GENET archive


2-Plant: Update on Terminator discussion (3)

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  European Resolution on TERMINATOR & the UN Convention on
        Biological Diversity: 20 to 31 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil
SOURCE: European Parliament, posted by Michel Somville, The Greens / EFA
DATE:   20 Mar 2006

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European Resolution on TERMINATOR & the UN Convention on Biological
Diversity: 20 to 31 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil

Please find below the section of the European Parliament resolution on
preparations for the COP-MOP meetings on biological diversity and
biosafety in Curitiba, Brazil dealing with Terminator plants.

This resolution was put on the agenda on the initiative of the GREENS/EFA
Group in the EP and was co-signed by all the other groups already for the
plenary. Our plenary amendments explicitly calling for the rejection of
proposals to undermine the moratorium on Terminator field-testing through
case by case assessment or approval, and confirming the conditions of the
CBD moratorium decision were both adopted.

The final vote (16 March 2006) was a massive 419 (+), 1 (-) & 5 (Abst.)
in favour for a very strong mandate for the COP/MOP meeting!

On the TERMINATOR seeds, the EP resolution:

"3. Considers that the requirements of the global moratorium on the
field-testing and marketing of V-GURT technology with regard to, inter
alia, the ecological and socioeconomic impact and any adverse impact on
biological diversity, food security and human health, have not been met;"

"4. Urges the European Commission and the Member States to:
- (.../...)
- reject any proposals to undermine the moratorium on the field-testing
and marketing of so-called terminator technologies set by CBD Decision V/
5 through a 'case-by-case' assessment or approval of Genetic Use
Restriction Technologies;
- defend robustly an EU policy to require that no open-air growing of
crops involving Genetic Use Restriction Technologies can be permitted
until thorough research on ecological and socio-economic impacts and on
any adverse effects for biodiversity, food security and human health has
been carried out in a transparent manner;"

                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Don't Sell "Suicide Seeds", Activists Warn
SOURCE: Inter Press Service, by Haider Rizvi
DATE:   22 Mar 2006

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Don't Sell "Suicide Seeds", Activists Warn

CURITIBA, Brazil - On Tuesday morning, as delegates arrived at the
conference venue, they faced more than 100 peasant and indigenous rights
activists at the main gates staging a demonstration in support of a
complete ban on the sale and use of Terminator seeds, officially known as
Genetic Use Restriction Technology.

"These seeds are killed seeds," the crowd shouted as they watched
delegates arrive in cars and buses.

"Terminate the Terminator", the activists chanted in unison, while
demanding tough laws against field testing and sale of so-called
"Terminator" technology, which refers to plants that have had their genes
altered so that they render sterile seeds at harvest. Because of this
trait, some activists call Terminator products "suicide seeds".

Terminator seeds don't produce replantable offspring.

The U.N. Convention on Biodiversity had adopted a moratorium on field
testing and commercialisation of Terminator technology in 2000. But
opponents fear that such seeds are likely to be marketed soon unless
governments impose a blanket ban.

Currently, the product is being tested in greenhouses throughout the
United States. Developed by multinational agribusiness firms and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Terminator has the potential to keep small-
scale farmers from saving or replanting seeds from one growing season to
another, activists say.

"Somebody is trying to befool me as a farmer," said Clement Chipokolo of
the African Biodiversity Network, who came here all the way from Zambia.
"In my culture we don't buy seeds. We save them. But now somebody is
trying to bring agricultural slavery for us."

The industry claims that it will enhance biodiversity and its high cost
is more than compensated for by improved crop yield and quality. But
opponents argue that Terminator would not only undermine traditional
knowledge and innovation, but would add to the economic burden of poor
peasants who depend on saved seeds.

"It's the neutron bomb of biotechnology," said Hope Shand of the Canada-
based Action Group for Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC), about
Terminator. "It is designed to maximise profits for the biotech industry
because farmers will be forced to buy seeds every year."

Currently, the number of small farmers around the world is estimated to
be over one billion.

The biotech industry's interest in promoting Terminator is not hard to
understand because each year the global commercial seed market brings in
about 23 billion dollars in revenue, according to independent trade
experts who estimate that if farmers were forced to buy new seeds at each
planting, the global market would be worth over 45 billion dollars.

ETC researchers estimate that if allowed to sell Terminator seeds, the
industry will earn at least an additional 10 billion dollars from farmers
in developing countries. They say that Brazilian farmers will have to pay
no less than 500 million dollars a year to buy soybean seeds, while the
purchase of seeds for wheat and cotton crops will cost peasants in
Pakistan more than 120 million dollars a year.

Currently, about 80 percent of farmers in both Brazil and Pakistan grow
crops based on saved seeds from previous harvests.

Many governments in the developing world have so far resisted pressure
from the U.S. government and industry, but some governments in the
industrialised world are trying to influence the outcome of the
negotiations in favour of the industry, say activists closely watching
the talks here.

Last year, the government of Brazil -- the world's fifth most populous
country and a major agricultural producer -- passed a law prohibiting the
use, registration, patenting and licensing of modified seeds. India, a
predominantly agrarian nation and home to one billion people, has done
the same.

