Suicide Seeds on the Fast Track
Sun, 26 Mar 2000 10:25:24 -0800
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SAN FRANCISCO, March 24, 2000 - A report released by the Rural
Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) reveals that Terminator
and Traitor technology are riding a fast track to commercialization.
Terminator technology, the genetic engineering of plants to produce
sterile seeds, is universally considered the most morally offensive
application of agricultural biotechnology, since over 1.4 billion
people depend on farm-saved seeds. Traitor technology, also known as
genetic use restriction technology (GURTs), refers to the use of an
external chemical to switch on or off a plant's genetic traits.
"We've continued right on with work on the Technology Protection
System [Terminator]. We never really slowed down. We're on target,
moving ahead to commercialize it. We never really backed off."
Harry Collins, Delta & Pine Land Seed Co., January, 2000
"After Monsanto and AstraZeneca publicly vowed not to commercialize
terminator seeds in 1999, governments and civil society organizations
were lulled into thinking that the crisis had passed. Nothing could
further from the truth," said RAFI's Executive Director Pat Mooney.
"Despite mounting opposition from national governments and United
Nations' agencies, research on Terminator and Traitor (genetic trait
control) is moving full speed ahead."
According to RAFI, Delta & Pine Land, the world's largest cotton seed
company, is moving aggressively to commercialize Terminator. And
despite massive protests, the US Department of Agriculture supports
and defends its anti-farmer patent and research on suicide seeds.
year, AstraZeneca conducted field trials on genetic trait control
technology (Traitor technology) in the UK. According to industry
sources, it is not the first company to conduct field tests of this
RAFI's report concludes that corporate commitments to disavow
Terminator are virtually meaningless in light of the pace of
takeovers. Monsanto and AstraZeneca have each merged with other
companies since they pledged not to commercialize suicide seeds.
* On December 2, 1999 Novartis and AstraZeneca announced they would
spin-off and merge their agrochemical and seed divisions to
the world's biggest agribusiness corporation -- to be named
* On December 19, 1999 Monsanto announced that it will merge with
drug industry giant Pharmacia & Upjohn to create a new company,
named Pharmacia, with combined annual sales of $17 billion.
The Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) Jacques Diouf recently declared his opposition to
Terminator. In publicly rejecting Terminator, FAO's Diouf has come to
the defense of the 1.4 billion people who depend upon farm-saved seed
for their survival.
Among the national governments that have announced their intention to
oppose Terminator technology are Panama, India, Ghana, and Uganda.
India, one of the first governments to publicly reject Terminator,
explicitly prohibits Terminator genes in a draft bill now before the
Indian Parliament. Ghanaian Minister of Environment, Cletus Avoka,
says that his government will not tolerate the use of Terminator
technology. Panama's Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries writes
his government "will adopt measures to prohibit the specific patents
as well as the technology in general." Ugandan officials have said
that their government is discussing measures to outlaw Terminator at
the highest levels of government.
Terminator and Traitor technologies are not limited to a single
patent, nor is the research confined to one or two companies. Delta &
Pine Land is currently the high-profile crusader for Terminator, but
the goal of genetic trait control is industry-wide. According to
over 30 patents are collectively held by the multinational
agrochemical firms that dominate the field of biotechnology.
According to RAFI, the future of Terminator/Traitor Technology rests
with national governments and multinational corporations. The
points for political action are, first and foremost, with national
governments around the world. Second, pressure should be applied at
key international fora such as through the BioSafety Protocol at the
Convention on Biological Diversity, and intellectual property
negotiations at the World Trade Organization.
Entitled Suicide Seeds on the Fast Track, the new RAFI CommuniquÈ is
available on RAFI's website http://www.rafi.org.
Source/contact: RAFI International Office, 110 Osborne Street, Suite
202, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3L 1Y5 Canada; phone (204) 453-5259; fax
(204) 925-8034; email firstname.lastname@example.org. The above article was
reprinted with permission from the Pesticide Action Network Updates
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