Written and Researchd by: Alan Reed Bishop of Hip-Gnosis Seed Development/Bishop's Homegrown
In the common interest of food safety, bio-diversity, and education of an unsuspecting public I present to you a case in point study of the power of bio-tech corporations and their patenting of life as a source of power over the people. While such measures are being put into place in both the United States and Canada it is within the confines of the boundaries of a war torn country, supposedly “liberated” for the sake of a truly “democratic” nation by a nation and indeed nations who have done much to further the corporate greed, profiteering, power sharing, and leverage of trans-national agri-business for agendas hereto unseen with the exception of monetary gain and exploitation of natural resources. The case in point in this study is referred to more commonly as “Iraq” and the agri-business power grab, drafted not by the supposed “democratic” peoples of Iraq, but by the board members of such biotech/agri-business companies as Monsanto, Signet, and the USDA and other US. Policy makers, is better known as CPA Order 81 which effects the state of Iraqi agriculture, seed saving, and small farms and effects the very material that is the culture of one of the oldest civilizations on earth while at the same time highlighting the disturbing outlines of the possibilities in the present and the future for further eroding the rights of conscientious consumers, seed savers, and small farmers in countries worldwide, particularly those already within the grasp of these companies such as the U.S. and Canada.
Iraq: A history of unique culture and agriculture and a center for the rise of civilization in part of the ‘fertile crescent’ of Mesopotamia.
Indeed Iraq has seen civilizations come and go. Iraq rose as a civilization, one based around agriculture, some time around 8000 B.C… Indeed some of the earliest records of civilization and particularly agriculture come from Iraq. Wheat was a main crop for thousands of years, as a matter of fact Iraq has a history of nearly 10,000 years of cultivation of Wheat, wheat which was grown, adapted, and regionalized to the soils of the fertile crescent and the cultivation practices there in. Many unique varieties were developed and for some time in the early part of the 20th century American Agri-Business companies used Iraq for its own personal gene bank in developing new varieties from the hard work of the Iraqi Farmer. In 2002 the FAO estimated that 97 per cent of Iraqi farmers used their own saved seed or bought seed from local markets, indeed this is a culture built on self sufficiency, history, and independence, but all of those things look to be on their way to utter destruction by the forces of the heavy hand of companies like Monsanto and Syngenta who smell the blood in the water and see it as an opportunity to further line their corporate pockets with the money of a poor nation of farmers that is actively being exploited with the help of the government that said they were there to “liberate” said peoples.
Early in the 90’s due to war and famine and the economic impact of those events, as well as the U.N. embargo on Iraq, wheat production started to diminish due to the overuse of the land to supply food to a country otherwise cut off to the world. Luckily, even with the misgivings and mistakes of Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi seed bank was set up to preserve the unique diversity of Iraq’s food crops in the 1970‘s, the seed bank in question is now better known as the Abu Ghraib detainment facility where close to 100,000 unique varieties of wheat and other crops, all the work of generation after generation of Iraqi farmers and breeders, were once stored (other unique crops included exotic melons and watermelons, both staple crops in this desert region, some even considered sacred to fringe religious groups such as the Mandians). Of course this diversity is now missing, evidently lost to the world with exception of some samples stored at the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria, luckily stored for the sake of posterity, samples which in fact belong to the farmers and peoples of Iraq and which are adapted to the regionalized stresses of those farms. However, the scenario of these varieties being redistributed to their rightful owner is highly unlikely given the introduction of CPA Order 81.
As always the trans-national companies and the United States and its allies in the world control of food crops, bio-diversity and genetic manipulation have stepped in and soiled the supposed agenda of the liberation of Iraq with the fingerprints of their greed driven manipulation with the wide and varied wording of CPA Order 81. Evidently 10,000 years of agricultural development and success is no longer sufficient or more aptly not putting money into the right people’s pockets, in the new structure of Iraq.
Many words have been said about CPA Order 81 and even the USDA has made broad statements claiming that the provisions set fort in Order 81 will not effect the Iraqi small farmer saving seed from traditional varieties, the reason for the quick response from government agencies after the outcry from small farmers worldwide becomes more apparent as one reads the broad implications of the order in it’s identification of what constitutes variety protection in Iraq and the cultural erosion of agricultural practices that such provisions will provide. Fore example, CPA Order 81 identifies Breeders who are capable of filing for PVP applications as:
The breeder: The person who bred, discovered or developed a new variety, or
The legal successor to such person.
