Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Human Rights and big corporations

Don't just lie there! Do something! 
A bonus post? Maybe and perhaps not! Today is Blog Action Day and lots of bloggers around the world are taking to the blogosphere to post something on Human Rights today. So what do I have to say on Human Rights? Sometimes quite a lot - too much my children might say at times, but today I want to concentrate on the influence of corporations on human rights. This week was a sad week with the announcement that Monsanto are due to receive the World Food Prize for their contribution to agriculture. It was not just a sad day, it was a day of disgrace. And what has that to do with human rights? A great deal.

Don't let farming become like a prison
The world trade in agricultural seeds is increasingly dominated by fewer and fewer corporations with aggressive approaches to patenting genetic material. Farmers throughout time have grown plants from seed they have retained from their own crops, seeds that have adjusted over time to the specific conditions of the area and in so doing have increased the genetic pool from which we can derive the next generation of plants. Monsanto and other corporations like them, however, want the farmers to buy seed from them each and every year and woe betide you if you are found to have a crop that contains plant material with "their" genes in them, they will pursue you in the courts for that, even if that material has arrived in your field by means other than your own hand.

Seed for next year
Monsanto would have us believe that it is fair reward for investing in seed for improved productivity, but the reality is that the seed is bred with traits that means it is not affected by their own herbicides, which they are only too willing to sell you as well. The seed may also be selected for certain disease or pest protection, all well and good, but these expensive seeds can still drive developing world farmers to bankruptcy when crops fail due to the pests and diseases that they are not immune to.

Farming for the future
So what has this all to do with human rights? Farmers have a right to a livelihood and not be threatened with court action when contamination arrives in their fields. Farmers should also have the right to be able to sell their products to the markets they intend and the problem with contamination is that organic farmers or non-GMO farmers cannot sell their produced in the higher value GMO free market, they are forced to sell in the conventional market at lower prices. Farmers should have the right to buy seed at reasonable prices that do not leave them bankrupt, as and when they need and not have to rely on seed companies for seed every year. When the profits of farmers are reduced to a minimum and large corporations have increasing profits, something is wrong with the system. Let us fight for the farmer's right to farm in such a way that the profits are not accrued to the biggest in the market, the corporations. Let us fight for the right to healthy food, free of pesticides and herbicides. Let us fight for more sustainable food that does not rely on fewer and fewer seed types and fewer and fewer companies to supply those seeds.

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