The Blessings of Freedom


November 11, 2004


Browse in Agriculture

For those who questioned the sincerity of the Bush Administration in its professed desire to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, the administration offers more proof: Order 81. This order, one of a 100 left behind by Paul Bremer, former head of the occupation authority in Iraq, practically requires small farmers in Iraq to buy seeds from multinational corporations such as Monsanto.

Under the former tyranny, farmers were free to save seeds from each crop to plant the next. This has been the traditional practice for farmers throughout the world, from time immemorial. The Iraqi constitution actually prohibited the ownership of life forms — ie the genetic commons — much as US law used to do. Order 81 changes all that. Corporations will get monopoly rights over seeds that they develop. Farmers no longer will be able to save that seed from one year to the next. The way the law is written, moreover, their own indigenous varieties won’t qualify for this protection.

In the U.S. and Canada, Monsanto has brought over 400 lawsuits against farmers for alleged infringement of its seed patents, under laws like the one Bremer has decreed for Iraq. This includes cases where patented seed simply blew over from another field. The corporation has a staff that snoops through farmers’ fields. It hires informants who tell tales on neighbors. Would it not be selfish of us Americans to refuse to share such blessings of freedom with all of humanity?