Did you know that multinational companies are taking farmers to court for ‘stealing’ seeds?
Did you know that multinational companies are engineering ‘sterile seeds’?
On a fundamental level most people tend not to consider that we rely on a fragile base of materials for our food supply. A thin layer of top soil, seeds and water.
We know that the soil is eroding and being poisoned continually by pesticides, chemical fertilisers and herbicides. We know that the water supply is also under serious threat. But what about the seeds? Why worry when plants naturally create their own seeds in order to replenish an ongoing cycle of abundance?
That is the way that it was for 10,000 years. farmers saved their seeds after harvest to sow again the following year. The seeds would evolve gradually over the seasons to handle pests, weather conditions and other threats, so that the most resilient would flourish and those would be stored.
The problem has only come into play in recent history – since a small number of huge companies have recognised the potential profits to be made in controlling the seeds. The way they are going about it is ingenious. It seems an impossible task to control something that is so naturally abundant and readily available. but unbelievably, they are succeeding in many parts of America. The documentary below “The Future of The Global Food Supply at Risk” analyses the issue in depth.
The process towards agri-control has been a slow one. It began in the 20th Century when farming became industrialised. Farmers paid for expensive machinery, which revolutionised their processes, enabling a higher yield of crops with each season. This abundance came with it’s own problems though, as larger fields of single crops were more susceptible to disease and pests could run wild. Multinationals had a solution – pesticides. It was a simple way to discard of the chemicals left after World War 2, and farmers soon became dependant on them to maintain their supply.
Seeds began to be modified to be compatible with the pesticides that were being used, so that farmers started to look to the same multinationals for their supply of seeds. As the decades past, and the seeds were becoming more engineered the mood surrounding storage of seeds after a harvest began to change. What was once considered a given right started to be considered ‘piracy’, until the law finally agreed to grant patents on genes.
This gave the multinationals the power to ‘own’ any plant that contained the DNA that they had created in a lab and patented. From then on, any farmer found to be storing seeds owned by these companies could be considered a criminal. Considering the low income of farmers compared to the massive multinational profits, any court battles would be extremely imbalanced.
If a farmer’s field of crops is unwittingly contaminated by a GM plant, the company owning the patent could claim the entire field as his own. The farmer could be prosecuted for patent infringement. Unsurprisingly, many farmers simply decide to buy the seeds from these companies in the first place, in an attempt to become a part of the winning team.
The very same multinational companies are developing another system to protect farmers from accidental cross-pollination (i.e the natural order of biodiversity). They are calling them terminator seeds. They die on harvest, they are sterile! These are being created solely to help to protect profits, the morality behind them is shocking!
A staggering 100,000,000+ hectares of farm land are sown with genetically modified. Most plants are now hybrid (impossible to store their seeds) or subject to plant breeders rights. This means that the big companies have control and ownership of the seeds that feed us. These companies are so powerful that they can lobby governments and manage to get most of these GM crops onto the shelves without labelling. We therefore have no way of knowing which products have been genetically modified.
Being limited to a few sources of seeds results in less varieties of crops, which leaves the farmers extremely vulnerable. Changes in weather. disease and pests can cause enormous economic loss. There is much to be learned from Africa in this regard. In an area Ethiopia, which was ravaged by harsh conditions for 2 seasons consecutively, they have learned the value of the seed the hard way.
They treat their seeds with the utmost respect, carefully storing the pods from the most successful crops each year. These are the most evolved, resilient and locally adapted of the crop, best suited to the current climate. The farmers are provided with a dafe place to store each year – making sure there is more than what is needed to sow. Once the next crop has grown, ripe and healthy, the remaining seeds are sold to the community. There is local control over the food supply, their system is robust. We can learn so much from this.
While there is an underground biodiversity gene bank, storing seeds in clammily controlled chambers, we do not know how the seeds will react after storage. they may not be suited to the climate when and if they are required to be planted in an emergency.
Some organic farmers across the US do work in the same way as the example in Ethiopia. They sow non GM seeds, take care of their crops without chemicals and store the seeds ready for the following year. It is not so much revolutionary, as the way it was always done – the way it should be done.
So What Can You Do?
Your local supermarket will not notice if you stop shopping there, but you could literally help your local organic farmer to pay his rent. Seek, find, support!!
You can also learn to grow your own – use whatever you have, pots, patios, lawn. You can grown your own diverse vegetables, full of nutrients and educate your family at the same time.
As the documentary says….Reclaim what has been ours for 10,000 years. Our food and our lives depend on it.
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