Curitiba, Brazil. After a week that has seen a worldwide mobilisation against Terminator technology, the issue of Suicide Seeds is about to hit the negotiating floor of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Curitiba, Brazil ((March 2006). Known to the CBD as GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), Terminator crops are genetically modified to create sterile seeds at harvest so that farmers must buy new seed every season. Today (22.03.2006) the Ban Terminator Campaign, a global coalition of over 500 organisations, released new financial calculations indicating that Terminator seeds will impose a burden of billions of extra dollars in seed costs on some of the world's poorest nations.
The calculations, prepared by civil society organisation ETC Group in cooperation with farm organisations, show that if Terminator were commercialised, the extra seed costs for farmers in just seven countries could easily exceed $1.2 billion per year (3 times the amount spent on public agricultural research in the green revolution centres of the CGIAR or about half the yearly Canadian aid budget). Yet this amounts to just a fraction of the full financial windfall the seed industry could hope to extract from farmers if they were to apply Terminator technology to all their seed lines worldwide. This figure is thought likely to run to billions of extra dollars per year. In Brazil, host country to the CBD, soybean farmers could face US$407 million dollars (Brazilian Real $866 million) of extra seed costs if they were unable to re-use harvested seed. Even Canadian wheat farmers, whose government is one of the leading proponents of Terminator at the CBD, could be stung with an annual bill of US$85 million dollars.
The new calculations are being released in advance of an expected showdown later today between delegates from the global South and the four rich countries that have promoted "case by case risk assesment" for Terminator technology: Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK (supported on the sidelines by the US, which is not a party to the CBD). This "case by case" clause would open the door to field trialing and commercialisation of sterile seed technology.
"No wonder the multinational seed industry is so keen to win 'case by case' assessment of Terminator," explained Pat Mooney of ETC Group. "If they can undermine the existing moratorium, they will use Terminator as a technology platform for all commercial seeds and extract billions of extra dollars from farmers."