RAFI announces the release of a new RAFI Communique:
2001: A Seed Odyssey
RAFI's Annual Update on Terminator and Traitor Technology
Suicide Seeds: Not Dead Yet!
11 April 2001
The full text is available on RAFI's web site: http://www.rafi.org
Issue: Syngenta, the world's largest agrochemical corporation (created last year with the merger of Novartis and AstraZeneca) won its newest Terminator patent in November 2000. US-based Delta & Pine Land Co. vows to commercialize suicide seeds. Ironically, with increasing evidence of genetic pollution (that is, the escape of engineered genes from genetically modified (GM) crops via pollen), the US government, the biotech industry and some scientific bodies are promoting Terminator technology as a technical "fix" for gene escape from GM crops. Promotion of suicide seeds as a tool for "biosafety" is an illogical and unacceptable argument to justify commercialization of Terminator and Traitor technology. New breakthroughs in "chloroplast engineering" may foil attempts to promote Terminator as a unique biosafety tool for containing unwanted gene flow in GM plants.
Impact: If commercialized, Terminator and Traitor seeds will destroy national seed sovereignty and threaten global food security, especially for the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seeds and local plant breeding. If the Gene Giants are allowed to develop a new generation of GM plants whose traits can be switched on or off with the application of proprietary chemicals, bioserfdom is the inevitable outcome. New patents describing genetically modified plants with weakened immune systems that would ultimately depend on the application of a chemical to regain their natural defenses against pests and disease are the most troubling examples of Traitor technology to date.
Who is developing Terminator and Traitor technology? A moving target. Terminator patent portfolios are changing hands because the Gene Giants are consolidating, spinning off, and selling ag biotech interests. Syngenta, Delta & Pine Land and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pharmacia (Monsanto), BASF and DuPont hold Terminator patents; virtually all of the Gene Giants and many public sector institutions have interests in genetic trait control technology.
Policy Action: Unless governments take action to ban these technologies, Terminator and Traitor seeds will be commercialized. Governments will have important opportunities to reject Terminator at the World Food Summit Five Years Later in November 2001; at the Biodiversity Conventions' 6th Conference of Parties in April 2002; and at UNCED's Rio+10 in South Africa, in mid- 2002. As potential biological weapons, the use of Terminator/Traitor should also be banned by governments at the 5th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in Geneva, November 2001.