U.S. to Iraqi farmers: Throw away those old indiginous seeds! Buy genetically engineered seeds* from Monsanto™!

* (by "buy seeds" we mean "license the use of seeds for one harvest", after which you will need to buy new seeds under the terms of your EULA. Terms subject to change without notice.)

For generations, small farmers in Iraq operated in an essentially unregulated, informal seed supply system. Farm-saved seed and the free innovation with and exchange of planting materials among farming communities has long been the basis of agricultural practice. This is now history. The CPA has made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. Iraqis may continue to use and save from their traditional seed stocks or what’s left of them after the years of war and drought, but that is the not the agenda for reconstruction embedded in the ruling. The purpose of the law is to facilitate the establishment of a new seed market in Iraq, where transnational corporations can sell their seeds – genetically modified or not, which farmers would have to purchase afresh every single cropping season. While historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds. Inserted into Iraq's previous patent law is a whole new chapter on Plant Variety Protection (PVP) that provides for the "protection of new varieties of plants." PVP is an intellectual property right (IPR) or a kind of patent for plant varieties which gives an exclusive monopoly right on planting material to a plant breeder who claims to have discovered or developed a new variety. So the "protection" in PVP has nothing to do with conservation, but refers to safeguarding of the commercial interests of private breeders (usually large corporations) claiming to have created the new plants.

To qualify for PVP, plant varieties must comply with the standards of the UPOV [3] Convention, which requires them be new, distinct, uniform and stable. Farmers' seeds cannot meet these criteria, making PVP-protected seeds the exclusive domain of corporations. The rights granted to plant breeders in this scheme include the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, sell, export, import and store the protected varieties. These rights extend to harvested material, including whole plants and parts of plants obtained from the use of a protected variety. This kind of PVP system is often the first step towards allowing the full-fledged patenting of life forms. Indeed, in this case the rest of the law does not rule out the patenting of plants or animals.

The term of the monopoly is 20 years for crop varieties and 25 for trees and vines. During this time the protected variety de facto becomes the property of the breeder, and nobody can plant or otherwise use this variety without compensating the breeder. This new law means that Iraqi farmers can neither freely legally plant nor save for re-planting seeds of any plant variety registered under the plant variety provisions of the new patent law. [4] This deprives farmers what they and many others worldwide claim as their inherent right to save and replant seeds.

Grain.org article via Google, via Robot Wisdom.


Anonymous said...

That's terrible. Monsanto is an evil company.

Anonymous said...

I must say that a raw deal like that is reason enough to be an insurgent.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has to use Monsanto seed. No farmer in the U.S. has to either, but some choose to because the seed is more consistent than saved seed. Now as to forcing other countries to obey our patent and copyright laws, that is another matter.

Dystopos said...

The headline was deliberately overstated. To respond to the last comment, there are farmers who have, in fact, been forced to purchase licenses for Monsanto seeds after GM grain was found growing in their fields. In some cases the farmer never purchased seed from Monsanto, but it spread to his crop from neighboring farms. From Monsanto's point of view, this is patent infringement. From the farmer's point of view, Monsanto is guilty of contaminating his crop. The higher-paid lawyers have an advantage in pushing their point of view.

See Jill Sudduth. "Where the Wild Wind Blows: Genetically Altered Seed and Neighboring Farmers." Duke Law and Technoloy Review 0015. May 3, 2001 and
Anthony Shadid, "Blown Profits: Genetic Drift Affects More Than Biology--US Farmers Stand to Lose Millions", The Boston Globe, April 8, 2001

Anonymous said...

That's what I was thinking about. I read a report on it a while back and was upset by it. The book may mention the Pesticide Bombs Monsanto uses to test farmers' crops.