managed locally, transparently and democratically,not by corporations. Ensuring that water is viewed asa human right and not a commodity will go a longway toward creating an atmosphere where increas-ingly scarce freshwater is managed in the publicinterest around the world.
Privatizing Access to Good Food?
Increasingly, policymakers are inuenced by agri
-cultural interests to turn to technologies like geneticengineering, irradiation, growth hormones, and evencloning, but the technologies themselves do not comewithout risk — and they drive policies that privatizeaccess to safe food. Like water technologies thatcommodify water, food technologies afford no incen-tive to protect the environment, build equitable foodsystems or maintain safety standards for consumers.Genetically engineered (GE) foods are a good exam-ple. First, there is no way to guarantee that GE seedsor animals can be restricted to a certain parcel of landor sea, since seeds naturally travel through pollina-tion, and GE animals can escape into natural environ-ments. A farmer’s livelihood could be destroyed byan unwanted invasion of GE seed onto his property,ruining his ability to sell GE-free or organic products— and farmers have even been sued by the creatorsof GE crops for contamination found on their farmsfrom someone else’s crops. Likewise, geneticallyengineered salmon that escape from the nets of open
ocean sh farms could be detrimental to wild salmon
populations.Secondly, GE organisms literally privatize naturethrough the patenting of DNA, and concentrate theminto the hands of a few players. The U.S. industry
for genetically modied seeds and genetic traits isextremely consolidated: In 2007, two rms sold 58percent of the corn seeds, and in 2005, two rms sold
60 percent of the soybean seeds. What’s worse, de-velopment regimes push expensive GE seeds on poorfarmers around the world instead of supporting moresustainable, low-input and local means of feedingthemselves.A vibrant commons, including options for farmersto sell their product for a fair price and a diversity of seeds and breeds to plant, is necessary for vital foodproducing communities, which are in turn vital tohealthy food systems.
Our Ocean Commons
Like our land-based commons, our ocean commonsare under threat from our food system. Two bad prac-tices that are being promoted in the U.S. that threat-en the ocean commons are open ocean aquaculture(OOA) and catch and trade schemes. Also known
as ocean sh farming, OOA is the highly pollutingmass-production of sh using oating cages or net
pens in open ocean waters. In the U.S., we export
70 percent of sh caught or farmed here. If current
seafood trends continue, with OOA, we’ll export the
sh, but keep the pollution. It’s essentially the freeuse of our ocean commons for the biggest shinginterests to pollute and prot.
Another scheme that is privatizing our ocean com-mons is catch shares, or catch and trade. At itsessence, catch and trade is a means to allow almost
complete control of our sheries by bigger businessinterests. It often forces smaller historic shermenout of the industry, skews sheries toward industrial
production, and decreases job opportunities andwages for crew, leading to widespread devastation in
coastal and shing communities.
The unsafe practice of drilling off of deep water alsoimperils the ocean commons and the communities
that benet from it, as the Deepwater Horizon disas
-ter in April 2010 illustrated.
How Trade Deals Can Be Bad For TheCommons and the Communities
Corporations use political inuence to lobby for
trade deals that put global commerce ahead of thecommons. Trade deals essentially open up the com-mons for global business and erode environmentaland consumer safeguards. Governments can evenlose the ability to manage their own natural resourc-es under international trade regimes like the WorldTrade Organization (WTO).Trade deals are often promoted as vehicles for jobcreation, but too often the jobs created are low-wage jobs producing low-priced goods for consumers