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NAFTA an Issue that Concerns Us All

NAFTA an Issue that Concerns Us All


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By Ana Lucía Bravo

As in some cases it can be difficult to enforce intellectual property regulations, companies are promoting the use of sterile seeds that are self-eliminated after the first harvest. They are the expression of the perversion of the concept of seed that entails the perpetuation of life.

So let's imagine today's lunch: locro of potatoes with avocado and toast; rice, bean stew, meat, fried ripe fruit and babaco juice. These and other products are on our table every day, but usually we do not think about their origin, their production, the farmers who grew them.

Since the very beginning of agriculture, approximately 10,000 or 12,000 years ago, peasant and indigenous farmers have had this work. Our food is the result of your work, innovation and knowledge. It is thanks to them that we obtain avocado, corn, and potato for lunch, as they select the seeds, sow, take care of the crops and transport them to the market.


Now imagine what would happen if the food for our lunch were the private property of a transnational company that has the power to control access and the circulation of seeds. This is the scenario that NAFTA promises us, since the intellectual property chapter will allow transnational corporations to have a monopoly on seeds through patents that make them owners of the seeds and oblige farmers to buy them for each harvest and pay royalties every time they buy them. Intellectual property restricts the rights of farmers to freely preserve, conserve, use and sell seeds, and makes them illegal, even punishable by imprisonment.

Monsanto, one of the large companies that produces pesticides and transgenics, indicates in the "contracts" that accompany the seeds that the farmer:

- You must use the soybeans that contain the Roundup Ready gene for a single harvest.
- You cannot save any of the seeds produced from the seeds purchased for the purpose of using them as seed or sell them to another person for the same use.
- You are required to use as a herbicide, only Roundup brand glyphosate or any other authorized by Monsanto.

If the farmer violates any of the conditions of the contract, it will be canceled immediately and he will lose the right to obtain a license in the future. Additionally, in the case of any transfer of soybeans containing the Roundup Ready gene, the grower will pay a fine plus attorney's fees and expenses. Monsanto also acquires the power to inspect the farmer's land planted with soybeans for the next three years. The terms of the contract are binding not only on the farmer but will have full validity and effect on the heirs, personal representatives and successors; instead, the grower rights set forth herein will not be otherwise transferable or assignable without the express written consent of Monsanto. To be sure, the transnational hires private investigators, better known as "genetic police", who verify that the patented seeds are being used "legally".

A well-known case is that of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who grew conventional rapeseed for more than 40 years and was accused of infringing the Monsanto patent. After seven years of trial, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the farmer, stating that it did not matter how the patented seeds arrived on his land (it could have been the wind, insects, the neighbor's shoes) but that they were there and they were owned by Monsanto. The Court also pointed out that despite the fact that patents on plants are not recognized in that country, if genes can be patented, and since the gene is part of the plant, then there would be something like one: patent extension! This court decision set a dire precedent, that we are all potentially guilty.

One wonders what will happen to the indigenous brothers of Mexico, whose traditional varieties of corn have been contaminated with transgenic corn imported from the United States (thanks to the Free Trade Agreement between these countries). Some are contaminated with up to three types of proprietary varieties.


The answer comes in parts, for now in Mexico, posters are already appearing that warn that the patented seeds are owned by the company, then they will begin to charge them "for the use of technology."

It is an absurdity taken to the limit. First, they used traditional varieties of seeds to make their "inventions" (they don't actually invent anything: in the case of transgenics, for example, when it comes to patenting they are new, but when it comes to demonstrating safety, they are equivalent to conventional ones. ); then they patented them, usurping the ancient knowledge and the right of free use that we all have; then they deliberately contaminated the traditional seeds that are still in the hands of the peasants; and finally they are blamed for using Monsanto's seeds "illegally".

Intellectual property regulations not only declare a culprit, but also establish the mechanisms to force him to pay. As if that were not enough, the rights of patents on seeds also extend to the harvest. If a farmer sows seeds without paying royalties to the company that claims to own the seed, he may lose the rights to his crop and the products derived from it.

In Argentina, for example, Monsanto has threatened to demand the payment of royalties at the ports of landing for exports. Let me explain, Monsanto in Argentina has not been able to patent its transgenic soybeans because the Seed Law of that country does not allow it, Monsanto's initial business was to sell the agrochemical that accompanies the seed. However, the patent on the pesticide expired in 2000 and Monsanto felt that it was being harmed and decided to demand the payment of royalties for the seeds. To pressure, he threatened to leave Argentina, then the government proposed the creation of a bill of "global royalties" that contemplates the creation of a "trust fund" with contributions from producers, to pay rights to seed suppliers .

Finally, he announced that as Argentina exports this soybean in the form of paste or oil to Europe and in Europe, if RR soy is patented, it will collect royalties there when the shipments arrive. In the end it is a good business, Argentina exports more than 30 million tons of soybeans annually, if they only pay it one dollar per ton, Monsanto would be receiving: 30 million dollars without having done anything!

As this collection option is somewhat delayed, Monsanto announced that it is considering an international arbitration, the kind that we already know in Ecuador in the cases of Occidental and Chevron-Texaco oil companies, which, if the FTA is approved, would become the mechanism for solve commercial disputes.

As in some cases it can be difficult to enforce intellectual property regulations, companies are promoting the use of sterile seeds that are self-eliminated after the first harvest. They are the expression of the perversion of the concept of seed that entails the perpetuation of life.

The pretense of total control pushed one of the companies to apply for a patent on the bloom, not because it invented it, of course, but because its researchers isolated that specific gene. And here the picture is complete, we will have to pay when the plants bloom.

And if the farmers pay for the seeds, for the flowering, if the seeds are sterile, if you are guilty because your garden was contaminated, what will we have to do when these ten transnational companies gain control of our food? What happens if later they decide not to sell us more beans for our stew because they have a surplus of soybeans, the kind they feed the cattle?

Yes, that happens, we would stop exercising their right to food, they would no longer have the freedom to choose what they are going to eat for lunch. Monsanto's slogan is "seeds, food, hope", it sounds good, almost convincing but that company is the one that provided Agent Orange in WWII, it is the one that persecutes farmers in the United States and Canada, it is the that produces more than 90% of transgenics in the world, and that sells the poison with which coca plantations are fumigated from small planes on the Colombian-Ecuadorian border, causing havoc on the health of the peasants.

These are the claims of the transnationals: to monopolize seeds, agriculture and food, the FTA is a mechanism to institutionalize them and give them legal status. Therefore, if it is signed and ratified, we should forget about the varieties of corn and other Andean products that are part of our identity and get ready for an imported diet. Intellectual property will take over our food, and we won't even own our lunch.

* Ana Lucia Bravo
Ecological Action


Video: NAFTA explained by avocados. And shoes. (July 2022).


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