“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity in traditional genebanks. While the popular press has emphasized its possible utility in the event of a major regional or global catastrophe, it will be more frequently accessed when genebanks lose samples due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, and natural disasters. These events occur with some regularity. War and civil strife have a history of destroying some genebanks. The national seed bank of the Philippines was damaged by flooding and later destroyed by a fire; the seed banks of Afghanistan and Iraq have been lost completely. According to The Economist, “the Svalbard vault is a backup for the world’s 1,750 seed banks, storehouses of agricultural biodiversity.” By the request of Norwegian government, no genetically modified seeds are stored at the vault.” [reverse snip]
“The Norwegian government entirely funded the vault’s approximately NOK 45 million (US$9 million) construction. Storing seeds in the vault is free to end users, with Norway and the Global Crop Diversity Trust paying for operational costs. Primary funding for the Trust comes from organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from various governments worldwide.”
Aren’t they just adorable visionaries and philanthropists looking out for our future food safety?
Ach, well, there’s always someone to belly ache about such magnificent munificence, such grand noblesse oblige, isn’t there? For instance: ‘Vandana Shiva: The Great Seed Piracy’ by Vandana Shiva, 21 June 2016
“A great seed and biodiversity piracy is underway and it must be stopped. The privateers of today include not just the corporations — which are becoming fewer and larger through mergers — but also individuals like Bill Gates, the “richest man in the world”.
When the Green Revolution was pushed in India and Mexico, farmers’ seeds were “rounded-up” and locked in international institutions, which used these seeds to breed green revolution varieties which responded to chemical inputs. The first two institutions were the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico. These institutes took diversity from farmers’ fields and replaced the diversity with chemical monocultures of rice, wheat and corn.
Dr. R.H. Richharia, India’s pre-eminent rice research scientist, headed the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) at Cuttack, Orissa. The Indian institute existed before IRRI, had the largest collection of rice diversity the biggest rice “bank” in the world. Dr Richharia refused to allow IRRI in the Philippines to pirate the collection. The World Bank removed Dr Richharia, the guardian of Indian rice knowledge, from CRRI so that it could transfer Indian peasant intellectual property to the international institute (which later became part of the Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research). Farmers’ seed heritage is held in the seed banks of CGIAR, a consortium of 15 international agricultural research centers, which is the single biggest recipient of grants from Mr Gates.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the new World Bank when it comes to using finances to influence policies in agriculture. The Gates Foundation is a major funder of the CGIAR system — and through its funding, it is accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations, facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through intellectual property laws and seed regulations. Control over the seeds of the world for ‘one agriculture’ is Mr Gates’ target!
Since 2003, CGIAR centres have received more than $720 million from Mr Gates.
Besides taking control of the seeds of farmers in CGIAR seed banks, Mr Gates (along with the Rockefeller Foundation) is investing heavily in collecting seeds from across the world and storing them in a facility in Svalbard in the Arctic — the “doomsday vault”.
Mr Gates is also funding Diversity Seek (DivSeek), a global initiative to take patents on the seed collections through genomic mapping. Seven million crop accessions are in public seed banks. DivSeek could allow five corporations to own this diversity.
Today, biopiracy is carried out through the convergence of information technology and biotechnology. It is done by taking patents by “mapping” genomes and genome sequences. While living seed needs to evolve “in situ”, patents on genomes can be taken through access to seed “ex situ”. DivSeek is a global project launched in 2015 to map the genetic data of the peasant diversity of seeds held in gene banks. It robs the peasants of their seeds and knowledge, it robs the seed of its integrity and diversity, its evolutionary history, its link to the soil and reduces it to “code”. It is an extractive project to “mine” the data in the seed to “censor” out the commons.
The peasants (or farmers as they’re referred to now) who evolved the diversity have no place in DivSeek; their contributions, their knowledge is being “mined” — not recognised, honoured or conserved.
This “genetic colonialism” is an enclosure of the genetic commons. The participating institutions are the CGIAR nodes and “public universities” like Cornell and Iowa State, which are being increasingly privatised by the bio-technology industry and Mr Gates. Cornell is where Mr Gates funds the pseudo-science propaganda machine misnamed the Cornell Alliance for Science. Iowa State is where Mr Gates is funding the Unethical Human Feeding Trials of GMO bananas. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the partners of DivSeek, especially the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and an Africa-Brazil partnership in DivSeek.
