[gardeners] Re: RAFI: Terminator Seeds Rejected (VERY LONG)

Margaret Lauterbach (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Tue, 03 Nov 1998 07:31:34 -0700

><< Terminator Seeds Rejected by
>                Global Network of Agriculture Experts
>                -------------------------------------
>        Policy deserves praise,  NGOs aim to leverage crystalizing
>         global resistance to USDA and Monsanto's technology into
>                   more international policy action.
> The Terminator - and related genetic seed sterilization technology - has
> been banned from the crop breeding programs of the world's largest
> international agricultural research network.  The strong and unambiguous
> policy was adopted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
> Research (CGIAR) at a meeting at the World Bank in Washington on Friday,
> October 30th.
> "It's a courageous decision. The CGIAR has done the right thing, for the
> right reasons," says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI,  "a ban on
> Terminator is a pro-farmer policy in defence of world food security."
> The CGIAR is a global network of 16 international agricultural research
> centres, which collectively form the world's largest public plant breeding
> effort for resource-poor farmers. The Terminator genetic engineering
> technique renders farm-saved seed sterile, forcing farmers to return to the
> commercial seed market every year.  The technology is aimed primarily at
> seed markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where over 1.4 billion
> people depend on farm-saved seed and on-farm plant breeding. If widely
> adopted, the Terminator would make it impossible for farmers to save seed
> and breed their own crops.
> *  Multiple Objections:  The CGIAR sees the potential for the Terminator to
> have negative consequences for food security, genetic diversity, biosafety,
> sustainable agriculture, and plant breeding.  Terminator opponents, who are
> pleased with the new policy, point out that the experts' opinion coincides
> with key points civil society organizations have been making since the
> Terminator controversy broke open globally seven months ago. Specifically,
> the CGIAR cites the following reasons for the ban (full CGIAR text is
> provided at end):
> Since the Terminator was developed jointly by the U.S. Department of
> Agriculture (USDA) and Delta & Pine Land, a Monsanto subsidiary, Mooney
> says the policy is "a slap in the face to the US Government - a major CGIAR
> funder - and to Monsanto because it soundly negates their claims that
> sterilizing seeds will boost plant breeding in marginal areas and help feed
> the hungry."  Mooney adds, "The defenders of biotechnology's suicide seeds
> are certainly powerful; but  they must be feeling pretty lonely."
> *  Swift Adoption:  Adoption of the CGIAR policy to ban Terminator was
> uncharacteristically swift, with barely a whiff of resistance from member
> states and donors attending the annual meeting.  Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, the
> chair of CGIAR's Genetic Resources Policy Committee and World Food Prize
> recipient, presented the anti-Terminator proposal to all the delegates at
> the meeting in its final hours, making a passionate plea for acceptance of
> the policy.
> In the ensuing discussion, numerous delegates from the South and the North
> alike endorsed the ban on Terminator.  The Ugandan delegate said that the
> Terminator was a concern at the highest political level in his country.
> Representatives from Zimbabwe, India, UK, and the Netherlands also made
> statements favoring the anti-Terminator policy.  It was agreed that CGIAR
> scientists might retain the option to study the technology in the
> laboratory - without aims to release it to farmers; but it was only
> Canada's delegate who expressed reservations about the policy.
> *  Americans Silent:  Most surprising of all was the deafening silence from
> embarrassed US government officials, who were expected to vehemently defend
> the technology on behalf of Monsanto and the multinational seed industry.
> The silence has lent credence to rumours circulating at the meeting and on
> the internet that the USDA is getting cold feet about the Terminator and,
> in the face of public pressure, may decide to not use it in plants it
> releases to US farmers.   "If true, the policy would be welcomed;" says
> RAFI Research Director Hope Shand, "but it would not put the controversy to
> rest. Opponents of Terminator would question why USDA would admit that the
> technology is unacceptable for release to US farmers, while on the other
> hand surrender the patent rights to Monsanto for commercial development.
> How could the technology be bad for US farmers and good for farmers in the
> rest of the world?"
> *  Increasing Opposition fits into Global Campaign: RAFI, working with NGOs
> and peoples' organizations worldwide, sees the CGIAR policy as an important
> early fruit of their campaign to stop commercialization of terminator seeds
> entirely.  In collaboration with NGOs and peoples' organizations worldwide,
> RAFI is pursuing multiple strategies aimed at terminating the Terminator:
> -->  Cease, Abandon, and Ban:  In the past month, over 2400 people from 57
> countries have used RAFI's website to write the US Secretary of Agriculture
> to express concern about the Terminator.  RAFI's Edward Hammond says "We,
> our NGO partners, and the thousands of letter writers will continue to put
> the electronic heat on USDA until it does three things: Cease negotiations
> to license the US government's interest in the Terminator to Monsanto.
> Abandon all patents and patent applications - in up to 87 countries - on
> the technology. Ban use of the technology in the US and ensure that the US
> does not interfere with foreign governments who do the same."
> -->  Invocation of Public Morality Rights:  With the weight of the CGIAR
> policy, India's ban on the technology, and a burgeoning list of civil
> society, scientific, and local government opponents, RAFI and partners will
> be approaching governments worldwide to propose that they block the
> terminator patent and ban terminator seeds.  Under the Trade Related
> Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement (part of GATT), countries
> have the right to ban patents like the Terminator on the grounds of  public
> morality, including environmental concerns.  Moreover,  Mooney says "We
> have suggestions for how governments can place the Terminator into broader
> strategies for food security that can be pursued  in TRIPs negotiations and
> through the International Court of Justice.  We hope that the global
> repugnance over the Terminator can be the catalyst for positive, practical
> action to help stop patents from hurting farmers, biodiversity, and food
> security."
> -->  UN Biodiversity Agenda:  The CGIAR policy will be very influential at
> May's meeting of the scientific branch of the UN Convention on Biological
> Diversity (CBD), which has been charged with reviewing the Terminator
> technology's implications and making recommendations about it for
> consideration by the over 170 governments that are parties to the global
> biodiversity agreement.  A representative of the CBD attended the CGIAR
> meeting.  "The CBD should consider the CGIAR policy very carefully" says
> Hammond, "With global oppostion crystalizing in government, scientific, and
> civil society circles, and in the absence of any credible
> biodiversity-promoting rationale for the technology, it is clear that
> recommendation chould be for a ban."
> -----
> CGIAR's policy statement, as presented by the Genetic Resources Policy
> Committee:
> "The CGIAR will not incorporate into its breeding materials any genetic
> systems designed to prevent seed germination.  This is in recognition of
> (a) concerns over potential risks of its inadvertent or unintended spread
> through pollen; (b) the possibilities of sale or exchange of inviable seed
> for planting; (c) the importance of farm-saved seed, particularly to
> resource-poor farmers; (d) potential negative impacts on genetic diversity
> and (e) the importance of farmer selection and breeding for sustainable
> agriculture."
> -----
> For More Information/Contacts:
> RAFI Home Page:                                http://www.rafi.org
> Terminator Letter Writing Page:                http://www.rafi.org/usda.html
> CGIAR Home Page:                       http://www.cgiar.org
> Pat Mooney, RAFI
> Tel: 204-453-5259
> E-mail: mooney@rafi.org
> Hope Shand, RAFI
> Tel: 717-337-6482
> E-mail:  hope@rafi.org
> Edward Hammond, RAFI
> Tel: 206-323-7378
> E-mail: hammond@rafi.org
>  >>