Submitted by ETC Group on
It has become a pattern in RAFI’s Annual Reports to announce that the year just ended has been the busiest and most eventful ever. As tiresome as this is to say, it is an unavoidable description of our fiscal year that closed on August 31st 1999. If downloads from RAFI’s website are any indication, the impact of RAFI’s work has quadrupled, and demands on staff time have increased accordingly. Much of the new interest was provoked by the “Terminator,” RAFI’s name for more than 30 patents on genetic engineering technologies that render seed sterile at harvest time. Toward the end of 1998, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) agreed that its 16 member institutions would refuse to commercialize the technology. A committed chorus of prominent individuals (including Maurice Strong and M.S. Swaminathan) and governments (from Argentina and Peru to India and Uganda) came out against the Terminator. RAFI launched a round of discussion with 130 governments, in an effort to secure a global ban on the field use of the technology. Responding to the protests of many Civil Society Organizations, two leading biotech companies, AstraZeneca and Monsanto, announced that they are abandoning their research on seed sterility. In the first half of 1999, RAFI expanded its analysis of trait-control technologies, and published a study on “Traitor Tech.” The report argues that the ability to control seed germination is, perhaps, less commercially-potent than the ability to switch off other important crop traits, simply by denying farmers access to an enhanced herbicide.