- Dear all,
below a message about recent developments concerning seed policies in
Iraq. As it is much related to the work of Mr. Fukuoka, a development
he was always trying to prevent while travelling around the world to
save and share seeds, and reverse desertification, I thought it
approriate to post this news here.
All this can be an extra motivation for me, you and all of us, to
strive to keep alive the message and practice that Mr. Fukuoka and
others have been teaching.
Peace & love,
Friday, October 29, 2004 Suzanne Elston
It is a ritual as old as civilization itself. In fact, seed saving made it
possible for mankind to move from being hunter-gathers to farmers more than
10,000 years ago. Rather than being dependent on hunting for survival, our
ancient relatives created a renewable supply of food by harvesting seeds at
the end of each growing season, and sowing them the following spring.
It was a pivotal point in our development as a species. It not only put an
end to our nomadic existence, but it also allowed for the establishment of
early communities that formed the foundation of modern civilization. No
small feat for a tiny little seed.
To emphasize the importance of seed saving, consider my favourite and most
inspirational environmental quote from Dr. Rosalie Bertell:
"The purpose of the environmental movement is to save the seed. Whether
it's a fish, or a bird, or a baby, they all come from the seed, all into
time," said Dr. Bertell. "And if we damage that seed, then there's no place
else to get it."
Apparently not. Especially if you're a poor Iraqi farmer. A joint report by
two international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), GRAIN and Focus on
the Global South, reveals that new legislation in Iraq makes transnational
corporations the only place where farmers can get their seed. The
legislation, which the groups claim has been carefully orchestrated by the
US, renders the ancient art of seed saving illegal.
"The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade
deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, and then imposed their
patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one
of the report's authors.
The Iraqi legislation marks the latest victory by transnational
corporations. To date,
these companies have successfully managed to confirm their rights to
seed patents over the rights of farmers everywhere to save their seeds and
their crops in the most sustainable, affordable and environmentally
Earlier this year, Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser lost his seven-year
against biotech giant Monsanto. The case, which went all the way to the
Supreme Court, revolved around Monsanto's genetically-modified canola
seed, Round-up Ready, that had blown onto Schmeiser's property from
neighbouring farms. Despite his best efforts, Schmeiser was unable to kill
off the pesticide resistant plants. When he saved his seed from one year's
crop to plant the next, it included some of Monsanto's patented seed.
Monsanto's argued that saving the seed violated the company's requirement
that farmers who use Round-Up Ready must buy new seed every year.
"We did not expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada,"
said Schmeiser. "We were fighting for the fundamental right of the farmer
to save his seed and use it year after year."
A noble battle, but one that is being lost on all fronts to the right of
multi-billion dollar transnational corporations to make a profit. To return
to the Iraqi situation, that right is literally putting the lives of
millions of at risk.
"This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and
the country's food security," states a GRAIN news release. "While political
sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has
been made near impossible by these new regulations."
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates
that in 2002, 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own
stocks from the previous year's harvest, or purchased seed from local
markets. When the Iraqi law goes into effect, seed saving will be illegal.
Instead, farmers will be forced to purchase proprietary "PVP-protected"
planting material from transnational agribusiness corporations.
According to GRAIN, the consequences of this legislation are the loss of
farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this
way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.
At the risk of diminishing the wretched plight of the Iraqi people, this
legislation moves us even closer to the frightening world imagined by
screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky in the classic movie, "Network."
"There is no America and no democracy," Chayefsky wrote. "There is only IBM
and ITT and AT&T and Du Pont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the
nations of the world now."
God help us. (Vandana Shiva and the women of India have done remarkable
work in challanging and changing this criminal behaviour - help Vandana).
WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
GRAIN promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural
biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local
knowledge. To read the report, "Iraq's New Patent Law: A declaration of
war against farmers," or for more information about GRAIN's work, visit
www.grain.org <http://www.grain.org/ .
For more information about seed saving, check out The Seed Savers' Network
at www.seedsavers.net <http://www.seedsavers.net/ and The International
Seed Saving Institute (www.seedsave.org <http://www.seedsave.org/ ).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is located at
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