RAFI Takes Terminator to COP IV in Bratislava... and COP IV Responds

As a result of solid NGO pressure, the ominous Terminator Technology" became a topic of substantive discussion and debate at the recent meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP IV) in Bratislava, Slovakia, 4-15 May.

For background on the newly patented technique, see the March/April RAFI Communique on the Terminator Technology.

RAFI and NGOs from around the world campaigned actively in Bratislava to inform government delegates of the Terminator technology and its potentially devastating impacts on farmers, food security and biological diversity. Edward Hammond and Hope Shand of RAFI, together with Ricarda Steinbrecher of Genetics Forum (UK), Adriano Soares of the ConfederaÁao Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura (Brazil), and Farida Ackter of UBINIG (Bangladesh) conducted a seminar on the Terminator technology for delegates and press, distributed background documentation, and urged government delegates to pass a resolution condemning the technology. When news of Monsanto's takeover of Delta & Pine Land Seed Co. and the terminator technology was announced on 11 May, RAFI distributed a press release on the agribusiness giant that now controls the seed-sterilizing technology.

What follows is the text of RAFI's intervention in Bratislava, and the COP IV decision that resulted from the discussion of this menacing Terminator technology.

Intervention by Hope Shand, RAFI, at COP IV in Bratislava to the Agricultural Biodiversity Working Group, 7 May 1998

Thank you Mr. Chairman. I speak on behalf of RAFI and many other NGOs. We strongly support the resolution to oppose the Terminator technology as called for by the delegate from the Philippines, and supported by delegates from Kenya, Zambia, Pakistan, Rwanda and Sri Lanka.

The Terminator technology has profound implications for agriculture, biodiversity and food security. I refer to a newly patented technique that genetically alters seed so that it will not germinate if re-planted a second time.

The Terminator technology is designed to prevent farmers from saving seed from their harvest to re-plant the following season. It presents an imminent threat to in situ conservation and the rights of farmers.

The inventors say they will apply for patents on the Terminator technique in 78 countries worldwide, mostly in the South.

Unlike hybrid seeds that were introduced earlier in this century, the Terminator technique brings NO agronomic benefit to farmers, it is simply a mechanism to capture greater profits for the commercial seed industry. The patent owners say they are aiming their product at the South. The Terminator technology is not technology transfer, it's ANTI-technology transfer.

The Terminator technology jeopardizes the food security of 1.4 billion people - resource-poor farmers in the South who depend on farm-saved seed and on whom we depend for in-situ conservation, a core objective of this Convention.

Poor farmers are responsible for feeding 15 to 20% of the world's population, and for on-farm conservation of crop genetic diversity.

The Terminator technology is not yet commercialized - so COP IV is in the enviable situation of being able to stop its impact before it causes destruction. This is what the CBD should be about, action to conserve biodiversity; not to applying bandages after the fact. What is the point of researching pollinators if there is nothing left in the field to pollinate?

The Terminator technology is contrary to the objectives of this Convention. This is a technology which endangers the rights of farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities to conserve and develop their genetic resources.

The Terminator has nothing to do with conserving biodiversity and everything to do with destroying it.

For these reasons, we urge the Parties to pass a resolution, here and now, to stop this technology.

COP IV Decision on Terminator Technology

COP IV adopted the following decision related to the Terminator Technology:

The Conference of the Parties,

11. Reiterating the precautionary approach, requests SBSTTA, to consider and assess, in light of contributions to be provided by Parties, Governments and organizations, whether there are any consequences for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity from the development and use of new technology for the control of plant gene expression, such as that described in United States patent 5723765, and to elaborate scientifically based advice to the Conference of the Parties. Moreover, urges Parties, Governments as well as civil society and public and private institutions to consider the precautionary approach in its application;

What Next?

By calling for a study on the Terminator by the Convention's scientific and technical body, this resolution ensures that debate on this insidious technology is kept alive within the COP, and that governments will assess its implications for agricultural biodiversity worldwide.

Complete text of the decisions adopted by the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Bratislava, Slovakia, 4-15 May) can be found at: http://www.biodiv.org/cop4/FinalRep-/" (page expired)

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