MONTREAL: The intergovernmental consideration of a scientific report on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (or GURTS) has become a critical test for the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity. The Convention, adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, has been hailed by governments in the South as a treaty that once and for all establishes under international law that national governments have sovereignty over their biological resources. Now, in a meeting of the Convention's subsidiary science committee (SBSTTA) in Montreal, that sovereignty has been challenged.
According to the report of a blue-ribbon scientific panel tabled at the Montreal meeting, GURTS - better known by the rest of the world as "Terminator Technology" - are a threat to agricultural biodiversity and to national food security. Through genetic manipulation, Terminator Technology causes any crop plant to become sterile at the point of harvest. This means that farmers have to return to multinational seed corporations every growing season rather than save and replant their own seed as farmers have done for 12 millennia. The Terminator's inventors, more than a dozen different companies and institutes with at least 31 Terminator-type patents concede that the real purpose of the technology is not agronomic but economic - to force farmers to become repeat customers. Over 1.4 billion poor people depend upon farm-saved seed for their food security worldwide.