June 29, 1998

Volume 5, #1 Terminator Trends:

The 'Silent Spring' of Farmers' Rights - Seed Saving, the Public Sector, and Terminator Transnationals

The only thing that can keep pace with the rate of agricultural biotechnological change these days is the speed with which the transnatinoal Life Industry is eating itself. in the last couple of years, Monsanto has  spent more than $6.7 billion buying seed and other ag biotech companies. Now, American Home Products is merging with Monsanto for another $33 billion. Other massive mergers are inevitable within the next few months. That transnational agri-business wants to stop farmers from saving seeds and conducting their own plant breeding is hardly news. That the battle over Farmers' Rights has come so abruptly to a crisis is news that governments and the scientific community are trying to ignore. We have at best two years,and at worst six months to safeguard the right of farmers as seed-savers and breeders. Rather than coming to their defence, public sector institutions are keeping silent or joining in the attack. Either way, public researchers could be contributing to the destruction of agricultural biodiversity. Who's interests are being served? The 12 thousand year-old right of farmers to save and improve seed could be coming to an end - now. Governments at FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) could turn this around when they convene in Rome from June 8-12. FAO's "Gene" Commission, which will have to debate Farmers' Rights, offers the last hope for intergovernmental moral leadership.

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