GENET archive


2-Plants: Update on Terminator discussion (2)

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Half a million sign representation to protest Terminator seed
SOURCE: Khaleej Times, India
DATE:   18 Mar 2006

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Half a million sign representation to protest Terminator seed technology

HYDERABAD -- About half a million farmers from Southern states of India
have urged the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to protect country's agro
biodiversity against the new and serious threat from the Terminator seeds

The representation by the South Against Genetic Engineering, a coalition
of 50 South Indian networks of farmers, civil society groups, consumer
movements, scientists and academicians has been made at a time when the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is in session in Brazil.

The session is to take a decision on the technology. Significantly India
is the leader of the Group of Like Minded Megadiverse Countries (LMMCs)
at this session. P.V. Sateesh, the coordinator of SAGE told newsmen in
Hyderabad on Thursday that the attempts by the biotech industry to make
entry into the developing countries like India pose a grave threat to the
farming communities dependent on agrobiodiversity.

The representation has been signed by over half a million farmers and
concerned citizens across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and
Maharashtra. "Terminator, the popular terminology used to describe
Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTS) is the ultimate in killing the
freedom of seed saving practices of farmers in India which is in vogue
since millennia," he said.

Stressing that seed and agriculture has always represented life in India,
Sateesh said that Terminator completely contradicts this image and brings
death through seeds. "Seed is the symbol of reproduction for us. But
Terminator seeds offer sterility. This is a diabolical science which
subverts the basic reproductive function of nature," he said.

                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Will `terminator' seed tech gain entry?
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India
DATE:   19 Mar 2006

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Will `terminator' seed tech gain entry?

South Against Genetic Engineering wants Govt to continue ban

Fact file
Seed of the crop grown from terminator seeds cannot be used, since the
technology renders it sterile and, hence, don't germinate.
Is the `terminator' seed technology, set to make its entry into the country?

Yes, argues a group called the South Against Genetic Engineering (SAGE),
and wants the Union Government, to be firm on continuing the ban on it.

More than five years ago the Centre had imposed the ban following an
uproar from NGOs, farmers and a section of scientists.

Terminator was the term used to describe Genetic Use Restriction
Technology (GURTS), which threatened to usurp the rights of farmers to
save seed, through a new technology.

SAGE, which is a network of people from different sections of society
from South India, plans to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Dr
Manmohan Singh, on March 20 with five lakh signatures from people across
Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu urging him to
continue the ban on Terminator seed technology.

SAGE is also timing the event just a day before the Convention on
Biological Diversity (CBD) sits and take a decision on whether to
continue the ban or not.

What is terminator technology? If we use terminator seeds and grow a crop
we cannot use the seed from that crop, since the technology renders it
sterile and hence don't germinate.

US backing

At a press conference here, the SAGE convenor, Mr P.V. Satheesh, said
though it was banned, Australia, Canada and New Zealand had regrouped
under the backing of the US that was not even a signatory to the CBD.

At CBD's first meeting in Granada, Spain, in January 2006, he said the
Terminators were successful in watering down the current moratorium on
the technology to a "case-by-case" consideration by different Governments.

The recent US-India agriculture agreements also provide another
frightening context to the introduction of the terminator technology into

The US is aggressively pushing its genetic engineering industry all over
the world and India is its latest, he said.

SAGE felt that the Centre should argue that the ban was in the interest
of conservation of biodiversity, farming and indigenous populations and
livelihoods of farmers.

                                 PART III
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TITLE:  Many Swiss Scientists are Worried About The Unscientific Attitude
        of The Swiss Farmers' Association and Several Development Agencies
        and Environmental Groups
SOURCE: Forschung für Leben, Switzerland
DATE:   16 Mar 2006

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Many Swiss Scientists are Worried About The Unscientific Attitude of The
Swiss Farmers' Association and Several Development Agencies and
Environmental Groups

Numerous university scientists are irritated and worried about a new fear
campaign launched by farmers, developmental agencies and environmental
groups against agricultural biotechnology. At the centre of the debate is
the so called Terminator Technology, which makes it possible to breed
plants with sterile seeds. This technology solves one of the central
problems of biosafety when responsibly applied.

The so called Terminator Technology (TT) prevents the spontaneous
germination of seeds. This has the potential to create a highly efficient
biosafety system which would prevent the unintended dispersal of
genetically modified (GM) crops through lost seeds or outcrossing. By
this application one of the central arguments put forward against GM
crops would be invalidated. TT could allow the easy co-existence of GM
crops with conventional farming systems and thereby create the free
choice often demanded by the public as well as farmers and consumers.

However, this technology has not been studied sufficiently. From its
inception onwards, ten years ago, it was criticized in a polemical manner
with mistaken economic arguments, despite its potential contribution to
biosafety. Farmers are free to choose the most appropriate seed to
operate their farms optimally. In a free market no farm manager is forced
to use GM seeds or TT, if it does not provide him with a profit. The
public polemic in this field has prevented extensive and efficient
research. As a consequence, TT has not yet established itself. So far
there is not even a functional TT-system available to be investigated.

We believe that all methods of plant breeding should be studied step by
step and their potential applications evaluated, before one can
rationally decide on bans of potential abuses. The step by step procedure
of worldwide releases of GM crops allows for enough opportunities to
prevent widespread releases, as soon as there is any indication of
potential misuse. For this no preventative bans are needed.