(‘Roundup is delicious!’ by Anthony Freda)
Mr Gates is also investing in a one-year-old experimental genetic engineering tool for gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9, through a new front corporation EditasMedicine. While the technology itself is immature and inaccurate, it is a gold rush for new patents. The language of “gene editing” and “educated guesses” is creeping into scientific discourse. Piracy of common genomic data of millions of plants bred by peasants is termed “big data”. But big data is not knowledge, it is not even information. It is data, privateered.
Seeds are not just germ plasm. They are living. They are intelligent. They are beings and subjects of evolution, history, culture and relationships.
In the 1980s, Monsanto led the push for GMOs and patents on life. Today it is Bill Gates. One rich individual is able to use his wealth to bypass all international treaties and all multilateral governance structures to help global corporations grab the biodiversity and wealth of peasants by financing unscientific and undemocratic processes like DivSeek, and trying to unleash untested technologies like CRISPR.
Over the last two decades, humanity has taken actions and written laws to protect the biodiversity of the planet and the rights of farmers to seed, the rights of consumers to safety.
These laws include: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol to the CBD; the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources Treaty for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).
India needs to strengthen international and national laws to protect biodiversity and farmers rights. Instead, the government is taking steps to facilitate BigMac™ seed biopiracy. (she lists a few of the BigMac™ clauses as well.)
Sorry to reprint most of your essay, Miz Shiva, but I wanted to show folks exactly what you’re a bit peeved about. (seriously; thank you for all you do.)
‘Farmer Suicides and Bt Cotton Nightmare Unfolding in India’, 6/01/2010, i-isis.org (Industry disagrees strongly; fancy that.)
Now, think (German multinational) Bayer (pain, antibiotic, and other BigPharmeceuticals, and its scandalous history) merging with Monsanto genetic technologies (Its BayerCropscience business develops genetically modified crops and pesticides as well).
Then remember what many of us believed about the rescheduling of cannabis happening once Monsanto, Cargill, or Syngenta got cannabis patents as you read excerpts from this essay of Ellen Brown’s: ‘The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?’, June 24, 2016
“A major barrier to broader legalization has been the federal law under which all cannabis – even the very useful form known as industrial hemp – is classed as a Schedule I controlled substance that cannot legally be grown in the US. But that classification could change soon. In a letter sent to federal lawmakers in April, the US Drug Enforcement Administration said it plans to release a decision on rescheduling marijuana in the first half of 2016.”
Brown narrates the long history of legal cannabis usages, its wide present usages in hundreds of countries, Nixon’s war on blacks, antiwar hippies and Mexicans, although she only hints at Wm. Randolph Hearst’s part in its criminalization. But this section is worth reading in its entirety; but I’ll just bring a couple of the most relevant snippets as to beneficial health effects:
“…cannabis has now been shown to have significant therapeutic value for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, lung disease, anxiety, muscle spasms, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis pain.” [snip] “These chemicals are responsible for keeping critical biological functions in balance, including sleep, appetite, the immune system, and pain. When stress throws those functions off, the endocannabinoids move in to restore balance”; THC, the primary psychoactive component of the plant, has been found to have twenty times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.
CBD, the most-studied non-psychoactive component, also comes with an impressive list of therapeutic benefits, including not against cancer but as a super-antibiotic. CBD has been shown to kill “superbugs” that are resistant to currently available drugs.”
Any questions? I thought not.
As of this morning, the merger hasn’t happened. But when asked by Fortune Magazine this question, the Bayer PR flack’s answer was artful dodging, to say the least:
Q: Does this mean Bayer will now try to sell genetically modified Monsanto crop seeds in Europe?
A: Unlikely. Political resistance to genetically modified crops remains strong in Europe. Monsanto has only one product there, a pest-resistance variety of maize, and has given up on applications for more after officials failed to act on them despite approval by the European Food Safety Authority.
Liam Condon, head of Bayer’s crop science division, said that “the whole discussion is a political one and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Café Babylon’s GMO category (page 2), the (older) biggies being toward the bottom: ‘Bono, Obama and the G-8 Ally with Monsanto to Bio-Wreck African Agriculture’ and ‘GMO Crop Likely Tipping Point: Obama USDA to Fast-Track Zombie Crops and Okay Agent Orange 2,4-D Resistant Crops’