USDA Must Abandon Terminator Technology

Representatives from civil society organizations (CSOs) met yesterday (29.10.1999) with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to demand that his agency abandon research and development of the controversial Terminator technology. Participants included the American Corn Growers Association, Consumers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Ralph Nader, International Center for Technology Assessment, Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet, Consumer Federation, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, North Dakota farmer Fred Kirschenmann, and RAFI. Terminator refers to a genetic engineering technique that renders second generation seed sterile, preventing farmers from saving seed from their harvest, and forcing them to buy new seed each year.

"It's disgraceful that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to support and defend Terminator," said Hope Shand, Research Director of RAFI, at a press conference preceding the USDA meeting. "All over the world, farmers, governments, scientists, and CSOs have condemned the technology. Even Monsanto has pulled the plug on Terminator. Why is USDA ignoring the public outcry against suicide seeds?" asked Shand.

At yesterday's meeting, Secretary Glickman did not reveal any new information about the USDA's position on Terminator or biotechnology, but said that he would be personally involved in reviewing the situation.

"We anxiously await a response and positive action from Mr. Glickman," said RAFI's Shand.

The USDA is co-owner of a U.S. patent (5,723,765) on genetic seed sterilization, the product of collaborative research with Delta & Pine Land, a Mississippi-based seed company which is in the process of being acquired by Monsanto. USDA is currently negotiating to license its patent to Delta & Pine Land - a requirement of its collaborative research agreement. In addition to in-house research, USDA has supported research on suicide seeds at Purdue University (Indiana, USA).

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