Native Seeds in Danger of Being Monopolised
By Pamela Sepúlveda
SANTIAGO, Jul 12, 2011 (IPS) – Fear is growing among environmental and indigenous organisations in Chile over the possible appropriation of native seeds by foreign companies, opening the doors to transgenic crops and their negative impact on biodiversity.
Alarm arose because of several bills sponsored by the government of rightwing President Sebastián Piñera, especially after May 17 when Congress ratified the UPOV 91 Convention, which grants patent rights over new plant varieties to those who have discovered, developed or modified these varieties.
The convention of the intergovernmental International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) is a revised version of a 1978 pact that Chile had already signed. Ratification of UPOV 91 was a requirement of the free trade treaties Santiago has entered into with Australia, the United States and Japan.
Congress began debating a bill to adopt UPOV 91 in 2009, but little progress was made until Piñera intervened and declared it an urgent measure in March this year, to accelerate its passage.
Social and environmental organisations warn that it may lead to dispossession of small farmers, loss of biodiversity and the introduction of transgenic crops.
“We asked for it not to be brought to a vote, but the government piled on the pressure, and the right generally supported it, because big companies want the Convention now, they want to start protecting their investments as soon as possible,” Lucía Sepúlveda, representing the Alliance for a Better Quality of Life/Pesticide Action Network of Chile (RAP-AL Chile), told IPS.
“Our genetic heritage is threatened,” Francisca Rodríguez, head of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI), told IPS. “Our seeds are once again in danger. Only a small amount of them will remain, not even enough for reproduction; they will be left behind like museum pieces, testifying to yesterday’s reality.”
On the contrary, the UPOV 91 convention is nothing but beneficial in the view of ChileBio, a biotechnology industry association made up of Monsanto, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta and Pioneer, companies that research, produce, develop and sell genetically modified crops.
Read more at IPS News