June 12, 2007

Suicide-Seed Sequel: EU’s “Transcontainer” Turns Terminator into Zombie

ETC Group reports on a new crop of genetic engineering technologies that are being promoted as a biosafety solution to the unwanted spread of transgenes from GM crops, trees and pharmaceutical-producing plants. In practice, these technologies, if commercialized, will allow the multinational seed industry to tighten its grasp on proprietary seeds and to restrict the rights of farmers.

The 28-page Communiqué begins with an examination of the European Union’s ‘Transcontainer’ project, which is developing GM crops and trees for Europe that could be “biologically contained” through “reversible transgenic sterility.” The three-year project, which is part of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme, supports the goal of “co-existence” – the controversial idea that GM crops and non-GM crops can peacefully co-exist – and it aims to promote public acceptance of GM crops.

“We’ve always known that Terminator technology is simply too lucrative for the seed industry to abandon,” says ETC Group’s Hope Shand, “but it’s outrageous that the European Union is using public funds to develop genetic seed sterilization.” Shand adds, “The EU-funded Transcontainer project is especially disturbing in light of the European Parliament’s strong anti-Terminator stance only last year.” The European Parliament passed a resolution in March 2006 urging European delegates meeting at the CBD (United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity) in Curitiba, Brazil to uphold the de facto moratorium on Terminator. At the meeting governments unanimously re-affirmed and strengthened the moratorium, which recommends against the field-testing or commercialization of seeds that have been genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The United Nations uses the term GURTs (genetic use restriction technology) to refer to Terminator.

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