Recent Content Related to Farmers' Rights & Food Sovereignty
A UNITED NATIONS conference in the Hague next week (April 02) offers the UN a critical opportunity to ban 'Terminator' seeds before they are commercialised in farmers' fields, warns an alliance of campaign groups.
The ETC group, Berne Declaration and ActionAid are among many groups urging delegates at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 'COP6' conference to heed global opinion and ban the commercialisation of crops modified to produce sterile seeds - known as 'suicide seeds' or 'Terminator technology'.
Nature magazine’s flip-flop today (April 2002) over the testing protocols involved in determining GM maize contamination in Mexico - the Centre of Genetic Diversity for the vital food crop - is just the latest in a string of absurdities as the scientific community struggles over what to do as genetically-modified germplasm invades the genetic homelands of the world’s food supply.
MIT says an army of NanoWalkers (microbots) will be performing sub-atomic operations within three months. The development signals a new era in technology as industry prepares to move "down" from genomes to atoms.
Thumbelina with an attitude: Hundreds of three-legged robots the size of a thumb, complete with onboard computers, powerful microscopes, and biosensors will be ready to manufacture nano-scale materials by mid-2002, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Bioinstrumentation Laboratory. A 'nano' is a measurement of one-billionth of a meter. Only 32 millimeters in diameter, the microbots are designed to manipulate atoms. Responding to infrared signals allowing each microbot to act independently or collectively on myriad tasks, the little machines (dubbed "NanoWalkers") are capable of executing 48 million instructions and making 4,000 nano-maneuvers per second. MIT expects to have at least 300 microbots hard at work in an enclosed card-table sized chromium chamber by June. The chromium surface provides an energy source for the robots which will receive their marching orders from a master computer in the box's ceiling.
Unnatural Rejection? The academic squabble over Nature magazine's peer-reviewed article is anything but academic:
More than 144 farmer and other Civil Society Organizations from 40 countries have signed a Joint Statement being released today on the Mexican GM Maize Scandal. The Statement comes on the eve of an international science policy meeting in Los Banos, Philippines where a global response to the scandal will be discussed. The 144 organizations are demanding that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) work together with the Convention on Biological Diversity to halt the contamination of the Mesoamerican Centre of Genetic Diversity for maize - one of the world's most important food crops. News that genetically modified (GM) maize was turning up in farmers' varieties first appeared in Nature Biotechnology magazine last September and was confirmed in November by a peer-reviewed article in Nature. According to the 170 signatories to today's Joint Statement, the academic and industry attacks on the findings of the Mexican Government and U.S. university researchers has been orchestrated to keep the scandal from embarrassing the biotech industry as it tries to lift the European, Brazilian, and Mexican moratoria (de facto or otherwise) on genetically modified seeds or foods. If the Philippine meeting of the Genetic Resources Policy Committee of the CGIAR does not act decisively and immediately to protect farmers in Mesoamerica, civil society will take the issue directly to the April meeting of the Biodiversity Convention in the Hague, and the World Food Summit in Rome in June. The text of the Joint Statement follows.
ETC group explores the fractious scientific and political debate surrounding GM maize contamination in Mexico.
The World's Largest Agrochemical and Seed Enterprises --Syngenta & DuPont -- Win Two New Patents on Genetic Seed Sterilization
The ETC group (formerly RAFI) announced today that the biotechnology industry continues to aggressively pursue the development of genetically modified seeds that are engineered for sterility. "We have uncovered two new patents on Terminator technology," said Hope Shand, Research Director of ETC group. "One patent is held by Dupont (the world's largest seed corporation) and the other is held by Syngenta (the world's largest agrochemical corporation)," said Shand.
Terminator technology--the genetic modification of plants to produce sterile seeds--is a global threat to food security, to poor farmers, and to biodiversity. ETC group is campaigning with civil society organizations worldwide for a ban on Terminator, which has been condemned by civil society, scientific bodies and many governments as an immoral application of agricultural biotechnology.
This week, Mexico's indigenous farmers and civil society organizations will meet in Mexico City (Jan. 23-24) to decide what to do about GM contamination in one of the world's mega-centres of agricultural biodiversity. Meanwhile, the scientific community is imploding with angst and accusations as the "Peers" of the Plant Realm squabble over the implications for global food security.
The ETC group (formerly RAFI) is releasing a new Communiqué today in an attempt to summarize the fractious scientific and political debate surrounding GM maize contamination in Mexico. The full text is available at www.etcgroup.org. The Communiqué is also a contribution to the Mexico City seminar of which ETC group is among the sponsoring organizations. For further background on the seminar, contact Silvia Ribeiro in Mexico City: firstname.lastname@example.org
The world's centres of crop genetic diversity are the part of biodiversity that feeds people. The gene banks within those centres are critical for global food security. Now, the MesoAmerican centre is contaminated with genetically modified (GM) material and its most important gene bank may be contaminated as well.
