Terminating Food Sovereignty in Ecuador?

President opens door to Terminator seeds

On February 18, 2009, the Ecuadorian Congress approved a new Law on Food Sovereignty, which, among other important points, declared the country “free of transgenic crops and seeds.” However, in spite of vocal popular opposition, the legislation left the door open to approvals of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in “exceptional” cases. Now, President Rafael Correa has proposed several changes to the legislation – in what is known in Ecuador as a partial-veto – and sent it back to the Congress. The president's changes dangerously weaken the law and open the door to Terminator seeds.

Terminator technology is designed to make “suicide seeds,” genetically engineered to be sterile in the second generation. The technology has been widely rejected around the world by farmers’ movements, governments, research institutions and UN agencies as dangerous, immoral and undesirable.

Alarmed by President Correa's proposals, civil society is now calling on him to drop his amendments and to explicitly ban Terminator technology.

“It's very disturbing that a law that aims to affirm food sovereignty could instead clear the way for a technology that was designed to prevent it,” said Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the companies that designed suicide seed technology did so explicitly to replace what they called peasants’ 'old seeds.' Since 2000, when a de facto moratorium against Terminator technology was agreed at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD], these companies have re-branded Terminator as a 'biosafety' tool. This is the interpretation reflected in the president's amended text. Ribeiro adds, “We're worried that this kind of language is showing up in several countries in the global South and we see it as a new push by the biotech industry to overturn the moratorium on Terminator at the CBD's meeting next year in Japan.”

 

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