Iraq’s New Seed Patent Law

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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