Resisting the corporate theft of seeds

From Vandana Shiva in The Nation:

President Barack Obama's administration has been investigating monopoly concentration in the seed business for over two years. But when the President spoke on the steps of the Seed Savers Exchange, an independent seed company, he didn't mention that inquiry once. Nor did he talk about business concentration in other areas of agriculture, despite hearings held by his Department of Justice all over rural America. Photo: The White House. The photo relates to the second story in this post.

“We are in a food emergency. Speculation and diversion of food to biofuel has contributed to an uncontrolled price rise, adding more to the billion already denied their right to food. Industrial agriculture is pushing species to extinction through the use of toxic chemicals that kill our bees and butterflies, our earthworms and soil organisms that create soil fertility. Plant and animal varieties are disappearing as monocultures displace biodiversity. Industrial, globalized agriculture is responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gases, which then destabilize agriculture by causing climate chaos, creating new threats to food security.

But the biggest threat we face is the control of seed and food moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands. Monopoly control of cottonseed and the introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has already given rise to an epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India. A quarter-million farmers have taken their lives because of debt induced by the high costs of nonrenewable seed, which spins billions of dollars of royalty for firms like Monsanto

I started Navdanya in 1987 to address the challenge of GM seeds, seed patents and seed monopolies.

We have been successful in reclaiming seed sovereignty and creating sixty community seed banks to reclaim seed as a commons. We have proven that biodiverse ecological agriculture produces more food and nutrition per acre than monocultures, while reducing costs to the planet and to farmers…..”

Read it all in The Nation.

More on this theme: “The President and the Seed”, from Kristina Hubbard, in “The Daily Yonder”:

“Last week President Obama held a town hall meeting on the grounds of Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange, an organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

The stop was part of a larger strategy to appeal to rural voters as the campaign season begins. The president spoke about job creation and the gridlock on Capitol Hill, both issues of concern, to be sure.

But what would have really resonated with rural America is a re-commitment to working toward fairness in our farm fields.

The President should know that growing economic opportunities in rural America will take confronting the concentrated market power (and thus political and legislative power) in several agricultural industries. It will take fulfilling a campaign promise to fight for family farmers and ranchers by ensuring fair and transparent markets.

The President couldn’t have picked a better spot to make this point. His venue, Seed Savers, is home to a trove of genetically diverse seed. It is the perfect counterpoint to the alarming privatizing and concentration of seed ownership, the monopolization of a vital resource. Currently, the top three firms account for more than 75 percent of U.S. corn seed sales — just one example.

Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world, receiving royalties from nearly every acre of corn, soybeans, and cotton planted in the U.S.; it also has a hand in much of the vegetable and sugar beet seed supply. Indeed, this level of control over our plant genetic resources and the narrowing of diversity makes the mission of groups like Seed Savers Exchange so much more important.

Confronting the business concentration in the seed business is paramount for the success of farmers, especially new farmers and businesses seeking to cultivate a niche in agriculture. But just as seeds as an organism are complex, so is untangling the roots of seed concentration. …”


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4 responses to “Resisting the corporate theft of seeds

  1. nedlud

    Forget Seed Saver’s, they’ve been ‘taken over’. Why do you think Obama was there, idiots? ( Hint: More government psy-0ps and public perception managemtent.) Read the truth about SSE here:

    • nedlud

      I was at the Seed Saver’s in the late ’90’s, during one of their campouts. My wife and I were members for quite a few years. When I was there (at the campout) there were the ‘regular folk’, the farmers and the old hippies and such and you could talk to them. But also too, were the ‘ritz’, the glamour people, the wealthy ones, they collected in their own little fashion, their little private groups, you could see it even then and you saw the fancy cars parked in the lot alongside pickups and old vans. Well, guess what? They ($$$) infiltrated SSE and they took over. Duh.