Yet indications are that rich countries like Australia, Canada and New
Zealand will side with the U.S. and the biotech industry during the two
weeks of negotiations on the Convention on Biodiversity, which has drawn
delegates from 188 countries. The Australian delegation is reportedly
trying to introduce language that would undermine efforts to keep the
U.N. moratorium on field testing and commercialisation of modified seeds

Last January, when delegates to the Convention on Biodiversity met in
Spain, the Australians recommended that Terminator technology be studied
on a "case-by-case risk assessment basis", a turning point in
negotiations that activists fear has the potential to undermine the U.N.

"It is an immoral technology. It's anti-farmer," Shand said. "We don't
need any more studies. It must be banned."

Francisco Rodriguez Anamuri of Compesina (a women and indigenous people's
group in Chile) added: "It's not about Monsanto. It's about our food
security. You don't have food security if you don't have seeds."

Monsanto, the U.S.-based biotech giant, has repeatedly come under attack
from environmental and indigenous right groups for its aggressive
research and marketing of genetically modified crops. Though it had
pledged in the past not to commercialise Terminator, Monsanto says it
seeks to study "the risks and benefits of this technology on case-by-case

Some countries have agreed with the industry that genetic modifications
can play a significant role in fighting hunger at negligible risk to the
environment. But a 100-page study released in January by Friends of the
Earth concludes that only a handful of countries have introduced and
increased the use of genetically modified crops.

Titled "Who Benefits from GM Crops?", the report says that after 10 years
of GM crop cultivation, more than 80 percent of the area sown with
biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the United
States, Argentina and Canada.

In other countries -- including Brazil and Paraguay -- GM crops were
planted illegally, and in Indonesia, they were planted after government
officials were bribed, FoE said.

On the debate surrounding the use and sale of Terminator seeds, a senior
U.N. official said indications are that delegates might reach a consensus
by the end of the meeting next week.

"For six years there has been a deadlock," Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive
secretary of the Convention on Biodiversity, told IPS Monday. "I think
the decision could likely be taken at this meeting."

                                 PART III
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TITLE:  'Terminator' threatens Indian farmers
DATE:   21 Mar 2006

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'Terminator' threatens Indian farmers

For centuries, Indian farmers have owned the seeds they grow, bred new
varieties and chosen seed lines, preserving its rich biodiversity.

That slowly started changing with the hybrid seeds from seed companies
and the genetically modified seeds.

The ultimate challenge could now come from the Terminator - a gene that
will render a seed from a plant sterile.

Anjamma is putting away her treasure trove of seeds for the next season.

A farmer in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh stores more than 60
varieties of seeds at her home.

Though the area gets less than 80 cm rainfall, Anjamma says her family of
seven and her village has never seen drought.

"On my four acres, I spent Rs 3,000 and got a return of Rs 20,000. The
food we eat, and the fodder for the cattle, everything comes from this
farm, and lasts the whole year. This year, the rains were not enough. Had
it been a good monsoon, I would have made up to Rs 30,000," said Anjamma.

The key to survival is control over a variety of seed.

Anjamma grows 25-30 varieties of crops in the Kharif season and at least
10 varieties in the Rabi season on her 10-acre land, out of which only
four acres are cultivable.

Agriculturists say there is a huge threat lurking to the seed security of
traditional farmers like Anjamma who depend on the native biodiversity
for their livelihood.

They say at a conference currently underway in Brazil, countries like
Canada, New Zealand and Australia backed by the US are reportedly
lobbying to remove the moratorium on the ban imposed world over on the
terminator gene.


Terminator is the introduction of a character in the genetic material of
a plant to make its seeds sterile - meaning the seeds will not germinate
to give rise to a new plant.

Votaries argue this technology has its advantages. They say when a
genetically modified transgenic crop has a terminator gene, the threat of
it contaminating other bio resources is minimized as the seeds would
anyway be sterile.

What it also means is that the seed will have to be bought every season
from the seed company with no scope of the farmer reusing it from the
parent crop.

"What they are now pushing for is the removal of the moratorium to be
replaced by a case-to-case risk assessment. This case-by-case risk
assessment would mean coffin-by-coffin exit of farmers from agriculture,"
said PV Satheesh, South Against Genetic Engineering.

Social scientists point out that ever since the advent of hybrids and
seed companies, the farmer has been losing control over his seed and
costs have spiraled.

For example: Cotton seeds which cost Rs 40-50 for a packet became Rs 450
for a hybrid variety and Rs 1,850 for a GM version.

"Why should I control seed? I will grow cotton this year, vegetable next
year, oilseeds next, then pulses. Do you mean to say I should have
ownership of all these seeds? Seed is only one input like every other
input, and I can go and buy it," said Chengal Reddy of the Federation of
Farmers Association.

Despite the huge subsidy the government extends to the formal seed
sector, estimates show that out of the total seed requirement in the
country, only 25 per cent is catered to by the public sector and private

That's the reason over five lakh farmers - many of them from Andhra
Pradesh - have signed an appeal to the Prime Minister that the country
must take a strong stand against Terminator.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

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