COP8 Day 1 - Monday March 20th - And so it begins...


The Eighth Conference Of the Parties (COP8) to the Convention on Biological Diversity opened today, here in Curitiba Brazil, with an indigenous ceremony to Mother Earth, tupthumping speeches and around 3000 delegates frenetically pacing the corridors jostling and negotiating. Last night, on the eve of the COP, those same 3000 delegates were treated to a reception at Curitiba's beautiful botanic garden, having spent the weekend in regional huddles with acronym names like JUSCANZ (Japan, US, Switzerland, Canada, Australai and New Zealand) or GRULAC (The Latin American Countries) and then there's The Megadiverse Countries (India, Phillipines, Brazil, Malaysia and Mexico) and the rather more striaghtforward African , Pacific, European and Asian blocks.

From the perspective of those of us watching out for Terminator there are roughly two blocs to watch: The 'Four horseman' of New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK who have openly declared that they are happy to undermine the Terminator moratorium by introducing a 'case by case' clause and then there's everybody else. We have to wait until Tuesday to find out who the Terminator Nations have managed to infect and buy off. Also stalking the corridors (not far behind the four horsemen) are the industry lobbyists - Bayer, Monsanto, Du Pont, Delta and Pine Land and the pharmaceutical industry are all here, grouped under the ghoulish 'Global Industry Coalition'. Monsanto alone allegedly has 15 delegates 'embedded' within the Brazilian delegation..

Passions here at COP8 are running strong especially on biotech issues after a really dramatic fight at last week's Biosafety protocol to restrain New Zealand, Mexico and their allies from scuppering an agreement on labelling. Also during the week farmers from the landless movement uncovered and occupied an illegal genetic engineering field trial run by Syngenta - here in the state of Parana.

Today however it was the Governor of Parana, Robert Requario, who set the tone with a blistering speech to the thousands participants attacking Terminator. In his speech he called Terminator "the next step in the transnational seed Industry's strategy to control the production and commercial use of seeds, after having tried to contaminate the entire world with transgenic seeds' He quoted Uruguayan activist Silvia Ribeiro (of ETC Group) saying "Producing this type of seeds is immoral, because seeds are life. We are not talking about Science, but about a tradition that is thousands of years old. to sterilize seeds is to offer death to farmers".