Terminator Threat Looms: Intergovernmental meeting to tackle suicide seeds issue

CBD's Working Group on 8(j) Meets in Granada, Spain 23-27 January 2006

Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week (January 2006). The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.

Terminator (a.k.a. "genetic use restriction technology" - GURTs) refers to plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the US government. If commercialized, Terminator would prevent farmers from saving seeds from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial market every year and marking the end of locally-adapted agriculture through seed selection. The vast majority of the world's farmers routinely save seed from their harvest for re-planting.

Bombshell in Bangkok: Almost one year ago, the Canadian government and its seed industry allies made a scandalous bid to dismantle the United Nations' moratorium on Terminator seed technology at a February 2005 meeting of a scientific advisory body to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bangkok. A leaked memo revealed that the Canadian government was prepared to push for language allowing for field-testing and commercialization of Terminator. Ultimately, the Canadian government was forced to publicly distance itself from Terminator in response to citizen protests back home, and due to key interventions from other governments that support the moratorium.

"The promise of increased profits is simply too enticing for industry to give up on Terminator seeds," explains Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the international Ban Terminator Campaign. "Terminator seeds will become a commercial reality unless governments take action to prevent it," agrees Hope Shand of ETC Group.

Please see here for Portuguese version of the News Release.

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