'What America has done is not restructure Iraq's agriculture, but dismantle it. The people whose forefathers first mastered the domestication of wheat will now have to pay for the privilege of growing it for someone else. And with that, the world's oldest farming heritage will become just another subsidiary link in the vast American supply chain.' -- Jeremy Smith
Following the illegal occupation of Iraq, the country was systematically looted.
Shortly after the occupation, George W Bush signed an executive order indemnifying the corporate looters from prosecution.
It is the responsibility of an occupying power to protect the assets of the occupied country. To systematically loot a country constitutes a war crime.
Last year, two females hijacked a conference in London where the spoils of Iraq were to be shared out. They were charged with 'aggravated trespass'. The case was quickly dropped when the government realised war crimes would be aired in court.
An example of the looting of the country is Order 81.
Paul Bremer, former US Iraqi viceroy, signed a number of Orders, that amongst other things, handed the assets of Iraq to US corporations. Order 81 was one such order.
Iraq is the cradle of civilisation. The fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia was the world's first wheat belt.
Agriculture is not exempt from the corporate looting of Iraq.
The agricultural sector is to be restructured. Agriculture will be orientated towards world trade, growing food for US corporations, buying inputs from US corporations.
Iraq first cultivated wheat thousands of years ago. Farmers swap their seeds, select out the best varieties suited to their growing conditions. They have done so for generations.
Iraq is so important for wheat, that it had its own seed banks at Abu Ghraib. So important was Abu Ghraib, that a wheat variety was named after the place. Now Abu Ghraib is notorious as the place where the US tortures and humiliates prisoners.
The seed banks at Abu Ghraib have been destroyed. Seeds could be sourced from secondary seed banks in Syria, but these seeds will not be used.
Instead, the US will dictate what varieties of wheat are grown. The US knows best. Under the guise of 'aid', it is 'educating' farmers in what seeds to sow. 10,000 years of seed selection, and the Yankee Imperialists know best.
US corporations will license seeds to farmers.
50% of the wheat grown will be a variety used for pasta. Pasta? Iraqis don't eat pasta. Either it is for export, or the US troops are in for a very long occupation.
Order 81, protects plant patents, intellectual property rights. That is it will protect the rights of US corporations, but not the rights of Iraqi farmers who have been selecting seeds for generations.
As with Percy Schmeiser in Canada, should farmers find their crops have been contaminated with alien genes, then like Percy, they will be prosecuted for theft of intellectual property rights. They may even be prosecuted if their crops have the same characteristics as crops 'owned' by US corporations.
Currently, 97% of Iraqi farmers save their seeds
Whether or not the war on Iraq was illegal, whether or not you care about the human rights abuses in Iraq, Order 81 should be of concern to all of us.
The global food system is in crisis and facing meltdown. Agribusiness has been an unmitigated disaster. Global warming will make a bad situation worse. We can no longer rely on the wheat belts and the soya belts when crops fail elsewhere.
Iraq is where wheat was first cultivated. It is the one place in the world where we cannot afford agribusiness and the elimination of traditional varieties. One day soon, we will be very dependent upon these varieties.
Seedy Sunday are organising the 4th annual community seed swap on Sunday 6 February 2005 at the Old Market, Hove, Sussex.
A mass anti-Monsatan, anti-GM lobby of Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, takes place on Wednesday 25 February 2005.
Bob Drogin, Iraq War May Incite Terror, CIA Study Says, Los Angeles Times, 14 January 2005
Peggy Faw Gish, Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace, Herald Press, 2004
Seymour M Hersh, Chain of Command: From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, Penguin/Allen Lane, 2004
Ewa Jasiewicz and Pennie Quinton, Protesters insist on trial as government and ‘plunder promoter’ drop charges, Wildfire, 25 November 2004
Andrew Kimbrell (ed), Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, Island Press, 2002
Christian Parenti, The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq, The New Press, 2004
Keith Parkins, The rape and pillage of Iraq, Indymedia Chicago, 5 December 2003
Keith Parkins, Sowing Seeds of Dissent, Indymedia UK, 6 September 2004
Keith Parkins, Seeds of Dissent, September 2004
Keith Parkins, Eyewitness Iraq, Indymedia UK, 26 November 2004
Keith Parkins, Making a Killing: The Corporate Invasion of Iraq, Indymedia UK, 29 November 2004
Keith Parkins, Occupation and Resistance in Iraq, Indymedia UK, 7 December 2004
Keith Parkins, Future of Food, Indymedia UK, 24 January 2005
Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest, South End Press, 1999
Jeremy Smith, Order 81, The Ecologist, February 2005