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Daily News Archive
From February 4, 2002

World's Farmers Forced to Buy GM Seeds

Activists at the World Social Forum held in Brazil argued that the international system of intellectual property rights makes farmers dependent on expensive, patented seeds. Saturday's meeting was planned to counter New York's World Economic Forum, which is mostly attended by business leaders.

The World Trade Organization adopted the intellectual property rules in 1995 as part of an international treaty system that governs trade relations. Even though plant species are not covered by these patent rules, plant varieties, which are defined by their genes, are. Therefore, companies can register ownership of plant varieties they have genetically modified.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this means farmers worldwide are "being steamrollered into using genetically modified seeds that are monopolized by multinational corporations." Banks in developing countries loan money to small farmers on the condition that they buy seeds from specific companies. These banks argue that genetically modified seeds produce healthier crops.

Yet, farmers are concerned that "terminator" seeds, which are designed to die after one season, would force farmers to buy new seeds each year from multinationals. In the Southern Hemisphere, as many as 1.4 billion farmers depend heavily on seeds saved from harvested crops or those exchanged with farm neighbors.

For more information about genetically modified food, contact Beyond Pesticides.