October 22, 1998

RAFI Translator: Dead Seed Scroll?

The USDA's Terminator Defence

RAFI responds to USDA's "fact sheet" on Terminator technology. Embarrassed by the deluge of public opposition to USDA's role in developing suicide seeds, the Agency releases a muted re-hash with no new arguments or data.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - its back against the wall for the co-development of Terminator Technology - has replied to more than 1850 protest letters from 54 countries with a "Fact Sheet" that is about as useful and sterile as the suicide seeds it is defending. 

Analysis: The Terminator debate boils down to four issues: Is it needed? Is it safe? How will it be used? Will farmers have a choice? With each of these questions, the fact sheet manages to either miss the point or avoid the question altogether. The Terminator targets the South's farmers and claims to be a benefit to world food security. Yet, overwhelmingly, the international ag science community, including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has opposed the Terminator insisting that the technology threatens food security. Given this , the issue of safety - in the absence of value - should be obvious. Certainly, the burden of absolute proof rests heavily on the shoulders of those advocating suicide seeds. How will it be used? That's explicit in the Terminator and in "look-alikes" such as Zeneca’s Verminator. The technology is a platform upon which agribusiness will stack other proprietary genetic traits. Finally, do poor farmers have choices? Of course not. A defining feature of poverty is the lack of choice. Ask farmers in Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Philippines.


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