we describe below, we were dismayed to see countless comments from bullies and harassers descending down upon us on social media, from our Facebook to our Twitter. All appear to have been sent by the same person or source and most had the same standard comments, some of whom were downright bullying to put it nicely (we are working on screenshots as there were many). Some said they were “close friends” of the author(s). Some claimed we copied and pasted the Guardian article or plagiarized it, or that we hadn’t given proper links or sources. None of those claims are true. These comments were particularly ironic, given that the Guardian article is clearly similar to a four-year-old Scientific American article on the identical topic, interviewing the very same featured people, with some nearly identical quotes, except the SA article includes the smoking gun which the Guardian omitted. We also don’t see the Guardian source them whatsoever (although we sourced the Guardian in our article- it’s always the FIRST thing we do). Pot met the Kettle. Some say there should have been an author byline in our piece, yet we still don’t see a byline of the authors in the Guardian article. We also simply quoted the article so whomever all the authors are on the Guardian article we quoted still remains unclear. One rude commenter, who appears to have thought better and erased their post, wrote on this updated piece that we are acting like the victim. Au contrarie. We are simply defending ourselves from these trolls, who claim to be their friends when the real victims are the farmers. The farmers from around the world who are angered by their piece, that they claim took nearly 5 years to write and yet omitted what science and published studies show might not only be the main reason for the countless farmer suicides themselves but the reason for their tragic economic state. Despite all their alleged “friends“ and the trolls who came to our page, when one page who takes partial credit for the Guardian piece tweeted us (female farmers) they didn’t ask us to change a word. They simply asked us to add the name of one of their authors and add a phone number and mention a group who helps those with economic hardships.
We do notice that one of the authors of this ” 5 years in the making” Guardian piece hearted the angry Troll tweets. We literally felt like we had been thrown in a time machine and transported back to 1980’s junior high school. The only difference? Our classmates back IN 8th Grade were more mature and less cruel.
We can’t find one single email from them and find it unprofessional and attention seeking that they sent us multiple tweets instead of doing it properly like any author we can think of in the world would do.
Wow. What a long strange year 2017’s been and this story just keeps getting weirder.
Let’s start at the beginning.
My editor and I did a piece on farmer suicides, using the Guardian’s article on the alarmingly high rate of farmer suicides as a source. That was in December, the same month their article came out.
We gave the Guardian article numerous links throughout our piece, with proper credit, as always.
Their article featured Ginnie Peters, whose husband Matthew Peters took his life in 2011. It also featured Dr. Mike Rosmann, who is a farmer and a psychologist who Ginnie reached out to after her husband Matt took his life.
I had several readers state that the Guardian article was irresponsible because it didn’t mention pesticides (or GMOs, for that matter) to explain why suicide rates have skyrocketed, with well over 270,000 farmers just in India since 1995. Many farmers have since commented publicly that it’s irresponsible for them not to mention this smoking gun if you will.
But it gets wilder.
The author (or one of the authors) of the piece said it took “nearly five years” for her to write it, which made my team and I fall over in shock.
Houston, (er, Iowa…) we have a problem.
That problem is that back in 2014, Scientific American did a very similar article on the very same subjects: Ginnie Peters and Dr. Rosmann!
In that article, they too talked about the very same subject of the high rate of suicides of US farmers.
Herein lies the problem.
While the Scientific American article concentrated almost solely on the link between pesticides and farmer suicides, discussed by both Ginnie Peters and Dr. Rosmann, the Guardian completely omits this topic whatsoever.
Here’s a quote from the Scientific American piece:
“Ginnie Peters has been on a mission to not only raise suicide awareness in farm families but also draw attention to the growing evidence that pesticides may alter farmers’ mental health.
‘These chemicals that farmers use, look what they do to an insect. It ruins their nervous system,’ Peters said. ‘What is it doing to the farmers?!'”
Wow. Just wow. See that Scientific American (SA) quote above? Even though the Guardian used some of the same quotes SA did, the same featured people (with photos!), and the very same subject, they sure as hell didn’t leave that quote in, or one shred of evidence about the suicide pesticide connection.
Now, I wouldn’t have known ANY of this except then the s*** really hit the fan.
Almost instantly after our complimentary article came out (sourcing the Guardian article), we started getting hate tweets from people claiming to be friends of the authors, and demanding we give them credit. (We have screenshots).
However, we had credited them, as we always do, from the get-go, and we nicely explained that with screenshots that included dates!
