Tag Archives: Iraq

after a little more research…

If you read it on the internet it must be true, right? I’ve had some questions about a recent post that relayed some information on farmers in Iraq being prohibited from saving seeds. After doing more detailed research it looks like some of the exact facts need to be scrutinized a little more critically. But your conclusions on the situation may not change much.

All the bluster revolves around Order 81, a directive on plant variety protection that Paul Bremer, the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, pushed pushed into effect (at the behest of Monsanto, according to a 2008 interview with F. William Engdahl). The press release from Focus on the Global South and GRAIN that got the firestorm of opinion going declares that, “while historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds.” If you look at the current version of the release you’ll see that it’s all marked up with corrections and clarifications, with a piece of emphatic clarification at the beginning of the release:

The law does not prohibit Iraqi farmers from using or saving “traditional” seeds. It prohibits them from reusing seeds of “new” plant varieties registered under the law. In practical terms, this means they cannot save those seeds for re-use either.

So is Focus on the Global South and GRAIN thinking the law is benign and just? Their press release may be contrite about the confusion they might have caused, but in the current rewritten version still goes on to decry the order as a slap in the face against food sovereignty at the same time it drives big agribusiness into the traditional ways of traditional peoples.

It’s all fascinating reading that gives more nuance and background to the conclusions that people were coming to. In the end it’s not only a case about people’s ways of life being destroyed, nor is it a simple case of protecting intellectual property. Here are a few samples of what’s out there:

Iraq’s new patent law: A declaration of war against farmers (the original press release, 2004-5)

Iraq and Washington’s ‘seeds of democracy’ by William F. Engdahl (2005)

Why Iraqi Farmers Might Prefer Death to Paul Bremer’s Order 81 by Nancy Scola (2007)


I really would like to see a contemporary analysis of the situation. Was all this bluster? Or has the situation played out as many feared? Based on stories of the social and environmental costs of reliance on Monsanto crops has created in some parts of India, for instance, I suspect things can’t be going well in Iraq.

seed saving banned?

View the update to this post here.

Here’s a bit of political unpleasantness I read about in a seed description in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog listing for the Iraqi tomato variety, Rouge D’Irak:

Saving seeds was made illegal under the “Colonial Powers” of the United States. Under the new law, Iraqi farmers must only plant seeds from “protected varieties” from international corporations.

First Hiliburton, then Blackwater, and now monster agribusiness taking advantage of the war. I wish I was surprised.

The Baker Creek online catalog actually lists five different plants of Iraqi origin, in case you’d like to help preserve varieties that Iraqi farmers now can’t legally grow from their own seeds: four tomatoes, Tatar of Mongolistan, Rouge D’Irak, Al-Kuffa, and Nineveh; along with a melon, Baghdad Long. Aren’t you heirloom tomato specialists looking for new varieties to try? How about these plants with an amazing contemporary history?

Doing some quick research on this I ran across a posting over at The Alchemist’s Garden that’s great reading. Take a look!