Quick Reads

Snakes in the GM Grass

Scotts Says GM Grass Could be Greener with Terminator. USDA's Biotech Advisory Board Ruminates on Terminator.

GM (genetically modified) crops may be a fiasco on the farm, but Monsanto and its partner Scotts (Ohio, USA), are hoping that GM grass will be a sensation in suburbia. A page-one story in the New York Times, July 9th, reports that Scotts Company in collaboration with Monsanto and Rutgers University is developing genetically modified grass for suburban lawns and golf courses (David Barboza, 'Ground-Level Genetics, for the Perfect Lawn,' New York Times, July 9, 2000, p. 1.). Scotts predicts that the market for GM grass could sprout to a whopping $10 billion. (By contrast, the entire commercial market for crop seeds in the US is worth approximately $5 billion per annum.) Monsanto and Scotts are developing herbicide tolerant strains that can withstand spraying of Monsanto's blockbuster weedkiller Roundup, as well as genetically altered, slow-growing ('mow-me-less') grass. Just around the dogleg, Scotts and Monsanto foresee GM grass in designer colours.

Despite Mounting Opposition from Southern nations, delegates at the Biodiversity Convention fail to ban Terminator

In the face of mounting evidence of its commercialization, the Fifth Conference of the Parties (COP 5) to the Biodiversity Convention (CBD) failed to heed the warnings of most of the world's nations to ban the Terminator technology. 'By not responding to the calls made by many of the nations of the world, a minority of COP delegates from the North ultimately abdicated their responsibility to international food security and biodiversty,' said Julie Delahanty of RAFI.

Despite information about new patents and field trials, and the strong opposition to Terminator and genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs)* expressed clearly by most of the world's nations, the CBD approved a proposal coming from its Scientific Advisory Body (called SBSTTA). That proposal recommends that GURTs not be approved for field-testing or be commercialized until more scientific data can be gathered on its potential impacts. The text also states that Parties may choose to establish a complete moratorium on these technologies at the national level.

Terminator en el campo

El Convenio de Biodiversidad debe prohibir el uso de la tecnología Terminator, o el "Principio de Precaución" será un principio póstumo

Durante 1999 se otorgaron siete patentes nuevas sobre Terminator y más de una prueba de campo de tecnologías de restricción del uso genético (TRUGs). Los gobiernos presentes en la 5a. Conferencia de las Partes del Convenio sobre Diversidad Biológica (COP 5) deben actuar enérgicamente para prohibir Terminator y abrir una moratoria a las pruebas de campo o venta comercial de organismos modificados genéticamente con tecnologías de restricción del uso genético. "Esto será una prueba del tan voceado Principio de Precaución y del Protocolo de Bioseguridad negociado en enero pasado," advierte Silvia Ribeiro, "Si la COP 5 no logra ponerse de acuerdo en la prohibición de Terminator , que es un amenaza grave a la biodiversidad, mostrará que no se puede confiar en el Convenio y la ratificación del Protocolo será solamente una formalidad"

Terminator on Trial

Nairobi Biodiversity Meeting Must Ban Terminator Or Precautionary Principle Will Become Post-Mortem Critics Warn

1999 saw at least seven new Terminator patents, and more than one field trial of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). Governments meeting at COP5 in Nairobi (15-26 May) must act decisively to ban Terminator and call for a moratorium on field testing and commercial sale of GURTs. 'This is the litmus test for the CBD s much-touted precautionary principle and the Biosafety Protocol negotiated last January,' Silvia Ribeiro of RAFI warns, 'If the Convention can't agree on an all-out ban of the Terminator as a blatant threat to biodiversity, then it can't be trusted and the Protocol shouldn't be ratified.'

USDA Betrays Public Trust with Two New Terminator Patents

Will USDA's Biotech Advisory Board Demand Accountability?

The Rural Advancement Foaundation International (RAFI), an international civil society organization based in Canada, announced today that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) holds two new patents on the controversial Terminator technology, the genetic engineering of plants to render their seeds sterile. If commercialized, Terminator would make it impossible for farmers to save seeds from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial seed market every year.

Organizaciones indigenas denuncian biopirateria en Chiapas

Once organizaciones indígenas exigen que se suspendan las actividades de un programa de bioprospección en Chiapas, México, financiado por el Gobierno de Estados Unidos con 2,5 millones de dólares. Pese a las protestas de organizaciones indígenas locales, la Universidad de Georgia (EE.UU) dice que no suspenderá el proyecto que tiene una duración prevista de 5 años y que se propone colectar y evaluar miles de plantas y microorganismos usados en la medicina tradicional de las comunidades mayas.

Biopiracy Project in Chiapas, Mexico Denounced by Mayan Indigenous Groups

University of Georgia Refuses to Halt Project

University of Georgia Refuses to Halt Project. Eleven indigenous peoples' organizations are demanding that a US$2.5 million, US-government funded bioprospecting program suspend its activities in Chiapas, Mexico. Despite the protest by local Mayan organizations, the University of Georgia (US) says it will not halt the five-year project, which aims to collect and evaluate thousands of plants and microorganisms used in traditional medicine by Mayan communities.Collectively known as the Council of Indigenous Traditional Midwives and Healers of Chiapas (Consejo Estatal de Parteras y M dicos Ind genas Tradicionales de Chiapas), the eleven Mayan organizations are denouncing the bioprospecting project, and they are asking other indigenous people in Chiapas to refuse to cooperate with the researchers. The project is led by the University of Georgia, in cooperation with a Mexican university research center, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), and Molecular Nature Ltd., a biotechnology company based in Wales, U.K. What is the Chiapas ICBG Project? The five-year project 'Drug Discovery and Biodiversity Among the Maya of Mexico,' now in its second year of operation, will receive a total grant of US$2.5 million dollars from the US government's International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups (ICBG). The ICBG is a consortium of US federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that awards grants to public and commercial research institutions that conduct bioprospecting/biopiracy programs in the South. The ICBG's self-stated goal is to promote drug discovery from natural sources, biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic growth in developing countries.