They lied and said we “added” the sources later, which simply is not true. One person even thanked Twitter for getting us to add the sources. Really?
They tagged their friends in the twitter thread, including the authors.
After all the hate tweets from the alleged “close friends” of “one of the authors” and another “friend of Dr. Rosmann” (whether they are friends or not, we do not know), we did some further investigating and found out the above information we’ve shared.
I have more mean tweets of alleged friends of authors who cc’d them on the tweets.
This was my response.
If they click they’ll see the misspellings. It’s ok the Guardian and the authors can’t get it right on these pieces, but to write ME and tell me to correct my piece which was already correct? That’s petty.
@FemaleFarmers at twitter (who say they worked on the Guardian piece too, which we believe) also wrote us asking if author Debbie Weingarten could have a byline and if we could mention that the Economic Hardship Reporting Project also had a hand in this series. Yes, a series. The authors did a second piece that also fails to mention the elephant in the room, but again covers the same people who were featured in the Scientific American article. There’s even new photos of Dr. Rosmann.
Thus far, they have two stories in the series. Neither has mentioned any root cause besides financial, with no mention of the pesticide suicide connection.
Some people say that Weingarten’s piece was completely irresponsible, and a hard slap in the face to the farmers of America, since it completely omits the pesticide suicide connection that is FIRST talked about in the Scientific American article from 2014.
The Guardian article published this month (Dec 2017) sounds eerily similar to the former piece, sans the mention of the whole subject AND TITLE, which is the pesticide suicide connection.
Was it conveniently left out? Just an oversight on an article the author claims she’s been working on for nearly 5 years? Either way, it’s really sad and just confirms once again that journalism really is dead.
Update: We found a tweet that someone wrote right around the time the Guardian article came out to the author. They questioned “what about pesticides” and they were savvy enough to find the similar Scientific American written 4 years ago.
Weingarten says (and I quote), “That section got cut. I’m resurrecting it though in another essay”.
She did do another essay. It was modestly entitled “I wrote about farmers’ suicides – and the reaction has been overwhelming.” I read articles on an average of 9 hours a day (I know, not healthy). I’ve never seen anyone write a title like that, and hope I never do again. I’m not trying to be petty but this is ridiculous.
I took the author at her word that “they cut that part out”, as she wrote so nonchalantly. But a few said they don’t know if they believe her.
Here’s my problem: Even if “they” did “cut that part out” (cut it out, like it’s simply a blemish on a banana), why would she approve of such a thing? Surely she must have been given the piece to see in its final form before it was published.
Oh yeah, you just left out the elephant in the room, the smoking gun, the CRUX of the other article with the same feature people interviewed, same quotes, same subject, that you didn’t even source at all. There is link after link after LINK of sources in your article, but not that one.
Many tonight are asking what the real reason is why “they” cut that part out.
If we want to stop farmers from dying, perhaps we need to find authors who don’t allow the most important part of the whole bloody story to be “cut out”, or refuse to publish if they won’t keep it in.
We need to stop supporting sites like the Guardian, who push Bill Gates penned pieces like they’re candy for kids, which will do a lot more than rot your teeth.
I just did a live Facebook broadcast where farmers from around the world joined in to express their disdain for the Guardian piece.
Now? I have to go make a Youtube video and get the word out (linked above).
Yes, financial burdens are part of the problem, but the pesticides (those pesky pesticides) are ruining our environment, and even the usually skeptical Scientific American is doing articles with the pesticide suicide connection as the subject.
Instead, we have the same quotes from the amazing SA piece that are in the new Guardian piece by Matt Peters that say “I can’t think. I feel paralyzed.” 1 And we have to wonder the reason he couldn’t think. The reason he felt paralyzed.
And again, I’m not being petty here. We have MANY hundreds of thousands of farmers who have killed themselves since 1995. I appreciate the author pointed that out, but to let an article be published without giving a cause, if not the main cause, is wrong in many farmers’ eyes.
Ginnie called 911 later they say, she just knew something was wrong, but it was too late—her husband had already taken his own life. We at HNN cannot imagine what Ginnie has gone through. Not to mention countless other spouses and partners/family of farmers who are committing suicide in record numbers.
We applaud Ginnie for speaking out on such a tough subject and raising awareness about pesticides (even if they “cut that part out” in the Guardian).
