Privatisation of life - TNCs want monoploy on reproduction

for the people toxicpop at
Thu Mar 6 10:46:23 GMT 2008

Off topic but important - this is lifted straight from schnews , ive posted it in its entirety
because i want you to read it all....


Last week, in France, the independent seed-saving and selling
Association Kokopelli were fined €35,000 after being taken to court by
corporate seed merchant Baumaux. Their crime was selling traditional
and rare seed varieties which weren't on the official EU-approved list
– and, therefore, illegal to sell – thus giving them an `unfair
trading advantage'. As the European Commission met this week to
prepare new legislation for seed control, due in 2009, which will
further restrict the geographic movement and range of crop varieties,
this ruling will set a dangerous precedent.

Kokopelli, the non-profit French group set up in 1999 to safeguard
endangered seed strains, may be driven out of existence by the fine.
Their focus is biodiversity, food security, and the development of
sustainable organic agriculture and seed networks in the `global
south'. They have created one of the largest independent collections
in Europe – with over 2500 sorts of vegetable, flower and cereals.
Other non-government seedbanks are held by large agro-industrial
companies like Limagrain, Syngenta and Pioneer – and guess what their
main interest is money rather than starving subsistence farmers.

You may think that in an era of mass extinction it would be a
no-brainer that we need to protect biodiversity and the heritage of
the crop varieties which have been build up over centuries... but no.
Since the 1970s, laws in the UK and Europe mean that to sell seeds,
the strain needs to be registered – and everything else becomes
`outlaw' seeds, illegal to sell. In the UK it costs £300 per year to
maintain the registration and £2000 to register a `new' one – which
all disadvantages smaller organisations.
"Seeds are the very beginning of the food chain. He, who controls the
seeds, controls the food supply and thus controls the people." -
Dominique Guillet, Kokopelli

Garden Organic in the UK run a Heritage Seed Library
(, and they get around the law by not
selling 'outlaw' seeds, but getting individual gardeners to become
`seed guardians' who pass around seeds for free to other members of
the Library. Unlike other seedbanks, seeds are not kept in cold
storage, but are living species which are continually grown and
allowed to adapt to new environmental factors.

Another law-busting approach is seed swaps – which in recent years
have sprouted up and down the country. People freely share seeds for
another year's growing – a co-operative way of maintaining genetic
diversity. Most are around February - see for the
remaining events this year.


There's so many types of potato – why not just use the best ones and
forget the rest? Seed varieties which have been developed over the
centuries have adapted to environments, and the genepool has to
survive unforeseen factors such as pests and diseases – or climate
change. The Irish potato famine was caused by an over-reliance on
blight afflicted spuds, or, to take another example, a variety of
cauliflower grown in Cornwall was abandoned in the 1940s for a French
cauli which gave a higher yield, but turned out to be vulnerable to
fungal ringspot – but the old ringspot-resistant Cornish type is now

Limiting the varieties means limiting the genetic base – presumably to
leave GM technology in the clear as the only option.

While mass extinctions are taking place in natural ecosystems, the
same has taken place in domesticated seeds. Today there are only half
a dozen apple types grown in the UK, down from 2,000 a century ago.
Over 90% of crop types listed in the US have been lost in 80 years,
and China now grows fifty types of rice, down from 8,000 just twenty
years ago. The whole human population is supported by just 30 main
crop varieties – a recipe for disaster.


Originally laws regarding seeds were brought in during the 1920s –
mostly to regulate quality and make sure they did what they said on
the tin, and not disease ridden, full of stray weed seed or stones. At
the time these laws were a good thing but guess what! It's all been
twisted around and now companies use these and subsequent laws to get
control of the market. By cutting out the independent networks of
farmers, gardeners, and independent seed-sellers - on a worldwide
scale - ten companies now control two-thirds of seed distribution. And
which companies are we talking about? It's yer bio-tech giants like
Monsanto and Syngenta. Unsurprisingly governments around the world are
building up the legal framework to support these firms.

When you register a seed type, potentially anyone growing it is liable
to pay you royalties – making `intellectual property' out of plants
which have evolved over thousands of years. These companies take an
interest in the myriad of varieties with a view to splicing genetic
traits into other types, and take out patents on the genetic content.
Monsanto have a European patent on a type of wheat which is derived
from a traditional Indian one, the sort used to make chapatis.

These same companies are narrowing the market down to the few
mono-culture crops they are flogging, reducing diversity. Once farmers
limit theirs to these few types – often hybrids which produce
defective seeds – they are forced to return to `the man' to buy next
year's seed rather than being able to save and use last year's. This
is the next thing down from the prospect of `terminator' seeds –
genetically modified to be sterile, and deliberately unable to supply
future yields (See SchNEWS 557).

The farmers were in a far stronger position with their traditional
varieties which were open-pollinated, carrying a wider genepool, and
better able to adapt to new conditions and diseases.


Seeds – and ultimately the control over production of food - becomes
another front in which communities and individual farmers across the
world have to fight against the forces of neoliberalism and

Via Campesino – the international peasants movement – held a gathering
last weekend in Austria, bringing together small farmers from sixteen
countries on `food and power'. They are increasing networking and
solidarity amongst farmers across the world both to protect
biodiversity and increase the sharing of crop choices and farming
techniques. And it's not just the corporations and large-scale
agro-industry they are up against – due to climate change they are
being forced to adapt quickly to new environmental factors and more
than ever need to pool knowledge and resources.

For more see


But don't fret – whatever catastrophe, armageddon or ecocide befalls
us, measures are at hand to make sure that if we survive a nuclear
winter or total desertification, we'll be able to recreate a bucolic
paradise: This Tuesday (26th), Norway opened the Svalbard Global Seed
Vault on the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic circle. The vault is
over 500 feet inside a mountain, and 130 metres above sea-level – in
case the polar ice caps melt. Seeds are stored at below -20 degrees in
moisture free packs and it is claimed that many will last a hundred
years – longer for some cereals. Maybe after all the cyborg mutant
terminator seeds have all long since sprouted legs and run off into
the sunset, the traditional common-or-garden varieties will be the
ones saying, "I'll be back".

* See
* For more about Kokopelli see


peace and anarchy


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