Quick Reads

USDA Refuses to Abandon Terminator Technology

Delta & Pine Land Gets One Step Closer to Commercialization

Two days of contentious debate on Terminator has ruptured the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Advisory Board on Agricultural Biotechnology. Terminator technology, the genetic engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, has been widely condemned as a dangerous and morally offensive application of agricultural biotechnology, because over 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds.

USDA ignited the worldwide controversy in March 1998 when it won the first of three patents on genetic seed sterilization, which it holds jointly with Delta & Pine Land - the world's largest cotton seed company.

Snakes in the GM Grass

Scotts Says GM Grass Could be Greener with Terminator. USDA's Biotech Advisory Board Ruminates on Terminator.

GM (genetically modified) crops may be a fiasco on the farm, but Monsanto and its partner Scotts (Ohio, USA), are hoping that GM grass will be a sensation in suburbia. A page-one story in the New York Times, July 9th, reports that Scotts Company in collaboration with Monsanto and Rutgers University is developing genetically modified grass for suburban lawns and golf courses (David Barboza, 'Ground-Level Genetics, for the Perfect Lawn,' New York Times, July 9, 2000, p. 1.). Scotts predicts that the market for GM grass could sprout to a whopping $10 billion. (By contrast, the entire commercial market for crop seeds in the US is worth approximately $5 billion per annum.) Monsanto and Scotts are developing herbicide tolerant strains that can withstand spraying of Monsanto's blockbuster weedkiller Roundup, as well as genetically altered, slow-growing ('mow-me-less') grass. Just around the dogleg, Scotts and Monsanto foresee GM grass in designer colours.

Despite Mounting Opposition from Southern nations, delegates at the Biodiversity Convention fail to ban Terminator

In the face of mounting evidence of its commercialization, the Fifth Conference of the Parties (COP 5) to the Biodiversity Convention (CBD) failed to heed the warnings of most of the world's nations to ban the Terminator technology. 'By not responding to the calls made by many of the nations of the world, a minority of COP delegates from the North ultimately abdicated their responsibility to international food security and biodiversty,' said Julie Delahanty of RAFI.

Despite information about new patents and field trials, and the strong opposition to Terminator and genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs)* expressed clearly by most of the world's nations, the CBD approved a proposal coming from its Scientific Advisory Body (called SBSTTA). That proposal recommends that GURTs not be approved for field-testing or be commercialized until more scientific data can be gathered on its potential impacts. The text also states that Parties may choose to establish a complete moratorium on these technologies at the national level.

Terminator on Trial

Nairobi Biodiversity Meeting Must Ban Terminator Or Precautionary Principle Will Become Post-Mortem Critics Warn

1999 saw at least seven new Terminator patents, and more than one field trial of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). Governments meeting at COP5 in Nairobi (15-26 May) must act decisively to ban Terminator and call for a moratorium on field testing and commercial sale of GURTs. 'This is the litmus test for the CBD s much-touted precautionary principle and the Biosafety Protocol negotiated last January,' Silvia Ribeiro of RAFI warns, 'If the Convention can't agree on an all-out ban of the Terminator as a blatant threat to biodiversity, then it can't be trusted and the Protocol shouldn't be ratified.'

Terminator en el campo

El Convenio de Biodiversidad debe prohibir el uso de la tecnología Terminator, o el "Principio de Precaución" será un principio póstumo

Durante 1999 se otorgaron siete patentes nuevas sobre Terminator y más de una prueba de campo de tecnologías de restricción del uso genético (TRUGs). Los gobiernos presentes en la 5a. Conferencia de las Partes del Convenio sobre Diversidad Biológica (COP 5) deben actuar enérgicamente para prohibir Terminator y abrir una moratoria a las pruebas de campo o venta comercial de organismos modificados genéticamente con tecnologías de restricción del uso genético. "Esto será una prueba del tan voceado Principio de Precaución y del Protocolo de Bioseguridad negociado en enero pasado," advierte Silvia Ribeiro, "Si la COP 5 no logra ponerse de acuerdo en la prohibición de Terminator , que es un amenaza grave a la biodiversidad, mostrará que no se puede confiar en el Convenio y la ratificación del Protocolo será solamente una formalidad"

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.

Organizaciones indigenas denuncian biopirateria en Chiapas

Once organizaciones indígenas exigen que se suspendan las actividades de un programa de bioprospección en Chiapas, México, financiado por el Gobierno de Estados Unidos con 2,5 millones de dólares. Pese a las protestas de organizaciones indígenas locales, la Universidad de Georgia (EE.UU) dice que no suspenderá el proyecto que tiene una duración prevista de 5 años y que se propone colectar y evaluar miles de plantas y microorganismos usados en la medicina tradicional de las comunidades mayas.