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Planting new seeds of discontent



There it is again -- that big, wet smooching sound you hear every time big business gets together with big government. This time it's the U.S. Department of Agriculture playing kissy-face with the giants of agribusiness, which keep finding new ways to mess with Mother Nature for their own fun and profit. In their latest scheme, government scientists and corporate profiteers have teamed up to mess up one of nature's basics: seeds.

Ever since there has been agriculture, farmers have saved their seeds from the year's crop to replant for the next year's. Not just economic sense, this is also an ecological boon, because so many farmers saving so many seeds helps strengthen local strains and promote a broad genetic diversity in the world's crops. Selecting, saving and exchanging seeds with neighbors is just smart agriculture.

So along come the geniuses at USDA, using our tax dollars to develop a seed that will not germinate when replanted, thus putting an end to seed-saving by farmers.

Who would want such non-germinating seeds? The seed corporations, of course, since it means every farmer in the world would have to come to them each year and buy new seeds.

USDA has recently issued a patent to the Delta and Pine Land Corporation -- the world's largest cotton-seed company -- to control and sell this genetically-perverse crop technology. Appropriately enough, these barren seeds are known as "Terminators."

The world's farmers and the genetic diversity of our food supply are in danger of being terminated by this twisted technology. So why did USDA pursue it? The goal, according to an agency spokes-man, is "to increase the value of proprietary seeds owned by U.S. seed companies."

Silly me. I thought USDA's goal was to serve the needs of consumers and farmers -- not increase the profits of agribusiness corporations.

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