1 Mar 2008

The war for seeds: military agricultural complex.

still more than a little under the weather...although nothing but praise of the NHS from me....the big story seems to be the way that the Prince Harry story has eclipsed the story of the ex SAS guy censored for speaking out against torture....did Harry have his cover broken to keep the media from talking about the British torture machine in Iraq...I guess we wont know for a while.

The High Court will hear details of an injunction served on a former SAS soldier aimed at preventing him making further disclosures about the work of special forces in Iraq.

Ben Griffin, 29, gave a press conference in London on Monday saying that Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and other senior Government officials should be charged with breaches of international conventions protecting individuals from torture over the alleged involvement of British forces in detaining people in Iraq.

He told the press conference that British special forces were being used to detain suspects for extraordinary rendition and he claimed that the UK/US task force had broken international law.

Its all about enclosure...seeds are a good example, traditional seeds are going to be illegal in Iraq so that corporations can make cash have a look here..have taken this from the ever excellent Schnews which provides more on seeds/enclosure...a military agricultural complex:

"Seeds are the very beginning of the food chain. He, who controls the
seeds, controls the food supply and thus controls the people." -
Dominique Guillet, Kokopelli

Last week, in France, the independent seed-saving and selling
Association Kokopelli were fined €35,000 after being taken to court by
corporate seed merchant Baumaux. Their crime was selling traditional and
rare seed varieties which weren't on the official EU-approved list -
and, therefore, illegal to sell - thus giving them an 'unfair trading
advantage'. As the European Commission met this week to prepare new
legislation for seed control, due in 2009, which will further restrict
the geographic movement and range of crop varieties, this ruling will
set a dangerous precedent.

Kokopelli, the non-profit French group set up in 1999 to safeguard
endangered seed strains, may be driven out of existence by the fine.
Their focus is biodiversity, food security, and the development of
sustainable organic agriculture and seed networks in the 'global south'.
They have created one of the largest independent collections in Europe
- with over 2500 sorts of vegetable, flower and cereals. Other
non-government seedbanks are held by large agro-industrial companies like
Limagrain, Syngenta and Pioneer - and guess what their main interest
is money rather than starving subsistence farmers.

You may think that in an era of mass extinction it would be a
no-brainer that we need to protect biodiversity and the heritage of the crop
varieties which have been build up over centuries... but no. Since the
1970s, laws in the UK and Europe mean that to sell seeds, the strain
needs to be registered - and everything else becomes 'outlaw' seeds,
illegal to sell. In the UK it costs £300 per year to maintain the
registration and £2000 to register a 'new' one - which all
disadvantages smaller organisations.

Garden Organic in the UK run a Heritage Seed Library
(www.organicgardening.org.uk/hsl), and they get around the law by not
selling 'outlaw'
seeds, but getting individual gardeners to become 'seed guardians'
who pass around seeds for free to other members of the Library. Unlike
other seedbanks, seeds are not kept in cold storage, but are living
species which are continually grown and allowed to adapt to new
environmental factors.

Another law-busting approach is seed swaps - which in recent years have
sprouted up and down the country. People freely share seeds for
another year's growing - a co-operative way of maintaining genetic
diversity. Most are around February - see www.seedysunday.org for the
remaining events this year.


There's so many types of potato - why not just use the best ones and
forget the rest? Seed varieties which have been developed over the
centuries have adapted to environments, and the genepool has to survive
unforeseen factors such as pests and diseases - or climate change. The
Irish potato famine was caused by an over-reliance on blight
afflicted spuds, or, to take another example, a variety of cauliflower grown
in Cornwall was abandoned in the 1940s for a French cauli which gave
a higher yield, but turned out to be vulnerable to fungal ringspot -
but the old ringspot-resistant Cornish type is now extinct.

Limiting the varieties means limiting the genetic base - presumably to
leave GM technology in the clear as the only option.

While mass extinctions are taking place in natural ecosystems, the same
has taken place in domesticated seeds. Today there are only half a
dozen apple types grown in the UK, down from 2,000 a century ago. Over
90% of crop types listed in the US have been lost in 80 years, and
China now grows fifty types of rice, down from 8,000 just twenty years
ago. The whole human population is supported by just 30 main crop
varieties - a recipe for disaster.


Originally laws regarding seeds were brought in during the 1920s -
mostly to regulate quality and make sure they did what they said on the
tin, and not disease ridden, full of stray weed seed or stones. At the
time these laws were a good thing but guess what! It's all been
twisted around and now companies use these and subsequent laws to get
control of the market. By cutting out the independent networks of
farmers, gardeners, and independent seed-sellers - on a worldwide scale -
ten companies now control two-thirds of seed distribution. And which
companies are we talking about? It's yer bio-tech giants like Monsanto
and Syngenta. Unsurprisingly governments around the world are
building up the legal framework to support these firms.

When you register a seed type, potentially anyone growing it is liable
to pay you royalties - making 'intellectual property' out of plants
which have evolved over thousands of years. These companies take an
interest in the myriad of varieties with a view to splicing genetic
traits into other types, and take out patents on the genetic content.
Monsanto have a European patent on a type of wheat which is derived
from a traditional Indian one, the sort used to make chapatis.

These same companies are narrowing the market down to the few
mono-culture crops they are flogging, reducing diversity. Once farmers limit
theirs to these few types - often hybrids which produce defective
seeds - they are forced to return to 'the man' to buy next year's seed
rather than being able to save and use last year's. This is the next
thing down from the prospect of 'terminator' seeds - genetically
modified to be sterile, and deliberately unable to supply future yields
(See SchNEWS 557).

The farmers were in a far stronger position with their traditional
varieties which were open-pollinated, carrying a wider genepool, and
better able to adapt to new conditions and diseases.


Seeds - and ultimately the control over production of food - becomes
another front in which communities and individual farmers across the
world have to fight against the forces of neoliberalism and

Via Campesino - the international peasants movement - held a gathering
last weekend in Austria, bringing together small farmers from sixteen
countries on 'food and power'. They are increasing networking and
solidarity amongst farmers across the world both to protect
biodiversity and increase the sharing of crop choices and farming
And it's not just the corporations and large-scale agro-industry they
are up against - due to climate change they are being forced to adapt
quickly to new environmental factors and more than ever need to pool
knowledge and resources.

For more see www.viacampesina.org


Atash said...

I have been concerned about this for some time. The regulation of seed started with "whitelisting" ostensibly for environmental reasons (the idea being that highly bred crops like tomatoes might go feral and turn into noxious weeds), first in the English-speaking countries, but it appears that antitrust law (ie, the commoditization of everything) is being used in Europe now.

Now commodity prices are already soaring, due to diversion of grain for producing ethanol. I tend to suspect the motives for this fiasco.

I would guess that the objective is to create not only a monopoly on food, but with globalization and global monoculture, create a system whereby rogue nations can be starved into submission by cutting off both the food shipments and the crop seed

Boris said...

Good Job! :)

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