|Order 81 makes Project Censored's top ten (3/11/2005)|
The story of Order 81 is one of Project Censored's biggest stories the mainstream media ignored over the past year.
Here's their top ten and then Project Censored's summary of the Order 81 story.
But that news didn't make the front pages of the major newspapers. It wasn't on the network news. So most voters knew little or nothing about the brutal civilian impact of President George W. Bush's war when they went to the polls.
That's just one of the big stories the mainstream news media ignored, blacked out, or underreported over the past year, according to Project Censored, a media watchdog group based at California's Sonoma State University...
...Project Censored's overall findings provide valuable insights into the kinds of issues the mainstream media should be paying closer attention to.
1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government
8 Iraqi Farmers Threatened by Bremer's Mandates
Historians believe it was in the "fertile crescent" of Mesopotamia, where Iraq now lies, that humans first learned to farm. "It is here, in around 8500 or 8000 B.C., that mankind first domesticated wheat, here that agriculture was born," Jeremy Smith wrote in the Ecologist . This entire time, "Iraqi farmers have been naturally selecting wheat varieties that work best with their climate... and cross-pollinated them with others with different strengths. The U.S., however, has decided that, despite 10,000 years practice, Iraqis don't know what wheat works best in their own conditions."
Smith was referring to Order 81, one of 100 directives penned by L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, and left as a legacy by the American government when it transferred operations to interim Iraqi authorities. The regulation sets criteria for the patenting of seeds that can only be met by multinational companies like Monsanto or Syngenta, and it grants the patent holder exclusive rights over every aspect of all plant products yielded by those seeds. Because of naturally occurring cross-pollination, the new scheme effectively launches a process whereby Iraqi farmers will soon have to purchase their seeds rather than using seeds saved from their own crops or bought at the local market.
Native varieties will be replaced by foreign--and genetically engineered--seeds, and Iraqi agriculture will become more vulnerable to disease as biological diversity is lost.
Texas A&M University, which brags that its agriculture program is a "world leader" in the use of biotechnology, has already embarked on a $107 million project to "reeducate" Iraqi farmers to grow industrial-sized harvests for export, using American seeds. And anyone who's ever paid attention to how this has worked elsewhere in the global South knows what comes next: Farmers will lose their lands, and the country will lose its ability to feed itself, engendering poverty and dependency.
On TomPaine.com, Greg Palast identified Order 81 as one of several authored by Bremer that fit nicely into the outlines of a U.S. "Economy Plan," a 101-page blueprint for the economic makeover of Iraq, formulated with ample help from corporate lobbyists. Palast reported that someone inside the State Department leaked the plan to him a month prior to the invasion.
Smith put it simply: "The people whose forefathers first mastered the domestication of wheat will now have to pay for the privilege of growing it for someone else. And with that the world's oldest farming heritage will become just another subsidiary link in the vast American supply chain."
Sources: "Iraq's New Patent Law: A Declaration of War Against Farmers," Focus on the Global South and Grain, Grain , October 2004; "Adventure Capitalism," Greg Palast, www.tompaine.com, Oct. 26, 2004; "U.S. Seeking to Totally Re-engineer Iraqi Traditional Farming System into a U.S. Style Corporate Agribusiness," Jeremy Smith, Ecologist, Feb. 4, 2005.