February 11, 2005, ETC
Group via CropChoice.com: 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 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. 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 commercialization of sterile seed technologies, effectively
un-doing the precautionary, de facto moratorium on Terminator seeds
adopted by governments in 1998. 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.
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.)
Objections by the governments of Norway, Sweden, Austria, the European
Community, Cuba, Peru and Liberia, on behalf of the African Group
succeeded in deleting 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
Anti-Terminator advocates can not rest yet as decisions made in
Bangkok will allow the issue of Terminator to be re-examined and
re-studied interminably and agressively.
"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.