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Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten | 28.04.14
(Translated for bilaterals.org by Natalie Neumann)
Free trade agreement with the US threatening fruit and vegetable diversity
The seed industry apparently plans to take advantage of the free trade agreement between the US and the EU (TTIP) to enforce its patents in the European market place. In the US, Monsanto has filed 142 court cases against farmers for mixing seed in the last years. This tactic could also work in Europe.
Before the vote on the draft EU seed legislation in March 2014, 700,000 citizens in Germany and Austria signed a petition against this draft. The campaign was initiated by the organisation “Freiheit für die Vielfalt” [Freedom for Diversity]. The European Union reacted to this pressure from EU citizens who do not want someone telling them what kind of fruits and vegetables they are allowed to grow in their gardens.
The citizen initiative is now hoping that the new EU Commissioner will withdraw the draft that rejected in the first reading, and undertake a new attempt involving all stakeholders.
A renewed effort of international seed companies to limit diversity could lie ahead this fall. The Austrian Green Party is warning citizens in their EU election campaign with country-wide billboards stating, “My tomatoes should not become illegal” (see here).
“There is a possibility that a new EU Commissioner will provide a new draft after the EU election, however definitely not before the end of this year”, said Benedikt Haerlin, initiator of the campaign, in response to the Deutsche Wirtschaftnachrichten (German Economic News). “The struggle for seed diversity will then proceed into a second, decisive round. International seed companies will search for novel ways to pursue their industrial aims and prevail in their hybrid seed norms against self-reproducing varieties and diversity. The planned free trade agreement between the EU and the US (TTIP) could also play a role in this process.”
The agreement could suit the corporate seed producers very well. In the US, genetically modified crops are easily approved. Furthermore, the companies have won a legal provision that overrules court decisions. Monsanto and others are, therefore, immune to lawsuits (see here).
On the other hand, Monsanto has won numerous court cases as plaintiff against farmers. The US Supreme Court sentenced a farmer to a harsh penalty for mixing Monsanto seed with other seed (here).
By 2013, Monsanto had initiated 142 court cases for alleged patent violations on seed varieties. The company has won more than US$23 million in compensation by suing farmers for alleged violations (here).
The TTIP will allow US companies to implement this tactic in the EU. They could cause farmers innumerable problems by accusing them of seed contamination. Accompanied by appropriate investment protection provisions, states would find themselves obligated to guarantee free market conditions to multinational companies and compensate them for violations of these rights (read more here).