  2. We agree with Nedlud. What a “show.” The same for “Food-Hubs.” and much more. It is all a plan for control and abuse.

    Milkmen USA

  3. From the Book, Genetic Roulette, The documented health risks of genetically engineered foods.

    By Jeffrey M. Smith
    Author of the #1 International Bestseller SEEDS OF DECEPTION

    Five companies compromise the GM seed industry, known as Ag biotech. Monsanto is the largest, with their GM seed technology and traits accounting for 88% of the GM acreage planted in 2005. Due to its global shopping spree, it is now the largest seed supplier of both GM and conventional seeds. The other companies are DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and Dow. Together, these five companies own more than 35% of the worldwide seed market as well as 59% of the pesticide market.

    There are four major GM food crops currently in commercial production – soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. All are used to make vegetable oil, and soy and corn derivatives are used in most foods. There are also GM zucchini, crookneck squash, papaya, and alfalfa. GM tomatoes and potatoes were introduced but taken off the market. Also, quest cigarettes contain GM tobacco.

    Although Ag biotech promotes its technology as a solution to feed the hungry world, grow crops in the desert, and boost nutritional value, the current generation of GM traits is a far cry from that promise. The single dominant GM trait is herbicide tolerance (HT). HT crops are engineered to survive an other wise toxic dose of weed killer. Companies bundle their HT crops with their brand of herbicide. Roundup ready crops can withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (whose active ingredient is glyphosate). Liberty Link crops can tolerate Bayer’s Liberty herbicide – designed to kill all other plant life. when farmers buy HT seeds, they are also required to buy the company’s corresponding herbicide.

    And around and around we go. Being “jerked” and poisoned. The administration before this one is no better than the one we have now. They are all whores and they beyond name calling at this time. People of the world are ready to do something about this. Let’s hope it falls short of war. – Milkmen USA

    The glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup kills plants by inhibiting an ENZYME (EPSPS) THAT IS NEEDED FOR PRODUCING KEY AMINO ACIDS. Some scientists discovered bacteria in a chemical waste pond near the Roundup factory that survived in spite of the presence of the herbicide. They discovered that the bacteria’s version of the enzyme inactivated glyphosate and thereby resisted inhibition. They found the gene that created this enzyme, modified it, and then placed it into the DNA of Roundup Ready crop varieties. Monsanto began commercialization of these crops in 1996 before their patent on glyphosate was due to expire in 200. These crops, which now force farmer’s to choose Monsanto’s brand of glyphosate, have effectively extended the company’s dominance in the herbicide market. In addition, HT crops dramatically increase the use of herbicide, which further contributes to the company’s bottom line.

    The second most popular GM trait is a built-in pesticide. A gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is inserted into corn and cotton DNA, where it produces pesticidal toxins i every cell.

    About 68% of the crops are engineered to resist an herbicide, about 19% produce their own pesticide and about 13% do both. The zucchini, squash, and papaya, which together comprise less than 1% of the GM crop market, are engineered with modified viral genes designed to resist infection from a single type of plant virus.

    There are six countries growing nearly all commercialized GM crops. The United States dominates production at 54%, followed by Argentina (18%) – it is no wonder that George Soros is there now, Brazil (11%) – it is no wonder that Vita-Coco likes Brazil, Canada (6%), India (4%), and China (3%) – another group of countries and politicians willing to jump in for money and greed.

    Genetic engineering is a lot of things, but is not sex. Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist who does human gene therapy, says genetic modification “technically and conceptually bears no resemblance to natural breeding.”

    ” Context is crucial. Yet manipulation of food ignores millions of years of evolutionary context, and that could have serious implications in the future. we are not dealing with an insignificant change to our diets here, we’re dealing with a revolutionary technology being used in our food supply – affecting us, future generations, and the ecosystems on which we depend.” – David Suzuki, geneticist

    For this and other information about the DOCUMENTED HEALTH RISKS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS, see the books mentioned here.
    They document repeating patterns of illness, corroborating evidence, and health reactions consistent with the known potential risks of GM foods.

    With all this is mind and in hand now, it is time to move. What did it take to move millions against Monsanto? What did it take to move Martin Luther King Jr. to move millions and for millions to follow him? And Ghandi? What is happening to our nation, our world, is as sneak attack similar to what the Japanese did to us at Pearl Harbor. We are not afraid that they have awakened a sleeping giant. They are.

    Milkmen USA

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