March 23, 2000

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.

'The US government is advancing research and squandering taxpayer dollars on a technology that has been universally condemned because it is bad for farmers, food security and biodiversity,' says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. ' It's an egregious misallocation of public resources for the sole purpose of maximizing seed industry profits,' adds Mooney.

'It's disgraceful,' says Hope Shand, RAFI's Research Director. 'We were shocked to discover USDA's new patents because when we met with US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Richard Rominger on two separate occasions last year, his staff assured us in no uncertain terms that there were no more patents in the works. Why didn't we get the straight story?' asks Shand.

'Despite mounting opposition from national governments, United Nations' agencies, farmers, scientists and civil society organizations around the world, USDA continues to ignore the public outcry at home and abroad,' adds Silvia Ribeiro, RAFI Programme Officer. Last month, for example, the Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared FAO's opposition to Terminator. Earlier this month, the state of Maryland (US) introduced a bill to ban Terminator seeds. (See RAFI Communique, 'Suicide Seeds on the Fast Track,' Feb./March, 2000).


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