Patents on life and the new biotechnologies are today’s tools of imperialism, and they are a core part of the global “constitution” called the WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules of free trade in the form of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The phrase “Trade Related” had to be forcefully linked to intellectual property precisely because intellectual property has no place in a trade treaty and patents should not have been extended to cover life forms as they were under Act 27.3(b) of TRIPS which forces countries to patent life forms, in particular micro-organisms and genetically engineered plants and animals. These rules and laws were made by and for corporations. As a Monsanto spokesperson stated about the drafting of TRIPs “we were the patient, the diagnostician, the physician”.
Patents of life are a total control system. They allow corporations to claim ownership over life forms – microorganisms, plants, animals. They allow corporations to define the acts of saving and sharing seeds as “intellectual property crimes”. And they allow the crime of biopiracy – the theft of traditional knowledge and biopiracy to be treated as a right.
A patent is an exclusive right to own, make, sell, produce, use a patented product.
A patent on seed implies that a farmer saving seed is an “intellectual property thief ”. But it means more. A system in which seed has become a corporate monopoly, a system in which a few companies control the seed supply is in effect a system of slavery for farmers. Where the freedom of seed disappears, the freedom of farmers disappears.
This is why, in 1987, we started Navdanya means nine seeds which symbolises the richness of biodiversity. It also means the new gift which for us is the gift of seed as a commons and a source of life.
The Green Revolution was an exemplar of the deliberate destruction of diversity. The new biotechnologies, are repeating and deepening these tendencies, rather than reversing them. Further, the new technologies in combination with patent monopolies being pushed through intellectual property rights regimes in GATT/WTO and other trade platforms are threatening to transform the diversity of life forms into mere raw material for industrial production, and limitless profits. They are simultaneously threatening the regenerative freedom of diverse species, and the free and sustainable economy of small peasants and producers which is based on nature’s diversity and its utilization.
The seed, for example, reproduces itself and multiples. Farmers use seed both as grain as well as for the next year’s crop. Seed is free, both in the ecological sense of reproducing itself, as well as in the economic sense of reproducing the farmers livelihood. This seed freedom is however a major obstacle for seed corporations. If the market for seed has to be created, the seed has to be transformed materially, so that reproducibility is blocked and its status has to be changed legally, so that instead of being the common property of farming communities, it becomes the patented private property of Seed Corporation. Over the last 25 years Navdanya has both protected and conserved seeds and biodiversity as part of Bija Swaraj. (seed freedom). We have also resisted laws that threaten our seed freedom.