Sitting at my cubicle in the Fund for Peace office, I surveyed the government-issued statistics, scholarly journals and blog articles stacked around my desk. I had initiated a research paper in response to academic-turned-activist Vandana Shiva’s cry that Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton was the cause of a dramatic spike in farmer suicides in India. Yet was there even a rise in farmer suicides after the introduction of the GM cotton crop? Even this most basic of questions was debated.
Over the next two weeks I sifted through death reports and reran statistics, traced down government laws and local regulations, and did my best to write an unbiased review of the agricultural product’s effect on Indian farmers. Doing so forced me to acknowledge that both sides of the debate are biased towards their own agenda; it is impossible to paint a black and white picture identifying the good guys and the bad guys, so to speak. I had to be tenacious in my research but open-minded in my analysis--skills I have brought back to Smith and will take with me when I enter the workforce.