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Letters: What’s the true value of life?

A recent article by Allan Dawson on seed royalties included this statement under the ‘why it matters’ heading: “The seed industry says Canadian farmers need to pay more for cereals varieties to make farms profitable.”

In my understanding of the world there is a lot of history behind that statement, history which we need to revisit.

Historically farming has never been about being profitable, it has always been about surviving within the context of a living world. Our first responsibility has always been stewardship of the land, and the husbandry of the life, plant or animal that we have been entrusted with.

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Profitability is a new measure of worth which began to take shape post-Second World War when we entered a new age of mass production and mass consumerism. Part of this age of avarice was the idea of “free free enterprise,” which became part of the green revolution. In connection with this idea was a restructuring of federal tax collection, which shifted the tax load away from the corporate world to that of the middle class.

This shift put more dollars into the hands of the corporate world, while reducing the ability of the federal government to invest in public institutions such as universities and research stations. As a direct result companies such as Monsanto (now Bayer) were able to buy their way into our public institutions, the University of Manitoba being a case in point. In so doing private corporations have begun to exercise private control over public institutions.

In the early 1990s, laws were passed that gave private individuals and corporations the right to control knowledge of life genetics as a private-owned patented right. Knowledge which our universities had always disclosed as being part of the public good now has become a private venture, a commodity bought and sold.

Life itself has become a privately controlled commodity and is in its way, a form of enslavement.

Lost in this debate of “royalties” is the fact that we had in our past a system of publicly funded research and development which was done as a public good. This fact is highlighted in the editorial by Gord Gilmour within the same publication where the work done by Ron DePauw is reviewed.

So, a question I would like to see asked is, “Why have we shifted from a system that worked, that was done as a public good, to one of private control masked as a public good?”

In my understanding we are in our quest to become rich and privately successful, pursuing a pig in the poke. We are putting the needs of a monetary system ahead of the needs of a life system, and in so doing I fear we are losing sight of our purpose which I believe is to take care of the lives we have been entrusted with.

Wayne James
Beausejour, Man.

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