Two days of contentious debate on Terminator has ruptured the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Advisory Board on Agricultural Biotechnology. Terminator technology, the genetic engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, has been widely condemned as a dangerous and morally offensive application of agricultural biotechnology, because over 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds.
USDA ignited the worldwide controversy in March 1998 when it won the first of three patents on genetic seed sterilization, which it holds jointly with Delta & Pine Land - the world's largest cotton seed company.
At its second meeting, July 26-27, the 38-member advisory board learned that the USDA has decided not to unilaterally terminate its contractual agreement with Delta and Pine Land, despite the fact that they have the legal option to do so. Instead, the Board was given the option of exploring restrictions on the exclusive licensing of its Terminator patents to Delta & Pine Land. In the end, however, all licensing restrictions would have to be mutually agreed upon by both the USDA and Delta & Pine Land.
'Taking this issue to the Advisory Board and calling for public comment on Terminator was a giant charade, and a mockery of the democratic process' concludes Hope Shand, Research Director of RAFI. 'Apparently, the USDA had already decided that abandoning the Terminator was not an option.'