Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 11, 2002
Patent seeds perpetuate poverty
Development and Peace calls for public response
By GEORGINA LAWRENCE
Special to the WCR
Trans-national corporations have begun to patent seeds, market them and control their distribution. For more than 1.4 billion small farmers, seeds sown on small plots of land become the grains and vegetables essential for the survival of their families.
Corporations claim patented seeds will conquer world hunger. But patented seeds are not cheap. Scientific research and the operation of laboratories where insect resistant characteristics or tolerance to particular herbicides are added are included in the cost of seed.
From year to year, small farmers must buy more seeds and pay the licence fees that come with patents. In addition, there is the cost of fertilizers and pesticides to ensure a good crop. Although insect resistant characteristics are added to some seeds, this does not eliminate all pests. Insecticides and chemical fertilizers are still highly recommended by seed companies.
The world's poor cannot afford patented seeds. Poor farmers' survival depends on traditional seed adapted to local soil and conditions.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace opposes the patenting of seeds and all life. Patenting of seeds has been the focus of their Fall Education and Action program in 2001 and again in 2002.
At World Youth Day this year, Development and Peace focused on bringing this message to the 3,000-5,000 youth who attended their weeklong exhibits and forums. Fourteen youth from various dioceses across Canada volunteered to assist Development and Peace. Among these volunteers were Quena Sanchez, Miguel Nunez and Carlos Nunez from Edmonton. They encouraged other youth to join with Development and Peace in opposing the patenting of seeds.
To draw attention to food issues, Miguel and Carlos dressed as "talking corn stalks." Corn, like potatoes and rice, is an important staple food for people around the world. Many use seeds they carefully nurtured, saved and shared from harvest to harvest, sometimes for generations.
Over 1,000 petitions were signed, adding to the more than 175,000 signatures gathered during the Fall Education and Action program in 2001.
Development and Peace is asking Canadian Catholics to sign postcards addressed to the prime minister asking him to intervene at the World Trade Organization. The WTO, created on Jan. 1, 1995, establishes the rules for international trade and plays the role of arbitrator when differences arise between member countries.
In the event of conflict, WTO agreements take precedence over national laws or regional trade agreements. One of their rules is article 27.3 (b) of TRIPS (the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement) that will soon require countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to allow the patenting of seeds and life forms.
Development and Peace is calling for this section of TRIPS to be changed. Your support is needed.