[tomato] This seems insane to me

Richard Yarnell (Tomato@GlobalGarden.com)
Tue, 20 Oct 1998 17:35:29 -0700 (PDT)

Some of you may have seen this tidbit.  Since we all garden, many of us 
save seeds, and there has been a recurring discussion about hybrid seeds
and "heirlooms,"  I'd like to hear from the list about the "Terminator"
gene Monsanto intends to loose on the world with the assistance of the USDA.

The commentary is a remnant of a posting I did to a local (on my provider)
general discussion bb.

If you don't garden but do eat and can imagine that someday there will be a
cataclism which interrupts trade, industrial production, or some other
unimagined stupidity, then contemplate farmers and gardeners who have
nothing but sterile seed available.

Take a look at how broad the patent is.  What happens if the
terminator gene is transmitted to open pollinated plants?  Suddenly the
heirloom varieties which we love for their taste, productivity, resistance
to pests and disease, and the repository for genes not yet recognized for
their importance will be lost.

I don't think I'm exagerating when I say this is as bad as any biological
weapon yet devised.  And it's all for profit.  Once it's loose, there will
be no controlling it.  I promise it will interrupt the natural production
of seed and will do more than produce corporate profit.  Eventually it
will cause terrible global famine.  

In Russia, one of the greatest collections of seed is wasting away for
lack of funds to maintain it (seeds must be planted periodically to
produce new stock - seeds eventually die).  Industrial agriculture has
already drastically reduced the number of varieties of almost every food
producing plant we use.  Now this.  It is insane and must be stopped.

Take the time to first read the following article and then contact your
own legislator, Vice President Gore, and the three individuals mentioned
in the article.


    ================= Begin forwarded message =================

    From: panupdates@igc.apc.org (unknown)
    To: panups@igc.apc.org
    Subject: PANUPS:Terminator Technology
    Date: Fri, 09 Oct

    P A N U P S
    Pesticide Action Network 
    North America
    Updates Service
    email panna@panna.org
    Monsanto in Negotiations with USDA to Finalize Control of Terminator 
    October 9, 1998
    The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) has launched 
    an international campaign to stop negotiations between the U.S. 
    Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a subsidiary of Monsanto 
    regarding the "Terminator" technology. Terminator technology -- co-
    developed by USDA and Delta & Pine Land Co. and partially financed 
    with U.S. taxpayer dollars -- will force farmers to return to the 
    commercial seed market every year since they will no longer be able 
    to save seed from their harvest. This technology enables a company 
    to genetically alter seed to produce crops that in turn produce 
    sterile seed. 
    Delta & Pine Land Co. (D&PL) and the USDA received the patent on 
    Terminator technology in March 1998. In May, Monsanto announced that 
    it would acquire Delta & Pine Land Co. for US$1.8 billion. Monsanto, 
    which recently merged with American Home Products, is now the 
    world's largest agrochemical corporation and second largest seed 
    company. Monsanto's total 1996 revenues were US$9.26 billion, and 
    the company's genetically engineered crops are expected to be used 
    on approximately 50 million acres worldwide in 1998.
    Currently, Monsanto's subsidiary Delta & Pine Land is negotiating 
    with USDA to have an exclusive license on the U.S. government's 
    share in the Terminator technology patent. The patent is broad, 
    applying to plants and seeds of all species, including both 
    transgenic (genetically engineered) and conventionally-bred seeds. 
    Since D&PL worked with USDA to develop the technology, the company 
    has the option to negotiate an exclusive license under U.S. law.
    RAFI is asking everyone concerned about the use of Terminator 
    technology to urge U.S. government officials to stop negotiations 
    with Monsanto's subsidiary and to halt all commercial development of 
    this technology. 
    Melvin J. Oliver, a USDA molecular biologist and primary inventor of 
    the Terminator, explained why the U.S. government developed a 
    technology that prohibits farmers from saving proprietary seed: "My 
    main interest is protection of American technology. Our mission is 
    to protect U.S. agriculture, and to make us competitive in the face 
    of foreign competition. Without this, there is no way of protecting 
    the technology [patented seed]."
    The potential impact of the Terminator technology goes far beyond 
    U.S. borders. It is an international issue with global implications. 
    Delta & Pine Land has said that it will target the use of Terminator 
    seeds in developing countries, where over 1.4 billion people -- 
    primarily poor farmers -- depend on farm-saved seed as their primary 
    seed source. They have indicated that they will apply for patents in 
    87 countries around the world. The patent is pending at the European 
    Patent Office, in Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa. 
    The Terminator technology is the subject of controversy and debate 
    worldwide. For example:
    In May, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on 
    Biological Diversity recommended that the precautionary principle be 
    applied to the Terminator technology. The Conference also directed 
    its scientific body to examine the technology's impact on farmers 
    and biodiversity. 
    India's agriculture minister Som Pal told the Indian parliament in 
    August that he has banned the import of seeds containing the 
    Terminator gene because of the potential harm to Indian agriculture. 
    By majority vote, the Dutch Parliament recently moved to oppose the 
    European Patent Directive by appealing to the European Court of 
    Justice. The Terminator patent is one of the key issues that 
    prompted the Dutch to renew objections to the Patent Directive that 
    was passed by the European Parliament earlier this year.
    RAFI is urging government institutions to take steps to safeguard -- 
    not eliminate -- the fundamental right of farmers to save seed and 
    breed crops. RAFI is also calling for protest over the fact that 
    public research funds were used to develop a technology that will 
    bring no agronomic benefit to farmers, and no benefits to consumers. 
    Negotiations between USDA and MonsantoUs subsidiary are now 
    underway. To see sample letters, and automatic sending options as 
    well as additional information on Terminator technology, go to 
    RAFI's web site: http://www.rafi.org/usda.html. Email messages 
    and/or faxes can be sent to the following USDA official and members 
    of Congress. 
    The Honorable Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture
    United States Department of Agriculture 
    Email agsec@usda.gov; fax (202) 720-2166
    The Honorable Robert F. Smith, Chair
    House Agriculture Committee
    Email Bob.smith@mail.house.gov; fax (202) 225-0917
    The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Chair
    Senate Agriculture Committee
    Email senator_lugar@lugar.senate.gov; fax (202) 224-1725
    Source/contact: Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), 
    P.O. Box 640, Pittsboro, North Carolina 27312; phone (919) 542-1396; 
    fax (919) 542-0069; email rafiusa@rafi.org; web site www.rafi.ca.
    Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
    49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94102
    Phone (415) 981-1771
    Fax (415) 981-1991
    Email: panna@panna.org  
    web site www.panna.org/panna/ 
    To subscribe to PANUPS, email to majordomo@igc.org with the 
    following text on one line: subscribe panups
    To unsubscribe send the following: unsubscribe panups