Thailand Might Be Required To Sacrifice Plant And Seed Sovereignty For The Sake Of Trade Agreement With EU

from the bad-deals dept

Techdirt wrote recently about African nations agreeing to a new plant variety treaty that will benefit Western seed companies at the expense of local farmers. Not surprisingly, those corporations want similar powers elsewhere, and a post on the biothai.org site from earlier this year reveals that the European Union is trying to use a so-called "free trade" agreement currently being discussed with Thailand to give it to them:

If Thailand accepts the intellectual property law in the course of the negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement of EU-Thai, Thailand would have to amend its 1999 Plant Varieties Protection Act to make Thai law consistent with the 1991 UPOV Convention.
The biothai.org post goes on to spell out how such a move is likely to affect Thai agriculture:
Thailand would have to amend its laws. It would have to abandon the principles of requesting prior authorization and benefits sharing in relation to the development of new plant varieties. This would mean that the seed companies, multinational bio-tech companies, and the big agri-businesses would not need to make a request nor share benefits when they exploit wild plants or widely available plants and local plants to develop new varieties.
That's a classic case of exploiting the plant commons without sharing any of the benefits that flow from doing so. Extended monopoly rights will make things even worse, and undermine traditional farming traditions:
Thailand would have to extend the period of corporate monopoly rights over new varieties from 12 years in most cases, to 20 years. In addition, it would open up a loophole in the law for private companies to prevent farmers from collecting seeds of the new varieties for planting in the next season, as well as preventing them from distributing and exchanging seeds with neighbours both inside and outside their community, which is a common cultural practice of farming communities.
Biothai.org believes that these changes would mean local farmers paying three times the current price for seeds, and that corporations would soon gain complete control of the seed business. Those are all depressingly familiar consequences of giving up plant and seed sovereignty, but the biothai.org story contains the following novel aspect:
Compliance with demands of the European Union or hasty government amendments to domestic laws allows the government to claim that Thailand did not amend any laws on account of the EU-Thai FTA negotiations.
That's noteworthy, because there's evidence that the European Commission is aiming to implement key US demands for TAFTA/TTIP before negotiations are completed so that it too can claim that it did not amend any laws on account of it. If the biothai.org post is correct, it's a sneaky trick that seems to be spreading.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:06am

    There is an effective treatment for such treaties:

    Plant the proponents in the nearest cesspool.

    The Directors/CEO's/CFO's/etc of these companies would become a useful addition to the biosphere instead of what they are currently.



    How long will the above be taken as a viable threat? How long before they show themselves up as fools?

    The quicker we get to a complete monoculture basis for the world's foodstuffs the sooner we will see the end of the hyoo-mahns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:13am

    So, how long until patents and copyrights will cover bread too? Cant wait to see how artificial scarcity of food makes people invent new foods...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lfroen (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 1:16am

    Yea, that's how trade agreements works

    Well, if country X want to make a deal with country Y, it may mean that country X need to fix its laws.
    This is especially true if if country Y holds upper hand in negotiations.
    There's nothing shocking that EU politicians want to take care about EU companies, that what those politicians _FOR_. That's what (those) negotiations exists for - to establish rules of business.

    Last time I checked, EU didn't invade Thailand and forced those "horrible amendments". In short - want to trade with EU - play by EU rules.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 2:44am

      'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

      Great, so what's Thailand getting out of the deal that's worth what they're giving up? I know if someone offered me a 'deal' that would allow them to have massive influence over my food sources, to even begin to humor them would require immense concessions on their part, and even that wouldn't be enough given just what they were asking for.

      If this clause is any indication of the general tone of the 'agreement', Thailand should tell them to get bent and refuse to sign, as it's blatantly clear they're being screwed. However, given they're apparently still in negotiations, I can only assume the right people have been 'generously donated to', or simply don't give a damn what they're about to inflict on their country's farmers as long as they get something out of the deal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 3:04am

        Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

        To politicians and their bureaucrats it is all a game, and backing out of an agreement process means giving up the game, while whether they 'win or lose' in the negotiations they are still in the game.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        lfroen (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 3:18am

        Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

        >> Great, so what's Thailand getting out of the deal that's worth what they're giving up?
        The answer is very simple, and a name "trade agreement" is a hint. Thailand getting (some) trade terms with EU.

