8, 2005, CropChoice: A confidential document
leaked to ETC Group, an action group on erosion, technology
and concentrations, reveals that the Canadian Government,
at a United Nations meeting in Bangkok (Feb 7-11), will
attempt to overturn an international moratorium on genetic
seed sterilization technology, (known universally as
Terminator). Even worse, the Canadian government has
instructed its negotiators to "block consensus"
on any other option.
"Canada is about to launch a devastating kick
in the stomach to the world's most vulnerable farmers
- the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm saved seed,
" said ETC Group Executive Director Pat Mooney
speaking from Ottawa. "The Canadian government
is doing the dirty work for the multinational gene giants
and the US government. Even Monsanto wasnt prepared
to be this upfront and nasty. Canada is betraying farmers'
rights and food sovereignty everywhere."
Terminator technology was first developed by the US
government and the seed industry to prevent farmers
from re-planting saved seed and is considered the most
controversial and immoral agricultural application of
genetic engineering so far. When first made public in
1998, "suicide seeds" triggered an avalanche
of public opposition, forcing Monsanto to abandon the
technology and prompting the UN Convention on Biological
Diversity (CBD) to impose a de facto moratorium on its
According to the leaked instructions to Canadian negotiators
at SBSTTA 10 (a scientific advisory body to the CBD)
Canada will insist on Wednesday (Feb 9) that governments
accept the field testing and commercialization of Terminator
varieties (referred to as GURTS - Genetic Use Restriction
Technologies). Canada will also attack an official UN
report, prepared by an international expert group, which
is critical of the potential impacts of Terminator seeds
on small farmers and indigenous peoples. In stark contrast
to Canada's position, the expert report recommends that
governments seek prohibitions on the technology.
In Bangkok, civil society and indigenous peoples are
calling on the Canadian government to abandon its endorsement
of Terminator and to join with other governments to
prohibit the technology once and for all. Many African
and Asian governments have called for Terminator to
be banned and the European Union has also been supportive
of the existing moratorium.
"It is outrageous that Canada is backing an anti-farmer
technology and shameful that it will 'block consensus'
on any other outcome. Governments from around the world
must not accept this bullying tactic" - says ETC
Group's Hope Shand from the negotiations in Bangkok.
"If Canada blocks decision making on this issue,
the moratorium will be in jeopardy and terminator seeds
will be commercialized ending up in the fields of small
The full leaked text of the Canadian government's instructions
to its negotiators on Terminator/GURTS follows.
"Advice on the report of the
Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Genetic Use Restriction
Canada has major reservations regarding the recommendations
in the AHTEG report.Canada notes that the experts
were unable to reach consensus and that while this
is recognized in para. 15 of the report, this should
have been made clear in the recommendation section
of the report.
Unfortunately, the report leaves the impression that
consensus was achieved on all of the recommendations
when this was clearly not case and in particular in
terms of recommendation (b) which reads as follows,
"In view of the current lack of data, recommends
that Parties and other Governments consider the development
of regulatory frameworks not to approve GURTs for
field-testing and commercial use."
Canada will suggest that the document clearly indicate
in the Annex that there is no consensus on for the
recommendations. Alternatively, the AHTEG report can
be referred to as the "Chairs" report. Canada
also believes that the AHTEG report contains scientific
inaccuracies and a lack of balance in terms of reflecting
both potential positive and negative impacts of this
technology, and these issues should be addressed before
the report is further distributed.
We believe that it would be beneficial for Parties
and other governments to submit comments to the Executive
Secretary/CHM to represent national views to improve
the accuracy of the document, and that these be made
available to both the 8j working group and COP.
Additionally, Canada will propose that SBSTTA adopt
a recommendation for decision at COP8 based on the
revised wording of recommendation "b" below
and will propose this recommendation be incorporated
for consideration at the 8j meeting:
NEW WORDING for recommendation b) of AHTEG report
(b) In view of the current lack of data, recommend
that Parties and other Governments consider the development
of domestic regulatory frameworks TO ALLOW FOR THE
EVALUATION OF NOVEL VARIETIES, INCLUDING THOSE WITH
GURTS, FOR FIELD TESTING AND COMMERCIAL USE BASED
ON APPROPRIATE SCIENCE-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL RISK/SAFETY
In Canada's opinion the revised wording we are suggesting,
strengthens the recommendation and provides for a
strong scientific assessment of risk.
If we are unsuccessful in obtaining these additions
(indication that recommendations in the AHTEG report
were not based on consensus OR agreement to have national
views submitted) AND changes to recommendation "B"
-- or any other outcome which clearly addresses our
concern over a defacto moratorium on GURTS-- Canada
is prepared to block consensus on this issue."
MORLEY URGED TO OPPOSE TERMINATOR GENES
The Five Year Freeze have urged Environment Minister
Elliott Morley to oppose moves by the Canadian Government
to force through a proposal to legalise the use of
terminator genes at a UN meeting in Bangkok this week.
Documents released at the meeting of Subsidiary Body
on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice
(SBSTTA)  reveal that the Canadian Government is
seeking to force through an amendment to recommendations
to a UN report which would:
"Allow for the evaluation of novel varieties,
including those with GURTS, for field testing and
commercial use based on appropriate science-based
environmental risk/safety assessments".
General Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS) or terminator
genes have been widely condemned by governments and
farming organisations across the world because they
restrict farmers’ rights to save their own seeds
for sowing the next year by making them infertile
without the use of specific agro-chemicals. Concerns
were raised about the genes spreading to non-GM crops
threatening the seed crops of poorest farmers when
Monsanto first proposed to use terminator technology
The Canadian government has stated that if their
proposal is rejected they are "prepared to block
consensus on this issue".
Commenting Five Year Freeze Director Pete Riley said
"Canada’s actions fly in the face of world
opinion. It suggest that they may be influenced by
the giant biotech companies. The UK government must
use all their power and influence to oppose the legalisation
of terminator technology for the sake of farmers throughout
the world who want the their rights to save seeds
every year protected by international agreements which
cannot be over turned by the likes of Monsanto.
1. The meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific,
Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) which provides
advice of the Conventionalon Biodiversity is being held
in Bangkok 7th to 11th February
Documents from this meeting released to the media indicate
that the Canadian Government is proposing amendments
to a report to the UN by the Ad Hoc Technical Expert
Group on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (AHTEG)
which recommended that the moratorium of GURTS should