Friday, May 25, 2007

The Order 81 "Controversy": Tales Told By Idiots

For some reason, about two months ago we here at Law Down On The Farm started seeing an increase of mail in the mailbag on the subject of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 81. As you know already, CPA81 was instituted by the Coalition Provisional Authority in April 2004. It's a revision of Iraqi law concerning protection of intellectual property.

You can read CPA81 here.

In particular, Chapter three quater was singled out for scrutiny as it institutes some protection for plant breeders.

The discourse was about like the following snippet:

Iraqi Order 81 is of special interest because it goes a long way in affecting every living being on the planet. This order prohibits Iraqi farmers from using the methods of agriculture that they have used for centuries. The common worldwide practice of saving heirloom seeds from one year to the next is now illegal in Iraq. Order 81 wages war on Iraqi farmers. They have lost the freedom and liberty to choose their own methods of agriculture

Pretty strong stuff. But it didn't stop there.

Jeremy Smith in The Ecologist called Order 81 "the ultimate war crime". Galil Hassan says of Iraqi farmers "the fate of their food sources and agricultural heritage is being looted behind closed doors."

"B-b-but Sparky! What does it do? What in the hell is going on here?!" you say.

Good question.

It seems that Iraq's farmers have a tradition of saving seed from year to year-like many farmers the world over, even a few here in the United States.

It also seems that Iraq's agricultural sector is in decline.

Galil Hassan blames it on 'criminal sanctions' -that's Newspeak for the U.N.'s Oil for Food Program and the sanctions imposed after Iraq's brutal invasion of Kuwait....didja forget that, Mr. Hassan?

It's quite likely that the decline of Iraqi agriculture began a few years before the sanctions. A cruise through the FAOs website suggests that desertification, salinization, and mismanagement on a governmental level are as much to blame as sanctions and war for the parlous state of the agricultural system in Iraq. In addition, Iraqi farmers were forced to sell the wheat and barley they grew to the old regime's government trading monopoly at artifically low prices. There's a universal principle at work here-nobody likes to work for free, either here, in Iraq, or any place else.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization says that 97 per cent of Iraqi farmers saved seed in 2002, and their report indicates that productivity declined steeply in the 1990s because of lack of machinery, low use of inputs (presumably fertilizer and herbicides), and deteriorating soil quality and irrigation infrastructure.

In an effort to increase Iraqi agricultural productivity, high yield plant varieties are being sent to Iraqi farmers in an effort to increase production of foodstuffs.

These include varieties of wheat that are used to produce pasta.

Somehow or other, because Iraqis do not generally eat pasta products, this is seen as the thin end of a wedge that's going to force GMOs on Iraqi farmers and make them pay for seed that replaces that which they used to save and rope them into some sort of subjugation to Monsanto for herbicides and patented seed varieties.

Nonsense. It's an effort to produce more food to eat, and to produce plant varieties that can be marketed and exported.

So....back to Order 81, in particular Article 3.

It allows for registration of plant varieties that have an identifiable genotype that is developed by selection or presumably by genetic engineering, and it prohibits propagation of a registered variety without the assent of the breeder. It also prohibits using saved seed from protected varieties. Protection will last 20 years from the date of registration.

That's it. No big plot to shanghai poor farmers in their loincloths. Nothing compels farmers to buy what they would not otherwise use. Nothing prohibits farmers from planting any existing variety, or saving seed, or doing any of the things that farmers have done in the region since time out of mind.

Quite the opposite seems true. Since 2004, when the Ministry of Agriculture was handed back to Iraqis to run, there is a consistent theme of transfer of farming expertise and technology to struggling farmers in Iraq. It's in the great tradition of farmers helping farmers that is one of the bright spots in an otherwise dismal decade of American foreign policy.

We've seen similar complaints from the same people concerning the Green Revolution. One time I was at a symposium where Nobel Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug spoke. A woman in the audience got up and started taking him to task for similar reasons. Borlaug interrupted her in mid tirade and said "Ma'am, we were concerned with feeding as many people as possible. If you can't do that, you can't do any of the other things."

Borlaug has said "If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread. Otherwise, there will be no peace."

A moral for our times? No doubt about it.


And that leads us back to the words of the Bard which seem appropriate to this manufactured controversy concerning Order 81. This story truly is "...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

And the idiots are easily identifiable.

2 Comments:

At 3:00 AM, Blogger Benno Hansen said...

Att. Luedeman / readers of Law Down on the Farm:

Regarding your blog entry of Friday, May 25, 2007: The Order 81 "Controversy": Tales Told By Idiots:

"For some reason, about two months ago we here at Law Down On The Farm started seeing an increase of mail in the mailbag on the subject of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 81."

That's sad. Because I have been spamming the blogosphere, my newspapers and everyone in my viscinity about it for at least 3½ years. Here's a collection of the texts I have seen around the net. Luedeman quotes someone - not sure who - for this typical anti-CPA tirade:

"This order prohibits Iraqi farmers from using the methods of agriculture that they have used for centuries. The common worldwide practice of saving heirloom seeds from one year to the next is now illegal in Iraq. Order 81 wages war on Iraqi farmers. They have lost the freedom and liberty to choose their own methods of agriculture"

The only wrongly used words are the ones I emphasized. CPA-81 doesn't explicitly ban "traditional agriculture". But it forces a regime upon the Iraqis that will allow the multinational agricultural companies to to create an environment that will make the traditional agriculture even more difficult than in the rest of the world.

Opponents of CPA-81 are caught using these words - "prohibit", "illegal" etc - every now and then. I for one try and correct them. I'm sad to see a proponent of the corporate patent laws such as you, Luedeman, get a free shot on this account. Well, I guess it's the typical case of the truth being the first victim of any conflict.