We applaud Dr. Rosmann for being a champion for these farmers, who talked to Matt before he died, and talked to Ginnie afterward, but some of our readers threw out words like cognitive dissonance.
That is not to undermine Rosmann’s tireless work—now four decades long—but sometimes we wonder if they just take things for granted, and think these pesticides, which are proven to drive up the cancer rates, or genetically modified crops and glyphosate, are perfectly safe?
We’ve been working with farmers since the late 80s on the farmland I grew up on in the Midwest, but I think we need to get to the heart of the problem.
Here’s our beef. We originally did this piece with quotes from the Guardian (still intact) but our readers were outraged at the story, and with good reason. They weren’t so upset by what it said, but what it omitted. Really, how can you leave out something so pertinent?
Did the Guardian miss the point?
While we do think the Guardian spells out part of the problem, we feel they missed the elephant in the room. Something Scientific American didn’t miss when they said, “Recent research has linked long-term use of pesticides to higher rates of depression and suicide. Evidence also suggests that pesticide poisoning – a heavy dose in a short amount of time – doubles the risk of depression.”2
Especially given the fact that in the piece by the Scientific American, from 2014, they also interviewed Ginnie Peters. However, the entire tone of the article was completely different:
“No one knows what triggered Peters’ sudden shift in mood and behavior. But since her husband’s death, Ginnie Peters has been on a mission to not only raise suicide awareness in farm families but also draw attention to the growing evidence that pesticides may alter farmers’ mental health.
‘These chemicals that farmers use, look what they do to an insect. It ruins their nervous system,’ Peters said. ‘What is it doing to the farmer?’”3
WHY WOULD THEY LEAVE THAT OUT? We don’t know who the Guardian’s advertisers are, but now we’re wondering (we do know that when you go to the site they ask for donations via a huge pop-up that states advertising is falling).
They didn’t mention two key components: genetically engineered crops and pesticides. Remember now, that GMO farmers often use more pesticides than any other farmers. Dr. Mercola told me that just today.
An example is our viral piece, “Worms now thrive on GMO Corn”. No shocker there. It’s like a science project gone bad. And we are the guinea pigs.
But no, not one single mention of this in their lengthy article, nor their follow-up, with a picture right up top of the feature star of that old SA article on pesticides and suicides.
Again, the Scientific American didn’t omit the obvious:
“Peters and his wife were among 89,000 farmers and other pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina who have participated in the Agricultural Health Study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Last month, epidemiologist Freya Kamel and her colleagues reported that among 19,000 studied, those who used two classes of pesticides and seven individual pesticides were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression. Those who used organochlorine insecticides were up to 90 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who hadn’t used them. For fumigants, the increased risk was up to 80 percent.”4
Look we don’t want to brush aside the very real financial crisis and hardship that farmers are dealing with, and which only seems to be getting worse, but many experts have asked; is there something more?
So, I’m not a farmer, not a psychologist like Dr. Rosmann, but my readers wondered aloud: Did they even bother to look at the rates of farmers killing themselves in other countries?
Dr Vandava Shiva, a world-leading expert, explains this suicide epidemic in India is caused by (shocker) genetically engineered crops, specifically cotton in this instance:
Watch the video here to learn the REAL truth of why farmers are committing suicide:
It’s obvious that these suicides became increasingly worse as genetically modified food production in the US exploded. It’s sad that GMO proponents focus on how much money they’ll save or the “crop yield” of farmers who grow GMOs (most farmers in the US), and yet farmers are in worse shape than ever.
The Guardian states:
“Last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.
After the study was released, Newsweek reported that the suicide death rate for farmers was more than double that of military veterans. This, however, could be an underestimate, as the data collected skipped several major agricultural states, including Iowa. Rosmann and other experts add that the farmer suicide rate might be higher, because an unknown number of farmers disguise their suicides as farm accidents.
The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.”5
We’ll be doing some upcoming interviews with farmers in the US who think that it’s just the case. There is usually not just one smoking gun. How convenient it would be if that’s how life worked, but it doesn’t.
One former GMO farmer (who also used pesticides) now turned organic, said to me:
“It’s insulting to have it explained away as if finances are the only smoking gun. Anyone who knows any basic science realizes the real impact GE crops and pesticides have on us, yet most publications cannot talk about it because of one of two reasons: the owners of that said publication, or advertisers pulling out.”
We appreciate the writers of the Guardian spending so very much time (as people who said they were friends with the authors publicly stated they did) on this very long, in-depth piece.
