COP8 -Terminator Moratorium Upheld!

by Lucy Sharratt

The debate over Terminator came and went in a flash. Well, sort of. The flash followed a week of intensive protest and lobbying after 8 years of consistent pressure and the most recent pressure of the Ban Terminator Campaign.

However, there is another week left to the UN meeting and there could still be trouble ahead. Ministers of the Environment from across the world will now also gather in Brazil (though many Ministers will be missing) and government delegations may look for ways out of what was agreed to on Friday.

It was clear to the Chair of the UN meeting that there were two entrenched positions on the issue of case by case risk assessment and the future of Terminator. Rather than subject everyone to prolonged statements on either side and unproductive negotiations, the Chair asked those governments who supported case by case to identify themselves and to either abandon their position or come up with an alternative that everyone could agree to.

The alternative that was proposed on Friday morning was to give up the entire text from the January meeting of Working Group on Article 8j, including case by case risk assessment. This was accepted without contest.

The Working Group on Article 8j is mandated to protect traditional knowledge and practices and the January meeting was supposed to assess the impacts of Terminator. But the meeting achieved very little for Indigenous peoples and so we see the passing of language that added nothing to the moratorium and did not do justice to the submissions by Indigenous peoples and farmers on the impacts of Terminator. (Click here to see the submissions.)

Surprise strengthening of the moratorium:

Malaysia, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, announced additional language that strengthens the de facto moratorium and is, if approved at the end of next week, the contribution of COP8 to the moratorium. If all goes well, Decision V/5 will now be supplemented by a clarification that further research and studies on Terminator will be done within the mandate of Decision V/5 meaning this research will not involve field trials.

The Agenda of Field Trials had been exposed:

A paper from the New Zealand government confirmed what earlier internal documents had revealed that New Zealand was pushing case by case as a means to move to field trials of Terminator.

Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were isolated in their support for case by case risk assessment and this was increasingly understood by other governments as a strategy to undermine the moratorium. With pressure on all three governments from home as well as protests at their embassies abroad, publicly supporting case by case was becoming difficult.

Ministers Now Meet in Brazil A Watchful Eye is Needed:

While the Ministerial meeting cannot directly affect the outcome of COP8, there is a risk that Ministers could make broad statements that challenge the moratorium or put pressure on government delegations. Ministers will need to be briefed property on what happened last week including the protests that happened here.

What it all means:

At the Ban Terminator Campaign press conference on Friday, Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina said: We will not stop until Terminator disappears from the face of the earth. We feel it is necessary for all people to join us in validating this action for all of us. We have tenderness and pride in being one more step forward in our struggle. We will be here until they change their root and think of people above profit.

Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo Indigenous community in Argentina, speaking on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, stated, We feel the presence of our brothers and sisters of Via Campesina - in Granada at the UN we struggled but we did not succeed. We will not surrender because we will have to survive - not just for ourselves but for our children. We won one battle this morning. However in this conference they are other issues also that are serious for Indigenous peoples.

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