Monday, March 16, 2009

Feasible nightmares

A friend sent me an ominous message, a link to a blog claiming that two of the biggest seed providers for amateur gardeners and farmers were going to be bought by Monsanto, the bête noire of the Organic movement, producer of most of the GM crops cultivated around the world.

Even if these rumors turned to be false, the acquisition of companies like this by the likes of Monsanto is not a far-fetched possibility considered only by people wearing tinfoil hats. One of our main problems is the uniformity of crops around the world. Monoculture has homogenized varieties in almost every field in the world, despite the fact that conditions are not the same. Homogeneity makes plants vulnerable to blights in many different places, and as the same variety is sold almost everywhere, it causes less than optimal yields, as the plants are not selected for the specific weather and soil where it is being cultured, rather than to the environment where the variety was developed. A merging or acquisition of a big independent seed company by Monsanto or another humongous corporation would make our current situation even more fragile, as we would be left depending of very few big providers who could fail to deliver, as opposed to depend on networks of seed developers and farmers, a resilient network that can work if some hubs fail, as opposed to monopolistic approaches. If this happens, by the time Antitrust laws can be enforced, it might already be too late.

But reality seems to be stranger and scarier than fiction. We do not need Monsanto buying any company to lose our diversity and independence concerning seeds. A new law proposed by American congresswoman Rosa DeLauro would penalize heavily all those people who sow and harvest their own food with the excuse of “food safety”. As usual, in the name of an unattainable absolute security our liberties are eroded. I say “ours” even if I am not American because the American market is the main income source for many of these companies, so whatever happens there will affect us all.

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