The problem is that although it is traditional for farmers in Southern African countries to share seeds and their knowledge about them, it also is becoming common practice for other countries to profit from the seeds and their healing benefits without compensating the original farmers.
"Pharmaceutical corporations are privatizing and patenting the genes of plants to sell for profit," she continues. "It is actually the stealing of plants that were once shared and given as gifts from indigenous farmers throughout 7,000 years of agriculture."
Thompson says the corporate pillaging of seeds is destroying the world's biodiversity, and the book stresses the need for policy alternatives.
"With trade policies as open as they are, fields and species are often destroyed or polluted by newer genetically modified organisms," Thompson notes. "The healing properties of indigenous plants also define local communities, which are becoming powerless as corporations get stronger."
Thompson cites the plant hoodia, nurtured by the San peoples in Southern Africa, as an example of trade agreements gone wrong. When nomadic hunters and gatherers pointed out its characteristics as a hunger-suppressing plant, corporations quickly produced a diet pill, making millions in profit, but only .0001 percent of the profit goes back to the San.
"I am a political economist who is seeing that if you only spend time taking local initiatives, you can be crushed by international laws and control," she says.
Thompson's current work with Southern African farmers includes working on policies to protect their knowledge about adapting crops for the implications of climate change.
She has served as a consultant for various international organizations, including the Southern African Development Community, the Food and Agriculture Organization of
|Contact: Diane Rechel|
Northern Arizona University