The Other Abu Ghraib

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


It is Iraqi, it is smaller than a breadbox and it shares the same name as the infamous prison. Any clues? Another hint: its edible. Give up? It’s a strain of wheat called ‘Abu Ghraib,’ indigenous to Iraq and once housed in Iraq’s national gene bank. Indeed, once upon a time Iraqi farmers cultivated a multitude of wheat varieties, saving their own seeds from year to year specially selected and cross-pollinated to grow in the Iraqi region – a farming history stretching back over 10,000 years.

Yet through a variety of factors, much of this heritage has been lost – although the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas in Syria has been able to preserve a sampling of Iraqi developed varieties.

One might think that as the U.S. lead coalition works to rebuild Iraq, preserving this agricultural heritage would be of first importance – not only reconstituting Iraq’s devastated farming industry, but also restoring the indigenous genetic varieties.

Instead, as a recent report notes, $107 million are being spent to turn Iraq into a U.S.-style high-yield corporate agriculture business. And instead of preserving the indigenous genetic heritage, new strains of genetically modified seeds will be introduced from the United States – strains developed and patented by U.S. corporations for profit. And of course, once the newly reconstituted Iraqi farms start to grow these patented GM strains, they will also need to purchase the corresponding pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals, also sold by U.S. corporations. Get the picture?

And thanks to Paul Bremer’s orders that he put into place before leaving Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be able to save seeds from year to year to replant – after all, U.S. corporate interests must be protected, and so we must insure that Iraqi farmers will be required to buy new seeds every planting season.

I encourage you to read this entire article.

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate