When patents on Terminator seeds first came to light nine years ago, even the most jaded among us were stunned by the audacious corporate greed manifested by this novel (and complex) gene engineering technique. Terminator refers to crops that are genetically modified to render sterile seeds at harvest - the equivalent of a 'biological patent' that would prevent farmers from re-planting harvested seeds and guarantee perpetual sales for the commercial seed industry. 'Suicide seeds' are surely one of the most immoral applications of genetic engineering and an egregious use of taxpayer money.
Last week the US Justice Department (DOJ) gave the green light for Monsanto's $1.5 billion takeover of the world's largest cotton seed company, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) -- the company that has long vowed to commercialize Terminator seeds (more on that below). The so-called "anti-trust" regulators approved the deal with a number of conditions. For instance, Monsanto must sell Stoneville, one of its largest cotton seed holdings, to multinational Bayer. The company must also agree to license its biotech traits to major competitors like Syngenta and Dupont.
In the last few years it would have been fair to "blame Canada" for trying to overturn the international moratorium on terminator seeds. Thankfully if a new initiative in Ottawa suceeds the Canadian government may be forced to change its tune.
A bill to prohibit field testing and commercialization of Terminator seed technology was introduced in the Canadian Parliament today by the Agriculture critic (ie spokesperson) for the NDP party.
Further reflections on EPO's May 3 decision to revoke Monsanto's species-wide soybean patent
ETC Group has been receiving lots of emails and phone calls in the past few days about the defeat of Monsanto's soybean patent one week ago. While most have been congratulatory a few have asked whether this wasn't in fact a hollow victory since the patent challenge was won on technical merits rather than fundamental principles of morality. Will it even affect Monsanto's patent portfolio? One US activist asked:
In the midst of our new fight over geoengineering near the Galapagos, we've got good news over a very old fight with Monsanto... Hope Shand just phoned from Munich to say that the European Patent Office has agreed with ETC's arguments and overturned Monsanto's soybean "species" patent. There is no further appeal!!
In a couple of days Hope Shand from ETC Group will be in court in the European patent Office to challenge Monsanto's Patent on Soy beans - a patent that we have been contesting for 13 years and that originally Monsanto themselves opposed!! You can read more about that here. In the meantime, ETC Group is releasing its new ranking of the world's top 10 seed companies, based on 2006 seed revenues. The list appears below.
The biotech industry claims that the global area devoted to GM crops in 2005 was 90 million hectares - or 222 million acres. ETC Group does not endorse or agree with the validity of annual statistics on GM crops compiled by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
We agree with civil society critics who charge that ISAAA's statistics are inflated and unreliable. However, even using industry-generated statistics, the biotech countdown is revealing. Here are the vital statistics:
In this article the author makes a very enlightening summary of corporate concentration during 2006, and how this affects our lives as simple citizens even though we think its something happening far away
by Silvia Ribeiro
On October 10, ETC Group attended the US Food and Drug Administrations first public meeting on nanotechnology. About 40 people had signed up to make presentations, and we were each given eight minutes to say our piece to the FDAs newly-formed Nanotechnology Task Force. (You can read the text of ETC Groups presentation here.)