Organic Consumers Association

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Mutant Seeds for Mesopotamia: Order #81

July 4, 2006
by Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D.
Iraqi farmers have been using farm-saved wheat and barley seeds for generations.  In fact, the tradition goes back to at least 4000 BC, when irrigated agriculture first emerged, and probably to about 8000 BC, when wheat was first domesticated.

One would think that Iraq's farmers - under "freedom" and "democracy" ­ would be able to plant the indigenous seeds of their choosing. Wrong.  That choice, under little-known Order #81, would be illegal.

Iraq's commercial farmers must now buy "registered" seeds, by law. According to Ghali Hassan: "The US Order introduces a system of private monopoly rights over seeds and will force Iraqi farmers to relay on big US corporations to buy its yearly crop seeds for planting."[1]  Many of these American seeds, apparently, were originally designed for pasta.

Obviously, the Bush domestic replacing free enterprise with monopoly capitalism is for now for export, and Order #81 carries the Orwellian chapter title of "Plant Variety Protection" (PVP).  Of course, it accomplishes the opposite, imposing standardization and uniformity upon Iraq's food supply.  Jerry Smith explains:

"The most significant part of Order 81 is a new chapter that it inserts on OPlant Variety Protection' (PVP). This concerns itself not with the protection of biodiversity, but rather with the protection of the commercial interests of large seed corporations.

To qualify for PVP, seeds have to meet the following criteria: they must be Onew, distinct, uniform and stable'. Under the new regulations imposed by Order 81, therefore, the sort of seeds Iraqi farmers are now being encouraged to grow by corporations such as WWWC will be those registered under PVP.

On the other hand, it is impossible for the seeds developed by the people of Iraq to meet these criteria. Their seeds are not Onew' as they are the product of millennia of development. Nor are they Odistinct'. The free exchange of seeds practiced for centuries ensures that characteristics are spread and shared across local varieties. And they are the opposite of Ouniform' and Ostable' by the very nature of their biodiversity. They cross-pollinate with other nearby varieties, ensuring they are always changing and always adapting."[2]

Could this be true?  Is planting Mesopotamian seeds now illegal?  The actual text of the Coalition Provisional Authority's Order #81 confirms the ugly truth.  Important sections highlighted in bold by this author:

CPA/ORD/26 April 2004/81 15 "A. A Register shall be regulated in the Ministry under the supervision of the Registrar and shall be called the "Register of New Plant Varieties" in which all the data related to the new plant varieties shall be maintainedS

55) Chapter Threequater, Article 4 is added to read as follows: "The variety may be registered according to the following criteria:

A. If the variety is novel such that at the date of filing the registration application or at the date of the priority provided in paragraph (A) of Article 8 of this Chapter and according to what may be required, then plant propagating and harvesting materials of the variety have not been sold or otherwise transferred to others by or with consent of the breeder for purposes of exploitation of the variety: For more than one year inside Iraq and for more than four years outside Iraq; or For more than six years outside Iraq if related to trees or vines;

B. If such materials are distinctive so that the variety differs clearly from any other variety whose existence is a matter of common knowledge at the time of filing the application, considering that any filing of an application for the granting of plant variety protection or for the entering of another variety in an official register of varieties, in any country, shall be deemed to render that other variety a matter of common knowledge from the date of the application, provided that the

CPA/ORD/26 April 2004/81 16 S If it is uniform subject to the variation that may be expected from the particular features of its propagation; or

If it is stable such that its relevant characteristics remain unchanged after repeated propagation or, in the case of a particular cycle of propagation, at the end of each such cycle.'[3]

Order #81 is a sop to American Agribusiness and corporations that traffic in frankenfoods, like Monsanto, a Missouri chemical company with strong ties to Clarence Tomas, John Ashcroft, George Bush Sr., and Donald Rumsfeld, who was once president of Searle Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Monsanto.

Order #81 is the 21st-century equivalent of barbarian plunder; the Iraqis don't call the Americans "the New Mongols" for nothing.  But Order #81 is also a bad idea. Civilization has always been involved in "selective breeding" and "animal husbandry," but only in recent years have scientists created "transgenic" plants and animals with characteristic never possible in nature, like rushing to maturity in half the time.  Furthermore, farming never involved animal-and-plant mixtures:  "Anti-freeze" fish genes from Arctic flounders are spliced into tomatoes.[4]  Farmers were never able to cross the animal-plant divide, but now, with rogue science, they can.

Complexity theory reveals why genetically-modified foods are smeared carbon-copies of their originals.  In any complex or living system ­ biological or social - the "whole" is always greater than the sum of its "parts."  The entire system displays qualities and behaviors that transcend those of its components; and it reflects integrity above and beyond its particulars.  

The parts of a complex or living system are not inter-changeable; change one part, even with a small perturbation, and there can be a much larger feedback effect.[5]  The entire system changes or, to be more precise, degenerates ­ unless, of course, one has more faith in a profit-driven corporate scientist than in 5,000 years of Mesopotamian farming.

Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D. 07/04/06

[1]Ghali Hassan, Undermining Iraq's Food Security, Information Clearing House, 01/31/05 [2]Jeremy Smith, Order 81, The Ecologist v.35, n.1, 1feb2005. [3] [4]Hightower R, Baden C, Penzes E, Lund P, and Dunsmuir P. 1991. Expression of antifreeze proteins in transgenic plants. Plant Molecular Biology 17: 1013-1021. [5]Mitchell M. Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, New York: Touchstone, 1992. Also see James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd, 1987.

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