The argument does not convince that TT is a novel immoral method to
enslave farmers. Agricultural systems, in which farmers cannot sow seeds
saved from their own past harvest, have existed for a long time on farms
in the industrialized countries; this has not lead to dependency or
impoverishment of farmers. This applies for instance to hybrid maize
which rapidly loses its yield advantage if saved seeds are used. Today's
agricultural problems lie in very different areas.

Switzerland - a country without mineral resources - lives on its
innovative potential, its ability to develop and test new technologies.
In the plant sciences Switzerland has a good international reputation.
The new National Research Program 59 (Benefits and Risks of GM crops)
will contribute to this good reputation. Arbitrary and scientifically
unfounded arguments, put forward by NGOs and possibly repeated by
governments delegations, do not contribute to the reputation of the
country abroad.

Recently several countries that deal rationally with this new technology
like Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom have come out
against a ban on Terminator Technology and argue for a case by case
decision on its application. This procedure is anyway planned for any
release of GM crops.

For further information contact...
Prof. Klaus Ammann
+41 79 429 70 62 (in Brazil)

Prof. Wilhelm Gruissem
+41 079 751 58 52

Prof. Beat Keller
+41 79 331 69 84

PD Dr. Christof Sautter
+41 44 632 57 13

                                 PART IV
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TITLE:  Canadian Seed Trade Association statement on genetic use
        restriction technologies (GURTs)
SOURCE: Canadian Seed Trade Association, Press Release
DATE:   20 Mar 2006

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Canadian Seed Trade Association statement on genetic use restriction
technologies (GURTs)

The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) has not developed a position
on genetic techniques to restrict the reproduction of plants. This
science is in its infancy and it is impossible to comment on specific

However, this technology does have the potential to create useful tools
for agriculture. Particularly, GURTs may facilitate the development of
new high-value products for the industry. For instance, the inclusion of
traits useful in the production of pharmaceuticals and industrial
polymers could create valuable new markets for crops. Yet, these new
products must be kept completly out of the conventional food stream and
GURTs could facilitate this. GURTs hold the promise of solving issues of
gene flow and volunteer management in mainstream crop production as well.

As a result, the CSTA believes any calls for moratoriums on this research
are inappropriate and premature. The CSTA feels research should proceed
and debate occur on implementing any such technologies based on the
specifics of how they will operate and the context for their use.

                                 PART V
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TITLE:  Ottawa seeks 'suicide seed' testing
SOURCE: Canadian Press, by Dennis Bueckert / Globe & Mail, Canada
DATE:   21 Mar 2006

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Ottawa seeks 'suicide seed' testing

OTTAWA -- Canada is lobbying at a major UN conference this week for an
end to an international moratorium on the field testing of controversial
so-called suicide seeds, despite opposition from farm organizations
around the world, activists say.

The seeds, which are genetically modified to produce sterile offspring,
are among the most controversial products biotechnology has yet produced,
and critics say they could undermine traditional small-scale farming.

The seeds, officially known as Genetic Use Restriction Technology,
require farmers to buy new seed every spring instead of saving some from
the previous year's crop.

Canada joined other parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity in
imposing a moratorium on use of the seeds six years ago, but observers
say the federal government is now advocating field tests on a case-by-
case basis.

Countries that have ratified the UN convention are meeting in Curitiba,
Brazil, to negotiate a "biosafety protocol" that would set rules for the
handling of genetically engineered crops.

India and Brazil, both major agriculture countries, have banned the
technology. Australia and New Zealand are backing calls to permit
testing, while the United States is working behind the scenes because it
hasn't ratified the biosafety convention.

"We see the terminator technology as a crime against nature," Vandana
Shiva, a prominent Indian scientist, author and environmental activist,
told a news conference yesterday.

"The driving force behind this is quite clearly the United States. The
problem is the United States has never become a member of the UN
biosafety convention. Instead they're using Canada do its dirty work."

Dr. Shiva noted that the U.S. government is co-owner of the terminator

The companies that produce terminator seeds say the plants are bred to be
stronger and produce better crops, and they argue that they're simply
protecting their investment.

But Colleen Ross of the National Farmers Union says the seeds would cost
Canadian farmers millions of dollars and would reduce biodiversity. She
also says the Canadian government isn't listening to farmers on the issue.

Denise Dewar, vice-president of CropLife Canada, a biotechnology lobby
group, said there is nothing new about GURT, noting that seedless
watermelons and hybrid corn are sterile.

New genetically engineered products are coming, such as plants that
produce pharmaceuticals, and they could be prevented from contaminating
other crops through GURT, she said.

Ms. Dewar said farmers could still save seeds, because fertile seeds
would still be available. "We should allow farmers the option," she said.

The Canadian delegation in Brazil is led by Environment Canada, but a
spokesman declined to answer questions. Agriculture Canada is in charge
of the file.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Canada said no one was available to answer
questions because all relevant experts are in Brazil.

Dr. Shiva said genetically engineered crops have been a disaster in India
because they drive up production costs but remain unreliable.

"It is time for all the world community to do what India has done, ban
the terminator [seed]," she said. "I would plead for the parliamentarians
of this country to wake up to a hijack of democracy."

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... news(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer

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