Monsanto, the world's largest seed and agbiotech company, made a public promise in 1999 not to commercialize 'Terminator Technology' - plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds. Now (February 2006) Monsanto says it may develop or use the so-called 'suicide seeds' after all. The revised pledge from Monsanto now suggests that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses of Terminator in the future. Monsanto's modified stance comes to light as the biotech and seed industry confront peasant and farmer movements, Indigenous peoples and their allies in an escalating battle at the United Nations over the future of Terminator.
Indigenous peoples were betrayed and Farmers' Rights trampled at a UN meeting this week (March 2006) when the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments - guided by the US government and a brazen cabal of corporate Gene Giants - took a major step to undermine the existing moratorium on Terminator technology (i.e., plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest). The damaging recommendations from the meeting in Granada, Spain, now go to the upcoming 8th biennial meeting of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31, 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.
The Coalition Against Biopiracy exposed the globe's nastiest biopirates and rewarded the most steadfast resistors at the Captain Hook Awards on 24 March 2006 during the meeting of the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, Brazil. This ETC Group Communique provides a detailed description of the 2006 award winners.
After more than a decade of negotiations, the CBD has yet to provide meaningful regulations to stop biopiracy – the monopolization of genetic resources and knowledge taken from the farming communities and peoples that have developed and nurtured those resources. The Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy are given out at the meeting of the CBD’s COP to draw international attention to the Convention’s failure to put human rights above monopoly rights and for continuing to propagate the myth that equitable benefit sharing is achievable in the context of predatory patent regimes. Cog awards are given to those institutions, peoples’ organizations, governments and individuals who have fostered real opposition to biopiracy, defeated predatory patents or defended the intellectual and cultural integrity of farmers and Indigenous Peoples.
*In the Middle Ages, cogs were small ships built with high sides to make them less vulnerable to pirate attacks.
As governments at the 6th WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong bristle with the thorny politics of trade, the report that ETC Group releases today, Oligopoly, Inc. 2005, serves as a reminder that what looks like buying and selling between countries is most often the redistribution of capital among subsidiaries of the same parent multinational corporation.
According to Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group in Mexico: "It's no surprise that the industry is using the findings to serve its own interests - as 'proof' that contamination no longer exists and that GM crops should have free reign everywhere, even in the South's centers of crop genetic diversity. Indigenous and farming communities vigorously disagree with the biotech industry's self-serving interpretation of the study."
According to peasant communities in Oaxaca, the new findings are not terribly surprising. Baldemar Mendoza of UNOSJO (Union of Organisations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca) - who lives in the region covered by the new study - said, "We took samples in 3 of the 18 communities that the new report mentions (San Juan Ev. Analco, Ixtlan and Santa Maria Jaltianguis) and our results were also negative in those three communities." Mendoza points out that the geographic area sampled by the new study is small and the 18 communities are predominantly forest communities, which means that their main activity is not planting maize. Mendoza also points out, "The new study doesn't refer to any other part of Mexico where contamination has been found but some in the media are already making the false claim that 'there is no contamination in the whole state of Oaxaca or even all of Southern Mexico.'"
Twenty-five years after the biotech industry got the green light to patent life, nanotech goes after the building blocks of life.
On the 25th anniversary of Diamond vs. Chakrabarty,* the US Supreme Court's landmark decision (June 16, 1980) that opened the floodgates to the patenting of living organisms, ETC Group releases a new report, "Nanotech's 'Second Nature' Patents."
Ottawa - Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, Africa's chief scientist and negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, received his Canadian visa late Tuesday evening (May 2005) Ethiopian time. Dr. Tewolde, who is scheduled to be in the crop biotech liability negotiations tomorrow morning, May 25 2005, in Montreal, has his bags packed and is awaiting a revised plane ticket that - even under ideal circumstances - could only get him to Montreal in time for the final day of the controversial set of UN negotiations (May 27). After extended discussions over Canada's Victoria Day holiday on Monday, a visa arrived in Ethiopia from the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi Tuesday.
In a breathtaking display of political interference, the Canadian government has blocked entry of Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, who was scheduled to attend UN meetings beginning next week (2005) in Montreal. The Protocol is the United Nations treaty that governs the international movement of genetically modified (GM) organisms.
Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa yesterday (May 2005), and without explanation.
Following 72 hours of negotiations by e-mail, telephone and in-person, the Swiss Gene Giant Syngenta confirmed to ETC Group (11.02.2005), that it would allow its multi-genome patent application covering the flowering sequences in at least 40 plant species to lapse at the European Patent Office (EPO), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and around the world. Syngenta's announcement follows a month-long campaign launched by ETC Group and supported by farmers' organizations, trade unions and other civil society organizations.