Seed Money or Seed Sovereignty? Chile Beats Monsanto Law (For Now)
Chile has scored a major victory against ‘Monsanto Law’ — a bill that sought to privatize the country’s seeds and Monsanto Company — an almost unstoppable force. Indigenous communities, farmers and women beat one of the biggest seed giants on the globe.
According to EcoWatch, the seedy bill would’ve given big business “the right to patent seeds they discover, develop or modify.” Usually, these seeds are genetically modified, or GMOs — which may or may not be labeled, make our kids fatter, and are all around bad news.
Companies don’t just privatize physical seeds; they privatize the already fragile world food system. Since Chile is a leading fruit and seafood exporter, consumers worldwide also share that victory (for now).
Why Chile Said No to Seed Privatization
Monsanto Law would’ve pushed small and medium-sized farmers out of the business. Traditionally, farmers participated in seed swapping; growers would gather and swap their seeds. A bill like Monsanto Law would’ve forced growers to buy their seeds from multinational agribusiness companies year after year. This traditional type of gathering ensured biodiversity and built community. For many communities, seeds represent a type of cultural heritage because of the traditional wisdom that also gets passed down.
Chilean farmers are fighting for seed sovereignty. PBS defines seed sovereignty as: “The farmer’s right to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants.”
How Seed Privatization Screwed India Over
Chile fought not to be the next India. Conjuring Jack and the Beanstalk-esque images, Monsanto went to India with the promise of magic seeds — seeds that increased productivity, decreased labor and increased profit. Yet Monsanto’s GMO seeds turned out to be more of a malevolent curse.
According to the Global Politician, the rural Indian farmers weren’t educated about how to properly grow this new strain of seed (e.g. GMO seeds require more water than traditional seeds). The expensive seeds failed to grow, but the farmers’ debt to Monsanto certainly grew. Around 200,000 Indian farmers committed suicide; some even resorted to end their lives by consuming the toxic pesticides in front of their families.
The Seed Sovereignty Fight Isn‘t Over
While Chile seems to have dodged that Monsanto bullet, it’s not over. As reported in Truthout, Francisca Rodriguez, from the Anamuri and the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations, explains that there are 3 possible outcomes:
1) It could be permanently withdrawn (the best case scenario).
2) The Chilean government can create a “mixed commission” to learn more about GMOs and their impacts.
3) Monsanto Law could just be reworded and resubmitted (the worst case scenario).
Not surprisingly, there will be corporate lobbyists and corporate stakeholders ready to protect their interests at every outcome.
Why You Should Care
You need to protect your own interest. Chile is increasingly becoming a global exporter of fruit and seafood. The world still needs seeds to grow food. Issues like seed monopolies mean food insecurity. Plus, do you want real food or genetically modified ‘food’?
The world’s also losing its food diversity. According to PBS, 75 percent of agricultural crops are gone. For example, according to the International Potato Center, by 2050, 13 percent of the 187 wild potato species could become extinct, and 52 percent of the “distribution area” gone with it.
Our diets are increasingly becoming homogenous; can we really risk losing so much diversity? Less variety means more chronic diseases, like diabetes.
Photo Credit: Advait Supnekar