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2-Plants: UPOV forced to abandon terminator critique

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TITLE:  Who Calls the Shots at UPOV?
        US Government and Multinational Seed Industry Force UPOV to
        Abandon Critique of Terminator
SOURCE: ETC Group, USA/Canada, Genotypes 17
DATE:   April 2003

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Who Calls the Shots at UPOV?
US Government and Multinational Seed Industry Force UPOV to Abandon Critique of 

The full text of this document is available on the ETC Group website:

After two days of intense diplomatic wrangling in Geneva, US patent officials 
succeeded in turning the expert advice of an intergovernmental secretariat 
critical of Terminator technology into little more than a promotional paper for 
plant breeders' rights.

On April 10-11, US government representatives worked hard in Geneva to convince 
51 other countries that the expert advice of the Union for the Protection of New 
Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is wrong and that UPOV is "not competent" to comment 
on the possible intellectual property implications of Terminator seeds. The 
paper in question, a memorandum prepared by UPOV's Secretariat at the request of 
member governments of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), was 
presented to an Expert Panel convened by the CBD in Montreal, February 19-21. 
The Expert Panel met to examine the implications of Terminator seed technology 
for small farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities. Although UPOV's 
paper was presented at the Montreal meeting, and had been available on UPOV's 
web site since January, UPOV bowed to US pressure and gutted the memorandum, 
replacing it with a sanitized and shorter "position paper" that carries none of 
the criticisms of the original report.

In withdrawing its memo on GURTs, UPOV has allowed the US government, owner of 
three patents on Terminator technology, to sanitize and erase the 
intergovernmental organizations' perspective on an important policy issue with 
direct relevance to plant intellectual property.

UPOV's new document is completely irrelevant because it fails to respond to the 
CBD's request and offers no new information about the intellectual property 
implications of Terminator. The withdrawal of the UPOV memo has also confounded 
the work of the CBD's Expert Panel on GURTs that met in February to consider the 
impact of Terminator on small farmers, indigenous people and local communities.

Terminating UPOV? The seedy squabble over Terminator technology illustrates the 
bigger issue of UPOV's diminishing position in today's rapidly changing 
intellectual property climate. On the one hand, the Americans and Japanese 
continue to stretch the boundaries of conventional patents to supersede and 
override UPOV-style plant variety protection. On the other hand, new 
technologies such as Terminator threaten to make legal forms of monopoly control 
over plant germplasm obsolete. Why bother with plant variety protection when 
Terminator gives you timeless, limitless protection without the need for lawyers 
and courts?

The Bottom Line: UPOV has succumbed to the strong-arm tactics of the US 
government and the multinational seed industry, both of whom have vested 
financial interests in Terminator technology. If member governments of UPOV had 
any doubts about who determines policy within the Union, they need only examine 
the recent case of Terminator.

The original UPOV memo and the correspondence between UPOV and the US 
government, as well as the ISF letter to UPOV, can be viewed here:

For more information please see, "Terminator Five Years Later," a new ETC 
Communique that provides additional updates on Terminator, new patents, and 
more. The full text is available on the ETC web site: