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Feed Iraq and Get Rich ... or Die Tryin' · 2005-12-05

Now this is something an economist loves to deal with. It is a about patents, feeding and politics. Today we are going to take a closer look at the "Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 81". This order tackles "Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law". Who has written it and where is it applied? Well, Order 81 is written by the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer, thus it is applied in Iraq.

While dealing with patents, industrial design and integrated circuits they have a neat chapter on breeding new varieties of plants. One obviously can, and this was new for me, file patents for seeds in Iraq. Interesting, Iraq is not really the hot spot in industrial plant enhancement, is it? Filing a patent on a new variety leads to the following legislation:

A. After registration of the variety, the following acts with respect to the propagating material of the protected variety shall require the authorisation of the breeder:
  1. production or reproduction (multiplication);
  2. conditioning for the purpose of propagation;
  3. offering for sale;
  4. selling or otherwise marketing;
  5. exporting;
  6. importing; or
  7. stocking for any of the purposes mentioned cited in this paragraph.

This sounds next to boring, doesn't it? Yet, it isn't. Iraqi agriculture is characterised by small farmers, who would keep, trade and alter seeds with no bureaucracy involved on a everyday basis. This concept, carried out for thousands of years now, is practically banned by Order 81. How can a farmer deal with this legislation? Easy, he from now on, buys seeds, and with it the license to grow, harvest and sell, from a company. I have a sneaking' suspicion about what companies the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer had in mind when releasing Order 81.

To rule out last misunderstandings, Order 81 is enforcable law in Iraq. So all the life science companies can just go to the Iraq patent office, if they dare to go from Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone, and file patents on seeds. Of course the filing process consists of 'collecting a fee'. A fee that is next to nothing for a global corporation but might well ruin a small farmer.

The Coalition Provisional Authority does not seem to have a problem with putting the agricultural structures, hence the feeding of Iraq, at stake for future profits of a handful of corporations ... Hey, where to buy stock? ...and why has this issue been widely ignored by our media?

(via Strausberger, Freitag,,

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