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Cry Me A Riverbend II

Monday, November 22, 2004

Is the US going to Force Iraq Farmers to Buy Genetically Modified Seeds From US Corporations Rather Than Saving Seeds From Their Last Harvest?

This is what Ladybird is concerned about over at Baghdad Dweller.

What has her up in arms is an article by GRAIN that claims just that:


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.

What? Iraqi farmers will be forced to use genetically-modified, patented seeds ("frankenfoods) from corporations rather than the organically pure strains they've inherited from their ancestors??

I'm posting below the relevant text of the law in question. I'd like to get a patent attorney's view of this law, but it seems to me this is what GRAIN has done:

What GRAIN has done is to take one phrase the law...


Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or anyvariety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph (C) of Article 14 of this Chapter.

...and pretend it says


Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds

That's bunk. There's nothing to prevent farmers from using totally naturally derived seeds. But what many seed providers in developing nations have done is to market patented varieties as their own or to create seed hybrids varieties from patented varieties. Possibly Iraqi farmers have PURCHASED these pirated seeds (note: they did not inherit these varieties from their ancestors).

What's really hypocritical of GRAIN is that they are against ANY genetically modified seeds. This is like saying...


The US is going to FORCE Iraqi businesses to buy bad ol' Microsoft Windows rather than use organically pure PIRATED versions of that product.


So the US wants Iraq to observe reasonable patent law. Boy, that's sure to drag the country into the dark ages.

The following is the relevant text of the law:

1. The varieties which are essentially derived from the protected variety where the protected variety is not itself an essentially derived variety. The variety is considered essentially derived from another variety according to the following criteria;

a) it is predominantly derived from the initial variety, or from a variety that is itself predominantly derived from the initial variety while retaining the expression of the essential characteristics that result from the genotype or combination of genotypes of the initial variety;

b) it is clearly distinguishable from the initial variety; and

c) except for the differences which result from the act of derivation, it conforms to the initial variety in the expression of the essential characteristics that result from the genotype or combination of genotypes of the initial variety. If it is similar to the original variety as for its main properties resulting from the hereditary composite or a group of the hereditary composites for the original variety, except what is related to the differences resulting from the derivation;

2. The varieties which are not clearly distinguishable from the protected variety in accordance with paragraph (B) of Article 4 of this Chapter; and

3. The varieties whose production requires the repeated use of the protected variety.

D. It shall be permissible to obtain the essentially derived varieties as a result of
the selection of a natural or induced mutant, or of a somaclonal variant, the
selection of a variant individual from plants of the initial variety, backcrossing, or transformation by genetic engineering.

E. The third party's performance of the acts provided in paragraphs (A) and (B) of this Article shall be deemed as an infringement of the rights of the breeder and
shall be subject to penalties if the defendant knew, or had reason to know, that the defendant infringed the rights of the breeder.”

66) Chapter Threequater, Article 15 is added to read as follows:

“A. Notwithstanding Article 14 of this Chapter, the breeder's right shall not include the following acts of third parties for personal non-commercial purposes, for purposes of experimentation or education of new varieties.

B. Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph (C) of Article 14 of this Chapter.”

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