May 14, 2006

World Council of Churches (WCC) Demands Action to Stop Terminator Seeds

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, called upon churches and ecumenical partners to take action to stop "terminator technology". "Applying technology to design sterile seeds turns life, which is a gift from God, into a commodity. Preventing farmers from re-planting saved seed will increase economic injustice all over the world and add to the burdens of those already living in hardship," stated Kobia.

He underlined: "Terminator technology locates food sovereignty, once the very backbone of community, in the hands of technologists and large corporations. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people depend on farmer-saved seed as their primary seed source. All Christians pray "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt 6:11). That this profoundly material request appears in this profoundly spiritual prayer, signals for us the centrality of food in our lives, as well as the indivisibility of the material and spiritual in the eyes of God. It is of great concern to me that life itself is now often thought of and used as a commodity."

Governments upheld the international de facto moratorium on "Terminator technology," which refers to plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds, about a month ago at the Eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Curitiba, Brazil. They finally gave in to strong pressure by social movements and civil society groups and a number of governmental delegations supporting their claims. The UN conference was held in Brazil only weeks after the WCC's 9th General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where delegates urged the WCC to respond to the challenges posed by science and technology.

The call for a ban on sterile-seed technology had taken center stage at the two-week meeting in Curitiba. Thousands of peasant farmers, including those from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra), protested daily outside the conference center to demand a ban. The women of the international peasant farmers' organization Via Campesina staged a silent protest inside the plenary hall on 23 March, holding hand-painted signs with the words "Terminar Terminator con la Vida" ("Terminate Terminator with Life"). Brazil and India have already passed national laws to ban Terminator - and other campaigns to prevent commercialization of seed sterilization technologies will follow in various countries around the world. Protestant churches in Germany lobby for a national law and European Union legislation to ban terminator seeds. They also argue against the patenting of terminator technologies.

"Though the international moratorium on Terminator was upheld at COP8, the battle to block the technology is now moving to the national level. This requires us to alert our member churches and ecumenical partners to be vigilant in their respective countries," explains the WCC general secretary who is confident that this concern unites Christian churches and people of other faiths who care for small scale farmers and God's creation.

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