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Re: Existing trade agreements undermining poor nat

GR Action #1/99 January 1999
Terminate "Terminator" Technology
"The development of the terminator technology is completely against human rights to livelihood, and it can result in virtual genocide for thousands (if not millions) of people. . .The terminator technology is a recipe for exacerbating and greatly increasing the problem of world hunger."

-- Lori Ann Thrupp, World Resources Institute

What "built-in obsolescence" did for manufacturing companies, genetic engineering is now doing for agro-industry. Last year, Monsanto in the U.S. and Astra-Zeneca in the U.K. patented seeds that are only good for one harvest; the second-generation seeds are genetically engineered to be sterile. Farmers who plant these "Terminator Seeds" are hooked into purchasing new seed every year.

Organizations of small farmers around the world are challenging the morality of Terminator Technology, which they fear may terminate them. Poor farmers cannot afford to purchase seeds every growing season. They grow 15 to 20 percent of the world's food, most of it from seeds saved from the previous harvest. At least 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seed for their survival.

So far tests of Terminator Technology have only been successful with cotton and tobacco seeds, but Monsanto hopes to add rice, wheat, sorghum and soybeans to the list in the next 5 years. These crops feed the world.

Proponents argue that if farmers don't want Terminator Seeds they don't have to buy them. But farmers' choices can be severely limited when seed companies, national governments and banks offer credit only to those farmers who agree to plant selected varieties. Farmers throughout the developing world have already suffered this kind of coercion, forcing them to use agrochemicals and genetically engineered seeds.

For the 12,000 years that human beings have farmed, they have selected seeds from the plants best adapted to local conditions. Plant breeding around the world by small farmers (most of them women) makes agriculture possible on the marginal lands of the poor. The diverse crop varieties bred by small farmers provide a valuable source of genetic diversity that is used by plant breeders around the world to maintain pest and disease resistance in our major food crops.

Terminator Technology "robs farming communities of their age-old right to save seed and their role as plant breeders," says Camila Montecinos of Chile's Center for Education and Technology. "The sole purpose is to facilitate monopoly control, and the sole beneficiary is agribusiness."

Monsanto and Astra-Zeneca say that the Terminator's enormous profitability will motivate seed companies to intensify research and development of wheat and rice - and the whole world will benefit. But the seed industry has never developed seeds adapted to the needs of small and subsistence farmers on marginal lands. The US Department of Agriculture, which helped Monsanto develop Terminator Seeds, admits the goal is "to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in second and third world countries." Monsanto/USDA has already applied for patents in 87 countries.

India acted quickly to protect its farmers, food security and biodiversity by rejecting Terminator Technology. "Every country has the right to deny licenses for Terminator patents," explains Pat Mooney, director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). "If international organizations take a strong stand against Terminator Technology, governments will take heed. Governments must refuse to license Terminator patents to protect their farmers from the potentially devastating effects of this technology."

Last October, Terminator Technology took a blow when the world's largest international agricultural research network, CGIAR, banned Terminator Technology from its crop breeding programs (see box). A resolution to condemn the Terminator will come before the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in April. As the voice for world food security, the FAO can effectively influence governments to reject Terminator Technology.

Requested Action:
Farmer organizations on 4 continents ask Global Response members to help persuade the FAO to condemn Terminator Technology.

Please send a polite letter to:

Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director General
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
Viale delle Terme di Caracella
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: Internat'l access code+390(6) 570-53152

In your letters, urge the FAO to condemn Terminator Technology because:

The FAO is the voice for world food security in the United Nations. In the context of its Food for All Campaign, the FAO should come to the defense of the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seed for their survival.
Scientists warn that under certain conditions the trait for seed sterility will be carried by pollen to surrounding plants, both wild and cultivated, causing inadvertent sterilization.
If farmers are forced or persuaded to use Terminator Seeds, centuries of crop genetic diversity developed by the world's small farmers could be lost forever.
An FAO resolution against Terminator Technology will effectively warn governments of the danger of granting patents on Terminator Technology.
You may also want to express your concerns about Terminator Technology to:

Secretary Dan Glickman
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington DC 20250
Fax: 202/720-2166

Robert B. Shapiro
Chairman and CEO
800 N. Lindbergh
St. Louis MO 63167
Fax: 314/694-1757
CGIAR Policy on the Terminator - The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research is a global network of 16 international agricultural research centers. CGIAR gives the following reasons for its decision against using Terminator Technology in its breeding materials: (1) the potential risk that seed sterilization may spread to surrounding crops through pollen; (2) the possibility that sterilized seeds might be sold or exchanged for planting; (3) the importance of farm-saved seed, particularly to resource-poor farmers; (4) potential negative impacts on genetic diversity and (5) the importance of farmer selection and breeding for sustainable agriculture.

A Farmer's Duty - "A farmer's duty is protecting the earth, maintaining its fertility, and maintaining the fertility of seed. . .Farmers have such pride in saying, 'This is the tenth generation seeds that I'm planting'. . .When we plant a seed there's a very simple prayer that every peasant in India says: 'Let the seed be exhaustless…let it bring forth seed next year.' But that prayer…seems to be changing into the prayer, 'Let this seed get terminated so that I can make profits every year,' which is the prayer that Monsanto is speaking through the terminator technology."

-- Dr. Vandana Shiva, from an interview published in In Motion Magazine

This Global Response Action was issued in support of and with information provided by Rural Advancement Foundation International (Canada), Centro de Educacion y Tecnologia (Chile), Southeast Asian Regional Institute for Community Education (Philippines), and Community Technology Development Association ( Zimbabwe).

For more information, please see these websites:

Real Foods Watch | About the Lexington Food Co-op | Co-op links | Other green links

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Existing trade agreements undermining poor nations
Re: Existing trade agreements undermining poor nat

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