November 13, 2003

Terminator Technology Debate Hijacked in Montreal

Terminator – or genetic seed sterilization – has been on the agenda of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for five years. If the Gene Giants and governments get their way, the CBD will be conducting studies on Terminator for years to come – long after suicide seeds are commercialized and show up in farmers’ fields.

At the ninth meeting of the CBD’s scientific advisory body (SBSTTA 9) held November 10-14 in Montreal, four governments – Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and Brazil – were allowed to highjack debate and stall action on Terminator by insisting that the CBD postpone consideration of an expert technical report on the impacts of genetic seed sterilization, arguing that the report lacks scientific rigor. While the report will be forwarded to next February’s Conference of the Parties (COP7) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it will go with a recommendation that COP7 forego action and re-direct the report to the next meeting of the scientific body (SBSTTA10) – in late 2004 or 2005 – with the aim of providing advice to COP8 in 2006!

"It’s an appalling tactic to delay action against Terminator seeds," said Yoke Ling Chee of the Malaysia-based Third World Network. "The Gene Giants know that CBD has already accepted a weak and partial moratorium on GURTs [the CBD refers to Terminator as GURTs – genetic use restriction technology] and this is an underhanded maneuver to prevent debate from moving forward at COP7."

The move to discredit the Expert Group’s report is especially disingenuous because the explicit mandate of the Group was not to conduct a scientific assessment of Terminator – which was done several years ago – but to examine the impacts of Terminator on smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities. Accordingly, the Expert Group included representation from indigenous peoples’ and farmers’ organizations, as well as civil society, scientists, industry and governments.

"SBSTTA9’s decision is wrong and dangerous," said Alejandro Argumedo of the Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network. "Giving four governments the right to derail a report on the impact of Terminator on indigenous peoples and local communities is like saying that the voices of these communities are not important, and that the social and economic impacts of Terminator can be dismissed," said Argumedo.

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