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Terminator Technology Marches Ahead

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P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service

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Terminator Technology Marches Ahead

April 4, 2003

On April 1, ETC Group* reported on the ongoing research and development
of a highly controversial genetic seed sterilization process known as
Terminator technology--plants genetically engineered to render seeds
sterile. Terminator technology is being developed as a biological
mechanism to strip farmers of their right to save and re-plant seeds
from their harvest, thus creating greater dependence on the commercial
seed market.

The ETC report, Terminator Technology: Five Years Later has found that
five years later, Terminator is far from dead. Together with hundreds of
civil society, farmers' and indigenous peoples organizations worldwide,
ETC Group (formerly known as RAFI) concludes that the only solution is
for governments to recommend a global ban on suicide seeds.

ETC Group also reports on "Exorcist Technology," the biotech industry's
recent attempt to develop genetically engineered (GE) crops that shed
their foreign DNA before harvest, with the help of chemical inducers.
The industry sees this as a means of silencing anti-GE critics since the
final products will not contain foreign DNA. "Exorcist is a new
technology, but the basic strategy is the same--the biotech industry
wants to shift all the burden to the farmer and society. If gene flow is
a problem, the farmer will be obliged to apply a chemical inducer to
excise the offensive transgenes. It's the newest bag of genetic tricks
to fix the biotech industry's leaky genes and public relations
problems," explains Hope Shand of ETC Group.

"We're still discovering new patent claims on Terminator, this time by
Syngenta, and now the seed industry and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture are boldly extolling the virtues of Terminator technology
for small farmers and indigenous peoples," explains Shand.

According to ETC Group, the biotech industry is "greenwashing"
Terminator by promoting it as a biosafety tool. The group is concerned
that if Terminator technology wins market acceptance under the guise of
biosafety, it will eventually be used everywhere as a monopoly tool to
prevent farmers from saving and re-using seed.

Terminator technology has not yet been commercialized. However,
according to Harry Collins, a Vice-President at Delta and Pine Land Co.
(the world's largest cotton seed company) his company continues to work
toward commercialization. Delta & Pine Land, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Syngenta, DuPont, Monsanto, BASF and Purdue, Iowa State and
Cornell universities all hold Terminator patents. Syngenta, with nine
patents, holds more Terminator patents than any other company, although
Syngenta has stated publicly that it will not commercialize the trait.

On June 23-25, 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (owner of three
Terminator patents), U.S. Agency for International Development and the
U.S. Department of State have invited ministers of trade, agriculture
and environment from 180 countries to a Ministerial Conference on
Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, California. If the
ministers accept the U.S. government's invitation to attend the meeting,
the ETC Group recommends that they hold the U.S. government accountable
for its role in developing, patenting and licensing Terminator
technology.

"If the U.S. government plans to showcase biotech's new and
controversial agricultural technologies for the South in the lead up to
the WTO Ministerial in Cancun, it should begin by explaining why it
supports an anti-farmer, anti-diversity technology for use in the
developing world--where 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds,"
advises Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group who is based in Mexico.

The full text of the 10-page report on Terminator and Exorcist plus
policy recommendations is available at: http://www.etcgroup.org/.

*The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly
RAFI, is an international civil society organization headquartered in
Canada. The ETC group is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and
ecological diversity and human rights. The ETC group is also a member of
the Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme
(CBDC). The CBDC is a collaborative experimental initiative involving
civil society organizations and public research institutions in 14
countries. The CBDC is dedicated to the exploration of
community-directed programs to strengthen the conservation and
enhancement of agricultural biodiversity. The CBDC website is
http://www.cbdcprogram.org/.

Source: ETC Group news release, April 1, 2003; ETC Communiqué, May/June
2003, Issue # 79.

Contact: ETC Group, P.O. Box 68016 RPO, Osborne, Winnipeg MB R3L 2V9,
Canada; phone (204) 453-5259; fax (204) 284-7871; Web site
http://www.etcgroup.org/.

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