How can monopoly patents threaten food security and the livelihoods of farmers? The controversial Enola bean patent demonstrates the abuses of intellectual property monopoly:
A US patent on a yellow bean variety has disrupted export markets for Mexican bean growers and is now wreaking havoc on small farmers and seed companies in the United States. The patent makes it illegal for unlicensed users in the United States to grow, sell, import, or use the proprietary yellow bean seeds.
Larry Proctor, the president of Pod-Ners seed company (Colorado, USA) and the owner of the controversial US patent on a yellow-colored bean variety, filed a lawsuit on 30 November 2001 against 16 small bean seed companies and farmers in Colorado, claiming that they are violating the patent by illegally growing and selling his yellow "Enola" bean. Proctor holds both a US Patent and a US Plant Variety Protection certificate on the Enola yellow bean.
The first global accord of the 21st century, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, was adopted by consensus on November 3rd, 2001. After seven years of acrimonious debate, the convoluted text can't be read without recourse to the Rosetta Stone. Nevertheless, history will come to know it as "The Law of the Seed" - a signal step toward food sovereignty and justice. Today, the ETC group (formerly RAFI) is releasing its ETC Translator to help farmers and policy-makers decipher the accord. The 16-page report includes 11 cartoons of biocrat negotiators and a Global Governance Report scoring the 25 delegations and organizations that most influenced the outcome - for good or ill.
This Communique identifies new mechanisms - ranging from remote sensing technologies, biological monopolies, and legal contracts - that are being developed by a broad range of industries to strengthen corporate dominance over new technologies. The political, practical and technical uncertainties surrounding intellectual property are increasingly unacceptable to industry - and that is why companies are developing new tools for monopoly control- what ETC group calls "New Enclosures."
The first global accord of the 21st century, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, was adopted by consensus on November 3rd, 2001. After seven years of acrimonious debate, the convoluted text can't be read without recourse to the Rosetta Stone. Seen as a "white elephant" by some, and as the "mouse that could roar" by others, history will come to know it as "The Law of the Seed" - a major step toward food sovereignty and justice.
However US scientists got hold of Thailand's billion dollar 'Jasmine' rice, the reality is that US national public research has the potential to destroy a vital export market for poor Asian farmers. That the invaluable germplasm may have been sent, improperly, by an international public science body dedicated to poverty eradication, raises tough questions about the role of the public sector in privatized science. Ironically, the very treaty that could help resolve these issues is endangered by this latest biopiracy. ETC Group draws out the international consequences.
In a period framed by the World Food Summit of 1996 and the Summit's rescheduled review in 2002, ETC Group looks back at the same span of years one century earlier as history lesson and as portent. These years (1896-1902) marked an era of devastating global famine when no less than 30 million people died in circumstances strikingly similar to those we face today-trade liberalization (i.e., "globalization"), climatic change, (corporate) colonialism, and a set of new technologies promising, once again, to feed the hungry.
A new report by ETC Group argues that the pharmaceutical industry's major interest in "The Book of Life" and parallel advances in neurosciences lies in the development of new drugs and therapies that target "well people" rather than the ill. The study also shows that company strategies focusing on parents could eliminate the "different" in the human species in favour of a monocultural "norm." In addition, industry and government are exploring the potential to use the new genomics to monitor and control dissent.
Issue: For five years now, public concern about genetic engineering has been riveted on GM crops and foods. But, advances in mapping the human genome have spawned new pharmaceutical industry opportunities. While the prospects for human cloning and stem cell therapies grab the headlines and divert our attention, the companies are pursuing more strategic agendas. Although the majority oppose reproductive cloning, public and policy opinion is 'soft.' Industry's latest and most lucrative market - Human Performance Enhancement drugs - 'HyPEs' - are not even on the policy agenda.
Delta & Pine Land, the maverick seed company that vows to commercialize the notorious Terminator technology, is in trouble. Delta & Pine Land announced (2001) that its president is quitting, the company will eliminate 7 percent of its work force and they are shutting down a facility in Arizona.
It's official. The US Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has concluded negotiations to license the notorious Terminator technology to its seed industry partner, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL). As a result of joint research, the USDA and D&PL are co-owners of three patents on the controversial technology that genetically modifies plants to produce sterile seeds, preventing farmers from re-using harvested seed. A licensing agreement establishes the terms and conditions under which a party can use a patented technology. Although many of the Gene Giants hold patents on Terminator technology, D&PL is the only company that has publicly declared its intention to commercialize Terminator seeds.