4-Patents: Disown patent on "terminator" potato, indigenous farmers tell business leader
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TITLE: Disown patent on "terminator" potato, indigenous farmers tell
SOURCE: Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development,
Peru & International Institute for Environment & Development, UK
DATE: 21 Mar 2006
------------------ archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------
Disown patent on "terminator" potato, indigenous farmers tell business leader
From the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable
Development (Peru) and the International Institute for Environment &
Indigenous farmers in Peru, the birthplace of the potato, have pleaded
with agribusiness Syngenta International to publicly abandon its patent
on "terminator" technology to control sprouting potatoes which could put
at risk more than 3,000 potato varieties in the region and undermine
efforts to reduce poverty.
More than 40 indigenous leaders from potato producing communities in the
Andean region of Peru came together this weekend (18 March) in the Sacred
Valley in Cusco to sign a strongly-worded letter to the company's Chief
Executive demanding immediate action. Syngenta's patent (US Patent
6,700,039) is of particular concern because it describes a technology
that could be used to prevent the sprouting of potatoes, unless they are
treated with chemicals supplied by the patent owner.
The call to the Swiss-based company comes as government officials meet in
Brazil this week for a United Nations biodiversity conference where
terminator technology will be hotly debated.
Genetic Use Restriction Technology, dubbed "terminator", would mean that
patented plants are genetically-modified to switch off seed fertility.
Local farmers would be prevented from saving and reusing terminator type
seeds and storage organs such as potato tubers, thus increasing corporate
control over the global food system.
Indigenous people fear that it would destroy the sharing of seeds, a
centuries-old tradition, and with it their cultural and social way of life.
As a result of biosafety and other concerns, an international moratorium
under the Convention on Biological Diversity has stopped the field
testing and commercial use of terminator technology since 2000.
Some governments want to relax the UN's biosafety regulation, but the
main biotech companies have accepted that public concern and
environmental risk is too great to press ahead.
Alejandro Argumedo, Associate Director of the Quechua-Aymara Association
for Nature and Sustainable Development, said: "We want the big companies
like Syngenta to show corporate social and environmental responsibility.
The irresponsible attempt by some governments to bust the moratorium is
motivated by power and greed at the expense of people, the environment
and poverty reduction. Syngenta could prove that they are on the right
side by abandoning their patent on the terminator potato."
The meeting of indigenous people was hosted by the Association of
Communities in the Potato Park in Pisaq near Cusco. The park aims to put
indigenous people back in charge of managing biological resources by
developing locally controlled food systems and institutions.
Dr Michel Pimbert of the International Institute for Environment &
Development, which supported the establishment of the Potato Park and
this weekend's meeting on Syngenta's patent, said: "Sterile seed
technology is dangerous and will further erode the rights of indigenous
people and farmers to save and reuse seeds. Terminator is not a solution
and the moratorium must be upheld. It is a great shame that a few
governments have been able to hijack this important UN meeting when the
debate should be focused on tackling the root causes of dwindling
biodiversity and deepening poverty."
For further information
Alejandro Argumedo (ANDES) +55 41 8441 5484
Liz Carlile (IIED) +44 207 388 2117
Tony Samphier +44 208 761 8155
Notes to editors
The Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention
on Biological Diversity (COP8) takes place in Curitiba, Brazil, from 20
to 31 March 2006. The issue of terminator technology is expected to be
discussed during the second and third days of the meeting (21/22 March).
The Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable
Development (ANDES) is governed by a general assembly which is largely
composed of indigenous people from Andean villages. ANDES has three
professional staff in their office in Cusco, in southern Peru, while
another 15 technicians and university-trained professionals and 25 local
villagers work in the field with local communities.
The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is a
London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted in the
reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable development.
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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