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*** Call for "Seed Sovereignty" ban on Terminator Patents ***

Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
News Release - 29 May 1999
http://www.rafi.org

Letters to 140 national governments call for direct action as
campaign to ban Terminator Technology enters new phase.
----------
Are patent-holders waving a white flag?


Launching a new phase in the campaign to 'Terminate Terminator (seed
sterilization) Technology', RAFI is sending personal letters to more than
550 ministers and senior officials responsible for agriculture,
environment, and patent offices in 140 countries. The letters ask cabinet
officers to assert national sovereignty over their seed supply and to ban
the seed sterilization technology outright. The letters also ask ministers
to reject each individual Terminator-type patent pending within their
jurisdiction. Ministers are receiving a status report on key Terminator
patents in their countries. "Many governments are unaware that the World
Trade Organization allows countries to reject individual patents on the
grounds that they are contrary to ordre public (public morality and/or a
threat to health or the environment)," Pat Mooney, RAFI's Executive
Director says, "The WTO also allows governments to ban the entire
technology. Both steps should be taken."

--> Mail Call for Ministers: While letters are going directly to key
policy-makers, RAFI is also posting the country-specific status reports on
its website (http://www.rafi.org/reports/). "We're encouraging citizens
to write directly to their President or Prime Minister," says RAFI's
Edward Hammond, "More than 7700 letters from 72 countries have been sent
to the US Secretary of Agriculture protesting the Terminator. People need
to encourage their own governments to act as well." RAFI's website has an
on-line question-and-answer brochure on Terminator. Citizens can review
sample letters sent to ministers in English, French, and Spanish and use
the letter as the basis for writing directly to their own Head of
Government.

--> Terminator Troubles: Opposition to the Terminator is nearing a
critical mass. Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the 1992 Rio Earth
Summit, has stated that, "If the owners of technology, such as big
companies, used it to victimize people through methods such as promotion
of 'terminator genes', the state should intervene and not leave the task
to the market mechanism." Strong's sentiments seem to parallel those of
M.S. Swaminathan, recipient of the prestigious World Food Prize, and past
Chair of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Last October,
Swaminathan told the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR) that the technology threatened agricultural biodiversity
and the food security of the poor. Subsequently, the CGIAR - the world's
largest agricultural research network for developing countries, adopted a
policy not to use the Terminator in their varieties. The Government of
India has already announced that it will ban the technology and similar
steps are being taken by the Brazilian state of Rio Grande de Sul and the
State of New Hampshire in the USA. A scientific panel established by the
UN Convention on Biological Diversity has just tabled its report on the
Terminator. The report, which will be discussed in Montreal June 21-25 is
predictably mealy-mouthed but the panel's chair, Dr. Richard Jefferson,
was harshly critical of the technology's use in seed sterilization when he
met with governments in Rome in April.

--> Corporate Colds? Terminator's patent-holders are now signaling that
they might abandon the technology or agree to a moratorium and public
dialogue before they decide to commercialize it. AstraZeneca (the
Swedish-British merger of Astra pharmaceuticals and Zeneca biosciences) is
hinting that it will not use the technology to stop farmers from
replanting seed. The Dutch biotech institute at Wageningen University -
also the holder of a Terminator patent - has announced that it has no
intention of releasing Terminator seeds to farmers. Meanwhile, the US
Department of Agriculture, which shares the original Terminator patent
with Monsanto, has stated that it will not use the sterility technique in
its own varietal releases. In April, Monsanto said that it wants an
independent international evaluation of the technology's implications. A
senior Monsanto official told Pat Mooney of RAFI that he would be happy if
a UN body undertook an all-stakeholders' process that, he surmised, might
take two years to complete.

--> False Fronts? Yet, even as AstraZeneca was suggesting that it
wouldn't prevent farmers from saving seed, Edward Hammond discovered
Terminator-type patent number 30, held by an AstraZeneca joint venture
enterprise with ExSeed Genetics, a US company whose research is based at
Iowa State University. There is also a cloud of uncertainty surrounding
Monsanto's peace offering... "Monsanto seems to be calling for a de facto
moratorium and for a global dialogue," says Pat Mooney, "This is
commendable. However the company says it is working with InterAction (a
US umbrella group for overseas aid organizations) to develop the process.
First, the rest of the world has never heard of InterAction. Second the
issue is wider than Monsanto, it involves at least 13 patent-holders in a
half-dozen countries. Third, InterAction denies that they have been
contacted by Monsanto and agrees that they don't have the competence to
address the issue. Who's playing what game here?"

--> International Review: "We don't need another study of an obviously
flawed and immoral technology," Hope Shand, RAFI's Research Director
insists, "we need a review of current private and public agricultural
research strategies around the world. We need to understand how
priorities are being set. How did so many intelligent scientists come up
with such a vicious anti-farmer technology?" Pat Mooney agrees, "The
review should be under the auspices of an intergovernmental fora or a
well-defined international body like the Global Forum on Agricultural
Research sponsored by the World Bank and FAO," "Meanwhile," Edward
Hammond joins in, "governments should reject all of the Terminator-type
patents and declare a national ban on the entire technology."


For further information:

Pat Roy Mooney
Executive Director,
RAFI
110 Osborne St., Suite 202
WINNIPEG MB R3L 1Y5 CANADA
Tel: (204) 453-5259
Fax: (204) 925-8034
E-mail: rafi@rafi.org

Edward Hammond,
Programme Officer
Ph. (206) 323-7378
E-mail: hammond@rafi.org

RAFI is a non-profit international civil society organization
headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada. For more than twenty years, RAFI has
worked on the social and economic impact of new technologies as they
impact rural societies.

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