The title of this post will link you to the very first thing I thought of when I started reading The Windup Girl. It is a short documentary called The Dying Fields which I watched with my cultural anthropology class a couple of semesters ago. Sponsored by PBS, the film looks at the plight of cotton farmers in India's cotton belt, which it refers to as "the suicide belt" where apparently there was a suicide reported every 8 hours. Many of the millions of farmers were unable to cope with their debts to money lenders, and ingesting huge amounts of pesticide became a favorable option. Why did they have so many debts? They were, as one woman in the movie puts it, "addicted" to BT cotton, a pest resistant, genetically modified breed of cotton owned and sold by the Monsanto agricultural corporation. The farmers thought they needed THIS cotton to be able to continue to compete. If you're interested, the film does it more justice then I ever could here, so check it out. (Of course, there is the question of correlation/causation here, and some research has suggested that the former is really the case, so take this all with a grain of salt)
Also, in looking up a couple of words from the novel online, Google took me to this blog. Not sure what this really is, if it is at all officially associated with Paolo Bacigalupi, or who came up with the bizarre layout, but it was somewhat helpful for a couple of things I actually was able to find.