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Iraqi Farmers Aren't Celebrating World Food Day
As part of sweeping "economic restructuring" implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations -- which can include seeds the Iraqis themselves developed over hundreds of years. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo: Pay Monsanto, or starve.
A new report  by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country's food security. While political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has been made near impossible by these new regulations.
"The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one of the report's authors.
In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own stocks from last year's harvest or purchased from local markets. When the new law - on plant variety protection (PVP) - is put into effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer proprietary "PVP-protected" planting material "invented" by transnational agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.
"If the FAO is celebrating 'Biodiversity for Food Security' this year, it needs to demonstrate some real commitment", says Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, pointing out that the FAO has recently been cosying up with industry and offering support for genetic engineering . "Most importantly, the FAO must recognise that biodiversity-rich farming and industry-led agriculture are worlds apart, and that industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of the catastrophic decline in agricultural biodiversity that we have witnessed in recent decades. The FAO cannot hope to embrace biodiversity while holding industry's hand", he added.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
From GRAIN Shalini Bhutani in India [Tel: +91 11 243 15 168 (work) or +91 98 104 33 076 (cell)] or Alexis Vaughan in United Kingdom [Tel: +44 79 74 39 34 87 (mobile)]
From Focus on the Global South Herbert Docena in Philippines [Tel:+63 2 972 382 3804]
 Visit http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=6. GRAIN and Focus' report is entitled "Iraq's new patent law: a declaration of war against farmers". Against the grain is a series of short opinion pieces on recent trends and developments in the issues that GRAIN works on. This one has been produced collaboratively with Focus on the Global South.
 Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law of 2004, CPA Order No. 81, 26 April 2004, http://www.iraqcoalition.org/regulations/20040426_CPAORD_81_Patents_Law.pdf
 GRAIN, "FAO declares war on farmers, not hunger", New from Grain, 16 June 2004, http://www.grain.org/front/?id=24