Saturday, March 26, 2005

Special Order 81

i try to keep up with science news. there are many interesting and informative sources on the internet. most are not intentionally political but some stories involving science have a major political component. i recently read a small piece about Iraqi farmers being forbidden, by special order 81 decreed by L Paul Bremer as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, to save seeds from their crops to replant the following season. the reason cited is to modernize iraqi agriculture and move it into the global market economy by protecting the patents of major agribiz seed companies. order 81 is available on the internet and you can read it, as did i. warning!!! lawyers, of course, wrote it. some of them (surprise) worked for major us agribiz companies (Cargill's Dan Amstutz, who may not be a lawyer, was appointed by US Secretary of Agriculture Anne Veneman, formerly of Cargill, to head the Iraq's agriculture reconstruction).

i plowed dutifully through the whole mind-numbing thing and did see the following:

66) Chapter Threequater, Article 15 is added to read as follows:
“A. Notwithstanding Article 14 of this Chapter, the breeder's right shall not
include the following acts of third parties for personal non-commercial purposes, for purposes of experimentation or education of new varieties.
B. Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph (C) of Article 14 of this

well. so only patented plant varieties are protected thusly. but wait. elsewhere the order says that ANY plant variety can be patented. how many Iraqi farmers will want to patent their crops? so agribiz can file for patents on any and all heritage varieties of any food crop, or indeed, any plant. you, by the way, contain patented genes in your dna, because this patenting of life extends to animals too. how long will it be til humans must pay monsanto to use our own seed?

i found many articles on this subject by searching the internet for "special order 81" or "Iraqi farmers save seeds" or some variant. the following excerpt is from the one that seemed the most balanced and informative.

Iraq's Crop Patent Law
A Threat To Food Security

By GM Free Cymru

Strictly, the new law does not prohibit the saving of seed from the harvesting of traditional or long-established varieties that are deemed to be "matters of common knowledge." (2) (4) But with Iraqi agriculture in a state of crisis, there are critical seed shortages, and as mentioned above the "reconstruction" of the food supply system involves a substantial involvement on the part of USAID and other food donor organizations. "High quality seed" (whatever that means) is being given to farmers along with technical advice; it is inevitable that that seed comes from US registered varieties, and that within a year or two philanthropy will be replaced by the collection of seed royalties. In addition, careful digging reveals that Order 81 allows plant breeders to claim ownership of old varieties (and to call them "new" varieties) if they are the first to describe or characterize them. They can also then claim the ownership of related crops if they are "not clearly distinguishable from the protected varieties." The control of all protected varieties will last 20 years for field crops and 25 years for trees and vines. Farmers who do save seed or otherwise break their agreements, and farmers unlucky enough to find the adventitious presence of "registered varieties" in their fields, can be prosecuted, or else their harvests, tools and buildings destroyed. Conversely, farmers will have no right to claim compensation from the seed owners who, for example, allow their GM crops to pollute organic cropping enterprises and destroy livelihoods in the process.

of what possible benefit is it to Iraqi agriculture to enable me to patent a strain of wheat grown there and force farmers, perhaps using US military might, to pay me?

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