Order 81's Effect on Iraqi Agriculture, Iraq

Following the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. issued Order 81, prohibiting farmers from saving seeds. This devastated the agriculture sector by creating a reliance on corporations despite financial, environmental, and socio-economic risks and consequences.


Following the 2003 war and invasion of the United States (U.S) war on  Iraq, the U.S. government appointed diplomat Paul Bremer, as the head of the occupational authority in Iraq. Bremer issued several Orders for a "rebuilding" effort, one of which was Order 81, aimed at reforming Iraq's seed industry - previously centralized and resulting in a rich seed variety over the pre-war years.

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Basic Data
NameOrder 81's Effect on Iraqi Agriculture, Iraq
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Biopiracy and bio-prospection
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Military installations
Specific Commoditiesseeds
Fruits and Vegetables
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe US had long-term interests in developing markets in Afghanistan, but Iraq was already the number one destination for its hard red winter wheat exports and a top destination for its rice. It is a US$1.5bn market that wasn’t accessible to US companies before the invasion, because of the sanctions.

The US came into Iraq with a heavy agenda for reforming all sectors of its economy, not just agriculture. However, the US’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) could not enforce its neoliberal reform programme as rapidly as it sought to, because it was subject to a series of constraints: the laws of the Geneva Convention, the practical constraints of a lack of interest by investors, and the urgent need for some form of organisation to cater to the basic needs of the Iraqi population. Despite this, the CPA managed to enact a harsh set of neoliberal policies that had a major impact on the country. Indeed, the impact of the reforms, combined with the continuing war, has been so catastrophic that by January 2009, the Chairman of the Iraqi Union of Industries confirmed that 90 per cent of the country’s industries had closed since 2003.

USAID launched two new programmes, after ARDI closed in 2006, – a US$343 million Inma Agribusiness Program and Izdihar (Iraq Private Sector Growth and Employment Generation). Both programmes are being carried out by the Loius Berger Group Inc., one of the world’s largest infrastructure and development consultancies, and they are designed to prepare the way for agribusiness investment in the food industry.

These agriculture reconstruction programmes also serve a military function and are immersed in military operations. Of the US$250 million of “reconstruction” funds that the US has so far spent on the 581 agricultural projects that it has either proposed, planned or completed since the beginning of the invasion, more than 97 per cent of the projects have been paid for with funds from the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP), which is managed by the “Multi-National Corps-Iraq”. Only 2.4 per cent of these projects have been funded by the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, which is supervised by the US’s Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. CERP was initially funded by way of the cash and assets that the US military seized from the former Iraqi government. After the US military had spent these seized funds by early 2004, just before the Coalition Provisional Authority came to an end, the US decided to keep CERP going with appropriations from the US government. Of the 552 agricultural reconstruction projects the US has started in Iraq, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq have managed 536, the US Army Corps of Engineers have managed six, and USAID has managed only ten.
Level of Investment (in USD)around $500,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date01/05/2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesCargill from United States of America
Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Dow Chemical Company from United States of America
Relevant government actorsUS Government, Commander´s Emergency Response Program, Coalition Provisional Authority, USAID
International and Financial InstitutionsUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID) (USAID) from United States of America
Multi-National Corps-Iraq - Fought the Iraq War and managed CERP
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersInstitute of Near Eastern & African Studies


Green Party of the United States


Focus on the Global South

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)UNKNOWN
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Monsanto Tribunal and People´s Assembly
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts, Malnutrition
OtherIn 2005, United Nations human rights experts reported that about 25 percent of Iraqi children regularly did not have enough to eat, while 7.7 percent faced acute malnourishment.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseNew legislation
Development of AlternativesThe Green Party endorsed International Seeds Day on April 26, and asked for repeal of Order 81 which makes Iraqi farmers dependent on US firms. ISD, organized by the Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS), will educate the public and media about the importance of biodiversity and seed saving; the dangers of genetically modified food and patent seeds; the ruinous effect of Order 81 on Iraqi agriculture; and the growing resistance to the power of giant agribusinesses over seed resources.

The Green Party of the United States called on President Obama and Congress to repeal Order 81 immediately.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.According to more recent reports it seems Law No. 15 of 2013 cancelled Order 81 Articles 51-79 concerning plant variety registration and release.
Sources and Materials

Order 81
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[8] Monsanto Tribunal
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[1]The soils of war

GRAIN | 09 March 2009
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[2] FAOSTAT, stats on the numbers about Iraqi Agriculture
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[5] After Iraq's military defeat, Monsanto swept in to seize control of all agriculture, Wednesday, August 24, 2016 by: J. D. Heyes
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[6] “Neoliberalism in a Conflict State: The Viability of Economic Shock Therapy in Iraq”, Strategic Insights, Vol. III, No. 6, June 2004

[3] Rich Magnani and Sawsan Al-Sharifi, “Reform and Rehabilitation of Iraq’s agricultural sector: The case of the Iraqi wheat sector”, USAID–Iraq, 2005
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[4] Latha Jishnu: Order 81 and the plunder of farming

Latha Jishnu | New Delhi Last Updated at January 20, 2013 20:02 IST
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[7] Iraq: Restoring Occupation-ruined Agricultural , Dahlia Wasfi, Mint press news, 15 December 2016
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Media Links

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi's, a physician and environmental activist, speech in 2008.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Monsanto Tribunal
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Dr. Dahlia Wafsi and Paul Bremer
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBahaa Zaatiti
Last update12/02/2019