Iraq's New Seed Patent Law

A 20 year moratorium on biodiversity


| November 18, 2004


For generations, Iraq's indigenous farmers have saved seeds from a previous year's harvest to plant the next year. To facilitate new crops, they have also informally swapped seeds with one another. A new amendment to Iraq's patent law, enacted by former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer III, provides for the 'protection of new varieties of plants.'

To qualify for protection under the law, and thus to be legal for agricultural use, plant varieties must be new, distinct, uniform, and stable. The seed supply that Iraqi farmers have used for years cannot meet these criteria. So U.S. corporations, who have the means to modify and 'stabilize' the seed varieties, now dominate the market and can sell to farmers without domestic competition.

The intellectual property rights that the patent law grants last for 20 years for crop varieties and 25 years for trees and vines. So, while the U.S. military occupation may be over within in the next two decades, the corporate occupation could last for generations.

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