"It also seems that Iraq's agricultural sector is in decline.

Galil Hassan blames it on 'criminal sanctions' -that's Newspeak for the U.N.'s Oil for Food Program and the sanctions imposed after Iraq's brutal invasion of Kuwait....didja forget that, Mr. Hassan?"


The truth isn't simple. The UN imposed the sanctions because some of it's members put pressure on it to do so. One of those members was of course the US of A. Whose government in turn was asked to do so by the corporations that funded it. Then those sanctions were interpreted and enforced by the US Army.

I'm caught in a catch 22 already. Am I apologizing for the dictator Saddam Hussein? NO! But it sounds a bit like it, doesn't it. Well I'm not. Do not misquote me on this.

If you think about it, the corporations got away with things during those sanctions that would have constituted war crimes if they had been done today by the occupational forces: denying access to medicine, sabotage of irrigation etc etc. A decade of tearing down one of the richest countries in the Middle East. Paving the way for a profitable war.

Regarding the invasion of Kuwait, it's wasn't what the US administration made it up to be. In hindsight, it appears Saddam was trapped. His CIA henchmen appears to have given him a green light. He had some reasonable claims that Kuwait was stealing his oil. Etc, etc. The truth isn't as simple as you are trying to depict it.

"Iraqi farmers were forced to sell the wheat and barley they grew to the old regime's government trading monopoly at artifically low prices."

Well, although I don't know the specific details, I do know they were also allowed to buy seeds at "artificially" low prices at the Iraqi seed banks. That by the way were bombed - accidentally? Just like the seed bank in Afghanistan was bombed - accidentally? Of course, the invasion forces wouldn't bomb seed banks deliberately!?!?

"In an effort to increase Iraqi agricultural productivity, high yield plant varieties are being sent to Iraqi farmers in an effort to increase production of foodstuffs.

These include varieties of wheat that are used to produce pasta."


Read: In an effort to increase US corporate profits, genetically modified and patented plant varieties are being bought by US tax payers (aka US Aid which is 80% corporate subsidies) forced upon Iraqi farmers in an effort to increase production of export goods.

These include varieties of wheat that are used to produce pasta (eaten by Italians, not Iraqis - hence meant for export and profit, not consumption).

I know you think this is "nonsense". But ordinary people around the world wouldn't agree - if they only knew!

"It allows for registration of plant varieties that have an identifiable genotype that is developed by selection or presumably by genetic engineering, and it prohibits propagation of a registered variety without the assent of the breeder."

Saddam was enforcing the opposite regime: that no-one could claim ownership of a natural resource. No matter how despotic he may have acted in other regards, this is an honorable effort in my opinion, every organic consumer's opinion and many other's. The manipulation, over-turning or otherwise changing of an occupied country's laws or economy is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. The CPA-81 is a war crime no matter how you look at it or what you think of GMO's, Monsanto, Saddam or what ever. It's a fact, Jack.

What only further adds to the grotesque show we're witnessing is that European countries have been bribed into this "Coalition of the Willing". ("Willing"!? as in what? "not quite interested" or what?) The CPA-81 would never become law in the EU. It's draconian compared to our more reasonable laws. Knock-on-wood etc. Ie Denmark sent a submarine and a handful of soldiers and in return were given contracts to ship tanks across the Atlantic. Bribery.

Finally you bring up this Nobel Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug. We are going to have to agree to disagree on quite a few things and I'm not going into this. But you call your opponents 'idiots'. Even in the headline.

I'd like you to compare Iraq to Venezuela and Cuba. These countries are also subject of US cultural atrocities. Unlike Iraq, they are still standing. What does this tell you?



PS: This is a double post of my comment from my own blog.

 
At 7:56 AM, Blogger Robert Luedeman, attorney at law said...

Benno, with all due respect, you do not sound like you actually read CPA 81 very carefully, in particular article 3.

All it says, is that plant breeders can register their distinct varieties that they have developed, and that if one wants to use such a license, one can pay the developer.

There's no prohibition against saving seed, and no prohibition against planting traditional varieties.

CPA81 does NOT, as you suggest, compel Iraqi farmers to do anything at all. In fact, the Iraqi Parliament can do away with CPA81 in part or in whole at any time. They haven't. It's a non-issue inside Iraq, and I was not able to find any mention that it had ever been invoked to punish anyone who saved seed.


You suggest that I am a proponent of corporate patent laws. That's an irrelevant ad hominem attack that's so overt it would leave little toddlers shaing their heads in dismay.

You also suggest that the truth is the victim in any conflict and imply that this is one of those cases. To that, I would politely say "Bullshit."

Then you go on a rant about corporate edicts enforced by the US Army because the US twisted the UN's arm....all of which is beside the issue, which happens to be CPA81.

And then, you finish up by saying CPA81 is a war crime. To which I say, nonsense. Iraqis are free to reject it as they see fit, unless you think they're too stupid to know what's good for them. It is not a fact, Jack.

You then suggest that CPA81 is draconian and such provisions would never be accepted in the EU. Sir, you do not even know your own law.

You ask me to compare Venezuela and Cuba to Iraq. Aside from the fact that Venezuela is slipping into a cult of personality the like of which we've not seen since the days of Stalin, and the fact that Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship that imprisons people whoi have the nerve to suggest that things aren't so great, I see little basis for comparison.

Let me make it plain to you, Benno Hansen. CPA81 does not compel Iraqi farmers to do anything that they would not do, it hasn't even been implemented, it can be rejected at any time, and it provides some of the same things that are already the law in Europe as well as the US.

Lastly you take issue with Dr. Norman Borlaug's statement that if people don't have enough food there can be no justice. What in the hell bothers you about that?

Sir, you are a sucker because you bought into a manufactured controversy that has no basis in fact.

 

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