The Other Abu Ghraib

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend