Monday, August 01, 2005

Order 81 and the Fertile Crescent

Heather Gray's Home grown axis of evil in CounterPunch looks at big agriculture's malign intentions with regard to Iraq's farmers:
Most of the world has resisted, in some way, the wholesale invasion of GMO crops. No country in their right mind would turn over their food sovereignty to US corporate agribusiness. Not to be defeated, corporate agribusiness has sought loopholes in vulnerable areas in the world. They seek regions where the implementation of their insidious schemes is virtually a given and from which they can force the world to accept their devastating and destabilizing agricultural model. Currently, the US military occupied Iraq is a prime area and the continent of Africa is another.
I first got wind of the insane, unbelievably arrogant rapacity behind the "liberation" of Iraq's economy from Naomi Klein's excellent "Baghdad Year Zero" article in Harper's. I've since taken an obsessive interest in the agricultural aspects of the radical neocon takeover, in particular in how large agribusiness interests were hot on using Iraqis as lab rats for their GMO crops, and especially with the idea of introducing patented seed strains, making farmers pay to use them, and to forbid the saving and reuse of seeds. It really doesn't get any more contemptible than that.

Honestly, I haven't been able to find news reports on the current status on Bremer's CPA orders, and whether they're even being discussed by the committee drafting the Iraqi constitution.

If anyone has any new news, I'd be happy to hear it. For now, I assume the incredibly odious Order 81, “Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety” is in effect and will remain so when (if!) the new constitution miraculously emerges.

To backtrack briefly, this, according to Christopher Findlay for ISN Security Watch, is what Order 81 is all about:
"enacted shortly before the formal handover of sovereignty last year, the Iraqi Patent and Industrial Designs Laws and Regulations (No. 65 of 1970) were amended. As a result, it is now illegal for Iraqi farmers to save up seeds from their latest harvest and use them for planting or crossbreeding in the next year’s crop – a practice that has been honored by farmers in the region since time immemorial. The preamble to Bremer’s Order 81 states that one of its goals is to ensure “that economic change as necessary to benefit the people of Iraq occurs in a manner acceptable to the people of Iraq”. But in paragraph 66 of the order, Iraqi wheat growers are expressly prohibited from saving their seeds for the next season: “Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties,” the order says. These “protected” seeds include an increasing number of varieties that have been developed by indigenous farmers through manual selection over centuries, but have since been patented by international companies. Seeds that are distinguished from other known, registered varieties can be claimed as intellectual property by anyone, worldwide. Such seeds are by default considered to be “protected varieties”, and Iraqi farmers using them are required to destroy their entire seed stock at the end of a harvest.
Read the whole article...

There's a wealth of information on the subject of seed laws at the web site for Grain, a Barcelona-based NGO dedicated to "sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge."

Also, a group of agricultural organizations from all around the world is demanding that the WTO get out of agriculture altogether. Read about their proposals here:

The governments of both developed and developing countries face the choice of sacrificing the rights of the majority of their populations to food sovereignty and decent employment in return for increased corporate access to international markets. As agriculture negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) continue , government negotiators are being pressured to cede the ability of local and national governments to democratically establish their own policies to feed their people and support their farmers in return for increased access to international markets for their main exporters.

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