From The Corporate Enclosure of Seeds Intensifies:
"The enclosure of seeds took another nasty turn this week as ag-biotech companies sought to make it illegal to grow, reproduce or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been tested and approved by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency.” In effect, unauthorized gardening or farming would be prohibited. The noose of proprietary control over natural processes grows tighter!
The ostensible reason for the new EU law is to fix the “complexity and fragmentation” of existing legislation covering seeds. Different EU countries have different seed laws, causing “uncertainties and discrepancies” in market practices and regulatory enforcement. The new law is supposedly needed to “harmonize” the laws, and in so doing, “reduce cost and administrative burdens and support innovation.”
But the upshot of the new law is to squeeze out commons-based alternatives to proprietary seeds. Again, the commons is seen as a form of unwanted competition to the market. The new law, if enacted, could make it illegal for companies to grow and sell heirloom and rare varieties of vegetables and other plants. It would shrink the zone of legality now enjoyed by seed banks, organic growers, home gardeners and small-scale market farmers. (More about the proposed law can be found at the Real Seed Collection website.)
These types of growers would be put at a disadvantage because seeds would have to be tested and approved before they could be distributed and sold. Of course, this would favor large multinational corporations that have the resources and lawyers to game the system, shape the market and exclude competitors (including commoners).
The proposed EU law, “Plant Reproductive Material Law,” threw a few bones to amateur growers, who are allowed to save and swap “unapproved” seeds. And organizations can do so, too, so long as they have fewer than ten employees.
But the real point is that the future of seeds would be controlled by an EU bureaucracy and the major companies that dominate its policymaking. If your seeds aren’t on the “approved list,” well, you are a pirate….a scofflaw….a brigand.
That’s the whole point of enclosure, of course: to declare the commons illegal and shut it down as a source of subsistence and survival. And don’t go about thinking that generous concessions today amount to much – because they are likely to be attacked tomorrow.
I have heard of a proposal a few years ago to establish a General Public License for Plant Germplasm, in order to do for seeds what the GPL did for software. If you know of any efforts afoot on this front, please let us know. Update: Here's how US taxpayers are supporting US State Department efforts to promote Monsanto's biotech seeds around the world." - David Bollier