Ok, I thought it was clear that patenting DNA, especially that of important food crops, is a big NO-NO. We need seeds to be available to as many people as possible, to keep their prices down and to promote growing a broad variety of crops. Agriculture that is dependent on just one crop (for example maize, rice, or wheat), and also on one particular high-yielding type, is really vulnerable, not to mention that developing new types is inherently harder to do with a smaller genetic pool. And we’ve been doing just that in the last centuries – many local varieties have disappeared from vegetable stands in our stores so quickly that it makes your head spin.
My family’s garden has two ‘old’ apple varieties that are no longer economically interesting to fruit growers and which you’ll never be able to buy in any store or market. You can get your Elstar, Jonagold, Kiku, Idared everywhere, but not those striped apples that make a fantastic pie. Nor the early apples in August of such pale yellow they appear almost white, which is an appropriate colour since they are almost as sweet as processed sugar. Forget about buying locally grown garlic in a country renowned for cultivating onions and garlic – you can have the one imported from China. Even growing your own local variety can be a problem nowadays since cloves and seeds from Italy or Netherlands are easier to get a hold of.
So yes, I understand what patenting food and seed can do to agriculture. In a time where I see many seedsman’s shops, so important for preserving crop varieties, closing down or being taken over by big multinationals I can but wonder what the future holds for us. I understand that cultivation of new and improved varieties is a time-consuming and costly process, therefore a revenue from selling these seeds would help drive on new innovation and cover the cost of previous developments, but slapping a patent on it and own DNA is just wrong.
Monsanto behaves like it doesn’t understand that we’re talking about living organisms – to expect plants to not cross-pollinate is just stupid. It is, however, a way of spreading your crops and getting money. If one farmer grows Monsanto’s crops, you can bet the neighbours will soon be pushed to do the same, if only to escape the lawsuits. Thus patenting crops smacks of extortion and farmer exploitation. Not to mention that many local varieties are a product of generations carefully picking out the best performing plants in those exact weather and soil conditions, so the yields are much higher and more consistent than that of laboratory grown crops.
I hope you’ll support the Avaaz petition and help our farmers grow crops without the looming threat of corporate punishment for unknowingly ‘stealing’ their patented DNA. I really hope Europe can turn the tide and help other nations across the world facing the same problem. We don’t want to hear about farmers taking their lives due to debts and crop failures like in India, do we?