CANADA WAGES BIOWAR AGAINST THIRD WORLD FARMERS
- Suicide Seeds - Bombshell in Bangkok Type: News Item
Date: February 11, 2005
Friday, February 11, 2005
Suicide Seeds - Bombshell in Bangkok
Canadian-Led Coup to Allow Terminator Technology
Narrowly Squelched at UN Meeting
Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto, spoke
today at a UN meeting in Bangkok - harshly criticizing his
governments' efforts to promote field-testing and commercialization
of Terminator seeds (plants genetically-modified to render seeds
sterile at harvest time).
"The Canadian government has acted shamefully. It is supporting a
dangerous, anti-farmer technology that aims to eliminate the rights
of farmers to save and re-use harvested seed," said
Schmeiser. "Instead of representing the good will of the Canadian
people or attending to the best interests of the Biodiversity
Treaty, the Canadian government is fronting for the multinational
gene giants who stand to win enormous profits from the release of
Terminator seeds around the world."
Schmeiser is the 74-year old Canadian farmer who was sued by
Monsanto for patent infringement when the company's patented,
genetically modified canola seed invaded his farm - unwanted and
unwelcome. A victim of genetic pollution and a champion of Farmers'
Rights, Schmeiser courageously fought Monsanto all the way to the
Canadian Supreme Court.
A Canadian government proposal to unleash Terminator was leaked to
the ETC Group on the first day of a UN meeting in Bangkok, February
7-11 (SBSTTA, the scientific advisory body to the Convention on
Biological Diversity - CBD). The news stunned farmers'
organizations, government delegations, and civil society worldwide.
Ottawa's instructions to the Canadian delegation in Bangkok called
for an all-out push for field-testing and commercialisation of
sterile seed technologies, effectively un-doing the precautionary,
de facto moratorium on Terminator seeds adopted by governments in
1998. Even worse, the Canadian delegation was instructed to "block
consensus" by governments attending the meeting if it didn't get its
way. ETC Group has also learned that, in advance of the Bangkok
meeting, Canadian embassies around the world asked governments to
support a recommendation for "field testing and commercial use" of
Terminator. Canada's blatant promotion of an anti-South technology
does not bode well for the G8 meeting of world leaders in July in
Scotland where Canada will propose to introduce nanotechnology on
the G-8 agenda.
After being swamped this week by protest emails and letters, the
Canadian government was forced to soften its public position on
Terminator, but it continued to press a solidly pro-Terminator view
in the corridors and in a committee appointed to negotiate draft
text on Terminator. (The drafting group on Terminator included
representatives from Canada, the European Community, Peru, Tanzania,
and the Philippines.) By Thursday morning Canada and its seed
industry allies had drafted text that included language promoting
Terminator field trials, capacity building for the use of Terminator
in the developing world and specifically invited the research
participation of "private sector entities."
"The draft text on Terminator released Thursday morning was
appalling - it looked like it was written by the multinational seed
industry," said Jim Thomas of ETC Group, speaking from Bangkok. "It
strongly reflected the Canadian government 's pro-Terminator
position as revealed earlier this week in the leaked document."
Suicide Seed Squad: Canada hasn't been working alone in Bangkok. The
UN meeting was crawling with representatives from the biotech
industry and related trade groups - including Monsanto, Delta & Pine
Land, Crop Life International, PHARMA (pharmaceutical
manufacturers), the International Seed Federation and more - who
lobbied against current restrictions on the development of suicide
seeds. New Zealand and Australia also backed the position of
industry and Canada, while a fleet of US government representatives
observed from the sidelines. (The US government is not a Party to
the Biodiversity Convention.)
Thankfully, disaster was averted due to key interventions by the
governments of Norway, Sweden, Austria, the European Community,
Cuba, Peru and Liberia, on behalf of the African Group.
The good news is that these governments managed to delete the most
offensive wording. The final text and recommendations reaffirm
earlier decisions, amounting to a continuing, but fragile, de facto
moratorium on Terminator. The issue now bounces to another CBD
advisory body (the Working Group on 8(j)) in March 2006.
Interminable Terminator? The bad news is that decisions made in
Bangkok will allow the issue of Terminator to be re-examined and re-
studied interminably. In ETC Group's view, the CBD continues to
dilly-dally and delay decisions on Terminator while the industry is
moving full-speed ahead to bring sterile seeds to market.
"The international community needs to know that Terminator
technology is a real and present danger. The biotech industry is
chomping on the bit to commercialize suicide seeds. Nothing short of
an all-out ban on Terminator will stop it from being unleashed in
farmer's fields," said Hope Shand of ETC Group.
For more information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) etc@...:
Hope Shand and Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group (USA) hope@...:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) silvia@...: 52 55 55 632
Jim Thomas, ETC Group (UK) jim@...: 44 (0)7752 106806
Note to Editors:
Terminator technology was first developed by the US Department of
Agriculture and the multinational seed industry to prevent farmers
from replanting saved seed. When it came to public light in 1998
massive public opposition forced Monsanto and Syngenta to disavow
SBSTTA is the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and
Technological Advice, a body that advises the UN Convention on
Biological Diversity. http://www.biodiv.org
The United Nations refers to Terminator seed technology as GURTs
(genetic use restriction technology).
For more information on Percy Schmeiser's court case, see:
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. http://www.etcgroup.org
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
programmes to strengthen the conservation and enhancement of
agricultural biodiversity. The CBDC website is