Farmers Groups Demand End
To 'Terminator' Seeds

By Daniel Nelson

A United Nations conference this week offers the international community a chance to ban seeds produced using "Terminator" technology before they are commercialized in farmers' fields, an alliance of campaign groups warned Tuesday.
The opportunity to put a halt to the development of plants genetically altered to bear sterile seeds, forcing farmers to buy new seeds each planting season, must be seized at the week-long meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in The Hague, Netherlands, say the groups.
"Terminator is immoral because more than 1.4 billion people, mainly poor farmers in poor countries, depend on farm-saved seeds," said Alex Wijeratna of the development charity ActionAid, one of several groups lobbying government delegates at the meeting.
Hope Shand, research director for the Canada-based ETC group, which campaigns on conservation and human rights, said she hoped the meeting would "terminate Terminator," which she described as "an anti-farmer technology."
At a discussion of the issue Wednesday, the alliance will urge delegates to recommend a ban on commercialization of the seeds and on field testing. Recommendations are not legally binding, but Wijeratna says they carry moral force and that seed companies acting against such recommendations would risk controversy and bad publicity.
In the wake of widespread public opposition, agribusiness firms Monsanto and Syngenta have promised in the past not to commercialize the seeds, but Francois Meienberg from the Berne Declaration, another campaign group, said several such "gene giants" had continued work on the technology. Biotech company DuPont, for example, was granted a patent for the seed last October, according to Meienberg.
India, Pakistan, Ghana, and Panama have taken steps to ban the seeds, which have also been censured by Dr Jacques Diouf, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Despite India's approval last month for the commercial farming of genetically modified cotton, campaigners say they hope Indian representatives at the meeting will use their significant political and economic clout to come out strongly against the Terminator principle. Wijeratna said he expected "quite a heated debate."
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