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2-Plants: Terminator technology: Five years later

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TITLE:  Terminator Technology & Exorcist Technology:
        New Issues and Old Controversies
SOURCE: ETC Group, Canada, USA, News Release
DATE:   Apr 1, 2003

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Terminator Technology & Exorcist Technology: New Issues and Old Controversies

The ETC Group (formerly known as RAFI) today releases "Terminator
Technology: Five Years Later," a report on new issues and controversies
surrounding the ongoing development of genetic seed sterilization -
plants genetically engineered to render sterile seeds. Terminator
technology is being developed as a biological mechanism to extinguish the
right of farmers to save and re-plant seeds from their harvest, thus
creating greater dependence on the commercial seed market.

ETC Group also reports on "Exorcist Technology," the biotech industry's
recent attempt to develop genetically modified crops that shed their
foreign DNA before harvest - with the help of chemical inducers - as a
means of silencing anti-GM critics. "Exorcist is a new technology, but
the basic strategy is the same - the biotech industry wants to shift all
the burden to the farmer and society. If gene flow is a problem, the
farmer will be obliged to apply a chemical inducer to excise the
offensive transgenes. It's the newest bag of genetic tricks to fix the
biotech industry's leaky genes and public relations problems," explains
Hope Shand of ETC Group.

"We're still discovering new patent claims on Terminator, this time by
Syngenta, and now the seed industry and the US Department of Agriculture
are boldly extolling the virtues of Terminator technology for small
farmers and indigenous peoples," explains Shand.

"Even more dangerous, industry is greenwashing Terminator by promoting it
as a biosafety tool," says Jim Thomas of ETC Group. "The promotion of
Terminator seeds as a biosafety mechanism to prevent GM pollution is
biotech's Trojan Horse," explains Thomas, "If Terminator technology wins
market acceptance under the guise of biosafety, it will eventually be
used everywhere as a monopoly tool to prevent farmers from saving and re-
using seed."

Even UPOV, the international body that promotes plant breeders' rights,
concedes that Terminator has "considerable disadvantages for society." A
new memo from UPOV explains that Terminator will hinder access to genetic

If ministers of trade, agriculture and environment accept the US
government's invitation to attend the Sacramento Ministerial Conference
on Agricultural Science and Technology, June 23-25, the ETC Group
recommends that the US government be held accountable for its role in
developing, patenting and licensing Terminator technology. The meeting is
sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture (owner of 3 Terminator
patents), US AID, and the US Department of State. "If the US government
plans to showcase biotech's new and controversial agricultural
technologies for the South in the lead up to the WTO Ministerial in
Canc?n, it should begin by explaining why it supports an anti-farmer,
anti-diversity technology for use in the developing world - where 1.4
billion people depend on farm-saved seeds," advises Silvia Ribeiro of ETC

Five years later, Terminator is not dead yet. Together with hundreds of
civil society, farmers' and indigenous peoples organizations worldwide,
ETC Group concludes that the only solution is for governments to
recommend a global ban on suicide seeds.

The full text of the 10-page report on Terminator is now available:

For more information:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico)
Hope Shand, ETC Group (USA)
Jim Thomas, ETC Group (UK)

The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly RAFI,
is an international civil society organization headquartered in Canada.
The ETC group is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and ecological
diversity and human rights. The ETC group is also a
member of the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation
Programme (CBDC). The CBDC is a collaborative experimental initiative
involving civil society organizations and public research institutions in
14 countries. The CBDC is dedicated to the exploration of community-
directed programmes to strengthen the conservation and enhancement of
agricultural biodiversity. The CBDC website is