The implications of that statement are staggering. No longer does a new variety need to be bred, only discovered to qualify for protection, meaning indeed that should some enterprising plant breeder come across a unique traditional Iraqi variety, bred by the Iraqi people for the cultivation by Iraqi farmers, that this variety can now be protected from “illegal” use by the very people who have bred and maintained it, because one of the trans-national agri-business companies have simply filled out and had a paper approved.
CPA Order 81 also protects the research (or as they word it the “Education”) of such varieties with broad wording, going beyond the basic concept of developing a new variety by including the “discovery” of a new variety as follows:
The education: Breeding a new plant variety or discovering and developing
Since the word “new” variety only refers to those varieties not in commerce (IE. Provided and protected under property rights of agri-business) then any traditional variety which is applied for and approved for PVP rights can become the property of the agri-business, effectively taking the ownership of tradition varieties out of the hands of the Iraqi farmers who bred and selected that variety, making it, in fact illegal to save and re-plant seed of those varieties without the express, paid permission of the agri-company who now hold sole ownership.
All of this is essentially eroding and manipulating the people and agriculture of Iraq under the supposed guise of protecting and fostering a new democratic nation. Democracy as is deemed democracy by the new hands that feed, the Trans national corporations with the backing of the very government who promised to liberate the Iraqi people.
In order to mislead the public and farmers of Iraq the United States and Agri-Business have extended a number of supposed “educational programs” and trial gardens including some 800 acres of demonstration plots all across Iraq administered by Texas A&M University’s International Agriculture Office (a self-proclaimed recognized world leader in using biotechnology’), teaching Iraqi farmers how to grow ‘high-yield seed varieties’ of crops that include barley, chick peas, lentils and wheat in high input, high cost, commercial agricultural practices. Of course all of this material is protected by the new PVP laws governing Iraqi agriculture and seed saving practices. The term “blood from a turnip” has never rang truer.
Of course just as in the supposed “green revolution” in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century the Iraqi’s will see the output of their crops rise dramatically for a few years until the soil is once again wore down and destroyed, in the meantime the traditional agriculture and seeds will be a thing of the past and much of the thousands of years of unique Iraqi bio-diversity and agriculture will be lost to the annals of history. The difference between the United States and Iraq however lies in the culture of Iraq, a culture of over 10,000 years of civilization, evolution of cultural ideas, and the basis of much of the worlds religion, indeed much more is at risk here than just seeds and agriculture practices, the Mandians for example, the last remaining small traditional sect of the broad movement known as Gnosticism may see there very religious belief blowing in the wind of the Iraqi desert with the death of the traditional spiritual food of their gardens.
Not only will traditional varieties of Iraqi seed be lost forever or stolen from the people of Iraq but they will be replaced by the high priced seed and dangerous chemical inputs of companies like Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, companies with a record of dangerous environmental impact and synonymous with the abuse of farmers worldwide. Seed saving will be relegated to a few small corners of Iraq and many Iraqi farmers will loose their traditional land holdings. Even worse, the laws governing the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in the Western World do not apply in Iraq and what little wind pollinated diversity will still exist in Iraq in coming years might become contaminated with GM genes which could prove even more dangerous and disastrous than the Iraq war itself.
Overnight the very state of Iraqi culture will be changed, lining the pockets of those with who control the seed and ultimately the feed with unknown amounts of money, another country being pirated by the big monetary interests of the developed world who are now looking to develop and exploit this country all in the name of liberation. Just as in The Green Revolution here in the United States it will be only a mater of time before the other American and western world business men move in to exploit the Iraqi people with their Wall-Marts and McDonalds, effectively putting and end to one of the oldest and most unique civilizations in the world. We can only hope that as in eons past that Iraq can resist the temptation of the new imposing civilization and continue their unique way of live, agriculture and civilization, though the outcome looks dire.
Of course there are differences between these events and those of the American “Green Revolution”, particularly that during the “Green Revolution” the events were set into place by the government of the people that they would effect whereas Iraq has been set upon this course by the government of an entirely different nation, one that will not in itself have to live through the hardships and destruction of culture that these motions will cause.
All of these events seem even more disturbing when viewed through the eyes of an informed small farmer in the United States who has seen the giant power grabs made by corporate agriculture in recent years, how long will it be until we in America are robed of our right to be sovereign farmers, saving seeds from our own varieties or those passed on to us? We live in a very scary time for bio-diversity, ecological impact, food safety and sovereignty from corporations.
More appropriately why would a government want to support agri-business in matters of obvious food and biological safety unless it was seen as a way of controlling the masses? He who controls the seed controls the feed. Peak oil is here, how long until peak water and peak food? Just food for thought.