Ours isn’t a fraction as long, nor as in depth, but we must agree with another reader (yet another farmer), who said they must do their due diligence and realize that this many deaths cannot be explained away so easily.
So often the answer is far more complex.
What does it take the see the light?
What does it take to see the science?
Hello? Wake up and smell the chemicals.
The University of Bristol even asked for a ban of pesticides to stop the dramatic rise in farmer suicides.
We think it’s a double whammy here because pesticides and GMOs are not only bad for the environment, (You want peer to peer-reviewed published studies on that, we got em’. Even Scientific American talks about many for pesticides.) they’re also bad for animals and humans. It’s ruining farming, not just with farmers killing themselves every day, more than one a day, but because they make no money and we know from the TV segment interview below that is fact.
This is part of the original piece we wrote below about Dr. Rosmann and his great work:
It was at that time that Dr. Rosmann began providing free counseling, referrals for services, and community events, in order to break down the stigma associated with mental health issues. And in most ag states, telephone hotlines were set up. That seemed to do the trick for awhile because every state that had a telephone hotline was able to reduce the number of farming-related suicides. But in 2014, the federal funding that supported Rosmann’s Sowing Seeds of Hope came to an end and so did the program.
Dr. Rosmann feels that when farmers can’t fulfill their purpose (to provide), they feel despair. “Thus, within the theory lies an important paradox: the drive that makes a farmer successful is the same that exacerbates failure, sometimes to the point of suicide.”6
Net farm income has been in decline since 2013, and for 2017, median farm income is projected to be negative $1,325. As if that’s not bad enough, without parity (a minimum price floor for farm products), most commodity prices remain below the cost of production (meaning farmers can’t buy the goods that they grow).
In August 2017, Tom Giessel, farmer and president of the Pawnee County Kansas Farmers Union produced a short video called “Ten Things a Bushel of Wheat Won’t Buy,” check it out below:
Dr. Rosmann says they have learned how to better support farmers since the farm crisis of the 1980s. But just as important is that experts be “versed in the reality and language of agriculture.”7
Affordable therapy is critical and inexpensive to fund – Dr. Rosmann says many issues can be resolved in fewer than five sessions, which he compares to an Employee Assistance Program. Medical providers need to be educated about physical and behavioral health vulnerabilities in agricultural populations, an effort Rosmann is working on with colleagues.
But we must interject. Though they may be able to help farmers who are so in need, it doesn’t stop the fact they are working in dangerous conditions, or that many feel they have no choice and are under the giant grip of the company with a history of poisoning so many: Monsanto.
Though the work may be hard, it’s vital and it’s the work the farmers—many with farming in their blood going back generations—want to do. But it’s not just that. The wellbeing of farmers is woven into the health of the rural communities that surround them; if they can’t sell what they grow, they can’t pay their loans and that directly impacts the rest of the community.
And speaking of health, until the elephant in the room is addressed, (whether it be GE crops or pesticides, both are dangerous) then we’re never going to solve the problem of farmers killing themselves in record numbers, and those numbers will only grow higher by the day. Only when we talk about the WHOLE issue and not just cherry pick, are we going to be about to help farmers around the world.
Take off your blinders, stop being narrow-minded and look at the whole picture, because concentrating on only one of the components and reasons for this tragedy only hurts the farmers and does them a great disservice.
-Erin Elizabeth, born and raised in the cornfields of the midwest (age 2 months to 21 in Indiana)
The authors of the article asked me (before blocking me and refusing to answer my question about why the pesticides were omitted from the piece) to add the suicide hotline numbers which I gladly will do.
I wrote back for clarification while mentioning about this whole debacle with omitting the smoking gun: Pesticide. They ignored me and wrote back wanting me to give more sources and info, (which I added), yet their own article is incomplete and as important as having a suicide # is actually have the elephant in the room of their entire lengthy 5 yyearslong misspelled series which they do not. In either one. And more farmers are getting pissed by the minute.
P.S. they also blocked me after that.
Wow. Block me. Tell me to make changes yet their article failed to do so in a frightening way.
FFP, your piece does a huge disservice to farmers around the world.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
Sources and References
- The Guardian, December 6, 2017.
- Scientific American, October 6, 2014.
- Scientific American, October 6, 2014.
- Scientific American, October 6, 2014.
- The GUardian, December 6, 2017.
- The Guardian, December 6, 2017.
- The Guardian, December 6, 2017.