By Carmelo Ruiz Marrero
Oil is not the only loot the United States seeks to control in Iraq. Critical observers in various parts of the world agree that Washington intends to turn the country into a captive market for the American agricultural surplus and also for genetically altered foods and seeds that no one else wants.
When L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's interim president, left his post last June in the alleged handover of sovereignty, he put into effect about a hundred orders that remain in force today with the force of law. One of these, number 81, prohibits Iraqi farmers from saving seeds. This means that they cannot use seed from one crop to sow the next season; they will have to buy it every year from transnational agribusinesses. In fact, the global seed trade is currently dominated by five firms: Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer, and Dow Chemical.
Order 81 caused a furor among defenders of farmers' rights and agricultural biodiversity. The international groups GRAIN and Focus on the Global South, with headquarters in Barcelona and Thailand respectively, published a joint statement stating that Iraq is one of several important scenarios where transnational corporations seek to impose global monopolies on seeds in order to control at the level. world agriculture and food of humanity.
From time immemorial, farmers in Iraq - and in all parts of the world - have saved, exchanged and shared their seeds freely, without interference from the state or large economic interests. But that is changing because of intellectual property rights (IPR), one of the most important elements of neoliberal globalization. Intellectual properties are intangible possessions that are the product of human ingenuity, such as books, songs, movies, medicines, software programs, and agricultural seeds. In the post-cold war period, the trend has been to extend IPRs to structures in nature, so that medicinal plants, proteins, genes and even human cells can be patented and privatized.
Agribusiness corporations intend to use IPRs to seize seeds so that no one in the world sows a plant without paying a royalty to its corporate "owner". Whoever does not pay it will be considered a pirate who is illegally copying a patented product. It could be sanctioned by law in the same way that authorities are already doing with people who copy DVD movies, music CDs, Microsoft programs, or those who download songs from the Internet.
Put another way, what farmers have done with the seed from the very beginning of agriculture is now a crime. Ironically, Iraq is considered the cradle of agriculture since the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia was located there. And agriculture began precisely when people began to save and select seed.
While it is true that what is happening with regard to the privatization of seed is taking place in the rest of the world, in Iraq it is a very particular case, argue GRAIN and Focus on the Global South. Order 81 was not the product of bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations, as is usually the case with IPR laws. It was not approved by a legislature of a sovereign country, much less was it the subject of any democratic consultation with the affected farmers. It was imposed by a foreign government - the United States - that exercises sovereignty over Iraq through a military invasion.
Several organizations have denounced that the United States and transnational agribusinesses are also using Iraq as a captive market for genetically altered foods - transgenic - which had been rejected both by the European Union and by the very poor countries of the southern cone of Africa.
The Group of Rural Reflection (GRR) of Argentina maintains that the fight between the United States and the EU regarding transgenics is part of a global fight for access to overseas markets and that it is related to the invasion of Iraq. "Biotechnology is essential to the interests of the empire, and the transnationals of the industrial genetic complex contribute to the war effort on the stage of the world food market," the GRR declared in a statement in February 2003.
"After the war and after the devastation and famine of the populations, food aid made up of transgenic grains will be safely sent, both to subsidize North American farmers and to prove the advertising claim that so many academics and journalists repeat simiscally, who genetic engineering came to solve world hunger. "
The UBINIG group, which promotes organic farming and community development in Bangladesh, also sounded the alarm about the use of Iraq as a market for GMOs. "We demand that the World Food Program and other United Nations humanitarian agencies not use any type of transgenic food as food aid to feed the population affected by the war in Iraq, both during and after the aggression of the United States and Great Britain that started in March 2003. "
"We have received information that it is not only the oil transnationals, but also the transgenic food industry that wants to profit from this war. These companies are trying to intervene in" humanitarian aid ", through the distribution of food that they have not been evaluated and have been discarded by others, "stated UBINIG.
"The United States is preparing to solve many of its economic problems at the cost of so many deaths and injuries in Iraq. They have already tried to use their transgenic foods taking advantage of the famines that the people of southern Africa faced; but the African governments did not accept these transgenic foods. "
Peter Rosset, co-director of the American organization Food First, links the war against Iraq with disastrous neoliberal policies for agriculture. "With the war against Iraq, and with the new military bases throughout the South, the United States seeks the advantage over its competitors in the new war of colonization of the Third World," he declared in an economic analysis of the war.
Rosset affirmed in 2003 that it is "a military and free trade war. A war that in addition to its terrible impacts, also has devastating effects internally. Because of" free "trade, family farming has almost been eliminated from the North American countryside. , unemployment and social despair have been generated in the country. With the social cuts that would be the cost of the imminent war against Iraq, these problems will intensify. "
"For all this, at this historical moment it is essential to link the movements against war in the North and in the South, with each other and with the world movement against neoliberal globalization that free trade agreements represent." Free "trade does not it is nothing more than war by other means, war against all peoples, in the North and in the South.
* Director, Biosafety Project http://www.bioseguridad.tk
Research Associate, Institute for Social Ecology