        Does it worth "giving up"? I don't know, maybe you should ask Thailand's government.

        >> Thailand should tell them ...
        Do you by any chance live in Thailand or represent Thailand somehow? Or you happen to have US/EU kind of attitude where you know what's the best for every one on a planet?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 4:08am

          Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

          Does it worth "giving up"? I don't know, maybe you should ask Thailand's government.

          Yeah, funny thing about that, if this 'trade' negotiation is anything similar to any of the others currently kicking around, odds are good they wouldn't say squat. The negations are 'still in deliberations', the 'gains', though not specifically mentioned, will more than make up for any 'theoretical' problems, and since no laws will need to be changed/added/removed to comply(that they do so regardless is pure coincidence), there's no reason for people to get worked up over it.

          Do you by any chance live in Thailand or represent Thailand somehow? Or you happen to have US/EU kind of attitude where you know what's the best for every one on a planet?

          Ah the good old 'You're not allowed to offer criticism unless you're one of those involved'.

          You don't have to be a mechanic to be able to say that a car that won't drive 10 feet before stalling is broken.

          You don't have to be a programmer to say that a computer that crashes every half-hour is in dire need of fixing.

          You don't have to know how exactly a plane works to be able to point out that one that can't take off isn't working.

          And in this case, you don't have to know pretty much anything at all to realize that handing the 'keys' of your agriculture to foreign corporations, and granting them massive power when it comes to your food is a bad idea. You can get by without a lot of stuff if you really need to, but food isn't one of those things, so if someone else controls that, they have immense influence over you, especially if this 'agreement' includes a corporate sovereignty clause.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            lfroen (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 6:44am

            Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

            >> Ah the good old 'You're not allowed to offer criticism unless you're one of those involved'.
            You're "allowed" to offer you criticism all day long, but if you're not one of involved - it sounds too arrogant.

            >> You don't have to be a to be able to say that ...
            That is very match depends on X and Y. Go to fashion store nearby and try to tell people that paying that match for whatever brand is wrong. Come back and share your experience.
            In this case government gives some rights to foreign corporation in exchange to whatever that treaty promises. Is it good/right thing to do? Since those rights exists in EU, and agriculture is good there, maybe it's OK then? Do you have counterexamples?

            >> ... they have immense influence over you
            Local court have "immense influence" over me, since I will go to jail upon its decision. Corporation may refuse to sell me stuff, but it's me who vote. All these "corporate sovereignty" will evaporate overnight should local government decide so - that how international treaties works.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 7:43am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

              "Corporation may refuse to sell me stuff, but it's me who vote."

              Corporations write your laws, subvert your government, and affect your life in powerful ways even if you never buy their stuff. Their power exceeds that of your puny vote.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                lfroen (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 9:36am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

                Your hilarious ignorance shows. This point of view amazes me every time.

                >> Corporations write your laws,
                No, they don't. Politicians that _you_ vote for write them.

                >> subvert your government
                Yes, corruption is the real problem, although irrelevant to current discussion.

                >> and affect your life in powerful ways
                Or in other words "sell (or not) me some stuff". I agree, it may be important stuff (fuel, medication), but I'm free not to buy it, and - I can start my own corporation. It's still allowed in US, right?

                >> Their power exceeds that of your puny vote
                My _single_ vote may be puny, but you must know how this "democracy" thing works. Get many annoyed people, and government is thrown out.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  John Fenderson (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 10:44am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

                  "Politicians that _you_ vote for write them."

                  Much of the time, they don't. They just push legislation that was written by the major corporations. Who voted for the politicians is irrelevant.

                  "Yes, corruption is the real problem, although irrelevant to current discussion."

                  I can't think of anything more relevant to the current discussion.

                  "Get many annoyed people, and government is thrown out."

                  No, politicians can get thrown out. And they are replaced by other politicians who will behave the same way. The problem is that (with very rare exceptions) the only way a candidate is viable is by kowtowing to corporate america.

                  Our votes are puny. Voting is essential, but voting alone is woefully insufficient and will change nothing. Our political system developed strong immunity to the will of the voter a long time ago.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    lfroen (profile), 23 Sep 2015 @ 12:36pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

                    You sound American. Only there I find people that don't see that "just push legislation" mean "write laws". That's same people that want democracy, but think that "Who voted for the politicians is irrelevant".
                    If this is irrelevant, than why to have democracy anyway? Monarchy already been tried, thank you very match.

