Food Security in Iraq
Compiled by Jessica Maxwell

Graphic: Eric Drooker

As many of us begin to plan and seed our gardens here in CNY, our thoughts turn to the Iraqi people. What has the US occupation done to Iraq's food system?

Food: US Weapon of Mass Destruction
In October 2005, Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, accused the US and Britain of withholding food and water from Iraqi cities in order to pressure civilians into fleeing. Sources have described the practice in accounts from Falluja, Najaf, Samarra, and Tal Afar. While some may view this as an effective military strategy - forcing civilians to evacuate in order to engage insurgents - it violates international law and basic human rights, and gives the Iraqi people one more reason to despise occupation forces.

It is often not effective. Many civilians will not flee - because they are too afraid, have no where else to go, or are unwilling to desert their homes. The most vulnerable may be physically unable to leave. At the same time, the US military has often prevented male civilians of "fighting age" from leaving (it's a violation of international law to prevent civilians from evacuating), accusing them of being insurgents (see Dahr Jamail's articles on Fallujah, www.dahrjamailiraq.com).

Mandating Malnutrition
According to a 2005 UN report, "Malnutrition rates in [Iraqi] children under five have almost doubled since the US-led invasion." This fact is absolutely staggering given that pre-invasion Iraq suffered under more than a decade of devastating sanctions that led to the premature death of 500,000 children. Add the economic policies of the International Monetary Fund to the US military occupation and a truly desperate scenario unfolds.

In 2004, the IMF loaned Iraq $436 million. As part of the loan package, they pressured the Iraqi government to slash the fuel and food subsidies that comprise approximately one third of Iraq's budget. An estimated 60 percent of the Iraqi population rely on these food rations. As of 2005, the Iraqi government had not complied with this or other IMF policy recommendations, but the pressure will only increase as the new Iraqi government looks for future loans to help rebuild its economy.

Project Censored on Iraqi Farmers
Project Censored's top 25 censored stories of 2006 lists the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) impact on Iraqi farmers as number eight. War and sanctions have devastated Iraq's agricultural infrastructure and seed stock. Rather than use regional resources and techniques to replenish traditional seed varieties, the US is supporting the use of genetically modified and patented seed varieties.

Under administrator Paul Bremer, the CPA issued 100 orders altering various Iraqi laws. "Order 81: Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law" allows corporations and individuals to patent new varieties of seeds - referred to as Plant Variety Protection (PVP). It is illegal for Iraqi farmers to save and replant varieties registered under this law. This order overrides Iraq's 1970 patent law prohibiting private ownership of biological resources. It even allows farmers to be fined if they reuse traditional seed that has been contaminated by PVP seed.

The impact of this law becomes clear when we note that: 1) currently 97% of Iraqi farmers save their seed or buy seed at local markets, and 2) a $107 million project coordinated by Texas A&M intends to distribute new equipment and PVP protected seeds to Iraqi farmers. This pyramid of food insecurity wouldn't be complete without expensive, environmentally destructive chemicals. As part of the Texas A&M project, Monsanto, Cargill and Dow Chemical will introduce pesticides and herbicides for use with the new crops.

In the long term, this aid will be costly for Iraqi farmers who begin planting patented seed varieties. Instead of saving seed from their harvest, they will have to purchase new seed as well as costly chemicals and equipment necessary for these new varieties to thrive. Iraq's centuries-old agricultural system is being replaced with an unsustainable, corporate-dominated system.

For more information, visit www.grain.org - a search of their website for articles on Iraq will produce a variety of food related pieces.


80% of the oil illegally smuggled out of Iraq under
“oil for food” ended up in the US

"The real oil for Food Scam", www.projectcensored.org