Posted February 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
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 further development.
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 farmers."
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 Technologies (GURTS);
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
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
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
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 ASSESSMENTS.
In Canada's opinion the revised wording we are suggesting, strengthens
the recommendation and provides for a strong scientific assessment
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 in 1998.
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