                    >> I can't think of anything more relevant to the current discussion.
                    OK, I see: "corporation leaders my bribe politicians, therefore let's not have corporations". Or is it "let's not have politicians"? Correct answer is "fight reasons for corruption by removing government interventions where unnecessary".

                    >> No, politicians can get thrown out. And they are replaced by other politicians who will behave the same way.
                    Maybe in US, where people think that "who voted is irrelevant". In other countries, politicians are replaced by other politicians that behave somewhat differently.

                    >> Our votes are puny. Voting is essential, ...
                    That doesn't compute in my head. Whatever is "puny" is anything but "essential".

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 6:42pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

                      You don't sound American. You sound like a clueless foreigner. When someone writes a law and delivers it to a politician in the US of A the congress critter that introduces the law is in no way the author of that law.

                      Wouldn't be surprised if it works that way in your country too.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      John Fenderson (profile), 24 Sep 2015 @ 7:18am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Trade' implies that both sides are getting something

                      "Only there I find people that don't see that "just push legislation" mean "write laws"."

                      It's not a hard distinction to make. Writing laws is actually writing bills. Pushing legislation is selling those bills to Congress so they become laws. A lot of US law was never written by elected officials, but directly by corporations who then pay a lot of money to get them made into law.

                      "That's same people that want democracy, but think that "Who voted for the politicians is irrelevant""

                      No contradiction. We want democracy, but don't have it.

                      ""corporation leaders my bribe politicians, therefore let's not have corporations". Or is it "let's not have politicians""

                      What? I didn't assert either of those things, and I don't agree with either.

                      "That doesn't compute in my head. Whatever is "puny" is anything but "essential"."

                      Your body requires microscopic amounts of certain nutrients in order to live. Those nutrients are puny, but essential.

                      In other words, voting is important and essential, but is not powerful enough to solve anything all by itself. Not voting can derail efforts to fix our corrupt system, though. So, puny, but essential.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 3:18am

    Shit... I sort of understood the issue with Africa given the local climate and the... cultural issues.

    But Thailand has no soil fertility problem, so this has to be squarely about the money and not sustainability. Utterly deplorable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 3:26am

    Time I think

    It is past time that smaller countries to band together and as a united front tell larger entities; countries, international companies/corporations and trading blocs to fuck off, they aren't interested in being treated as a commodity to be traded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 3:28am

    Food copyright

    So basically, companies want a global food monopoly using copyright to suck every last pip of profit they can?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John C, 23 Sep 2015 @ 6:10am

    It's official

    We are living in a Paolo Bacigalupi novel. "The Windup Girl," specifically.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 9:22am

    " it would open up a loophole in the law for private companies to prevent farmers from collecting seeds of the new varieties for planting in the next season, as well as preventing them from distributing and exchanging seeds with neighbours both inside and outside their community, which is a common cultural practice of farming communities."

    Gosh, that almost sounds like it was written by Monsanto.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2015 @ 9:27am

    all these 'agreements' are done for one reason only and that is to make certain businesses and the heads, a hell of a lot of money, while ensuring the ordinary people get totally shafted. every government is going down the same path and selling their peoples souls for a penny, but making an enormous profit for the members. the really disgusting thing about all the 'deals' is that they are all instrumented by the USA and that is scary. it hasn't managed to sort its own finances out since causing the World Financial Crisis of 2007-08. what it's trying to do, by force mind you, is ensure that the next crisis will affect everyone else but not the USA. it will be sitting there blackmailing every other country it has a 'deal' with, effectively taking over the World without firing a shot! the consequences to the people will be catastrophic, but who gives a toss about those who have no money but do the crap jobs? when things change and those who think they are above working find they have no choice but to get stuck in and get their hands dirty, it's gonna look a whole lot different!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 23 Sep 2015 @ 5:06pm

    Time for a speedy trial for those pushing the treaties

    Treason against mankind is a offence that should have a death sentence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 24 Sep 2015 @ 12:06am

    It's just a more recent frontier of the Commons that business wants exclusive right to exploit at little or no cost, and sell you what they get out of it at a significant markup while externalizing all other costs and consequences. Treatment of employees and customers to taste.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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