Thursday, November 11, 2004

Iraq: Open for Business

One of the wonderfully cute 'n' clever things we're doing in Iraq is making it illegal for Iraqi farmers to save their own seeds from year to year. Under a new law written entirely for the benefit of American agribusiness, Iraqi farmers will pay yearly for patented, proprietary seeds from transnationals like Monsanto. (Hey, the Iraqis might have invented agriculture, but Monsanto invented Agent Orange and is working on glow-in-the-dark who are you gonna trust?)

In addition to everything else that's wrong with this idea, it's yet another blow to the world's already endangered biodiversity. Less biodiversity means fewer choices for consumers, of course (what free market?), but it also makes food crops more vulnerable to disease and pests. As in every other aspect of biological life, variety and difference are strengths, and uniformity is a weakness. Western Civilization can now file this simple fact in its ever-growing "Things We Used to Know" folder.

Of course, there are impressive-sounding reasons for forcing Iraqis to use proprietary seeds:

The new law is presented as being necessary to ensure the supply of good quality seeds in Iraq and to facilitate Iraq's accession to the WTO. What it will actually do is facilitate the penetration of Iraqi agriculture by the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow Chemical - the corporate giants that control seed trade across the globe. Eliminating competition from farmers is a prerequisite for these companies to open up operations in Iraq, which the new law has achieved.
I'll go a step farther than that. With Monsanto continuing to lose money, and consumer distrust of GM foods on the rise, and laws against planting genetically altered crops gaining public support, there's really only one trump card left to be played: ridding the world of competing traditional crops, either by force (as in Iraq), or by "accident" (through planting decisions that will obviously, inevitably cause transgenic contamination of non-GM crops).

Click here to find information on people and groups who are fighting this grotesque misuse of intellectual-property law.

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