1.Ugandan farmers oppose GMOs and Terminator seeds
2.Ugandan farmers' statement
3.ACTION NEEDED TO STOP TERMINATOR
To make your voice heard, see item 3
1."GMOs and Terminator Seeds a Threat to Food Security" Say Eastern Ugandan Farmers and Civil Society
Food Rights Network (FORINET) Eastern Uganda
22 September 2005
A network of Eastern Ugandan civil society organisations including farmers' organisations, community based organisations, and non-governmental organisations, called the Food Rights Network (FORINET), today stated their opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and sterile "Terminator" technology.
Speaking at a press conference held in Jinja, they called for caution when considering GMO technology in Ugandan agriculture, and highlighted their particular concerns over "Terminator" seeds.
GMOs are controversial crops created using a new laboratory technique, where genes from different species are inserted into crops to give them new traits. There are many associated risks with GMOs, which include the economic, health and environmental risks, as well as the problems that they will bring to farmers. GM crops are currently not grown commercially in Uganda, but the Government may see a role for them in the country's agriculture.
"GMOs will threaten farmers' livelihoods here in Uganda," said Nuulu Kasiira of Nakalama Farmers’ Association. "GM seeds will be more expensive than conventional seeds, and they will be patented by the corporations, which means that farmers are not allowed to save the seed from their harvest, but must buy them every season."
"There is a risk that our indigenous varieties could get contaminated by GMOs through cross-pollination, bringing genes from different species into our seed. This may have unpredictable consequences, and we could lose our indigenous seed." Said Chebet Siraji of Kapchora District Farmers' Association.
In addition to commenting on GMOs, FORINET members also read out their submission to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTS), also known as "Terminator" technology.
Terminator is a kind of GMO technology that makes the harvest produce only sterile seeds. This is to prevent farmers from saving their seeds, so that they must go back to buy them again each season. There is currently an international ban on Terminator, implemented by the CBD, but the GM industry is pushing for an end to this ban. The CBD has called for farmers and community organizations to send their comments on GURTS/Terminator to the Secretariat.
"Where GMOs are accepted, it may be that this opens the door to Terminator," Okurut Stephen of Pallisa Farmers’ Association. "Terminator will make farmers and Ugandans dependent on foreign corporations as we will have to buy seed every season because the seeds will be sterile. How can the industry claim that GM crops will improve food security when the Terminator crops they promote produce sterile seeds?"
"We fear that Terminator might cross-pollinate with our indigenous varieties of seed, and render them sterile too. We might suffer crop losses, and lose our natural seed as a result. Terminator spells disaster for Uganda's farmers, particularly those that save their seed." said Okura Francis, co-ordinator of FORINET.
"We Ugandans have many cultural associations with seed and life." said Enokokin Erarakit Stephen of Iteso Cultural Union. "We find the idea of sterile seed offensive, and we wish to tell the GM corporations who promote it that they have no understanding of our needs, our seeds or our way of life."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1) FORINET members held their press conference at the Sunset Hotel, Jinja, on 22nd September 2005
2) FORINET is an alliance of farmers’ organisations, community-based organisations and civil society organisations based in 26 districts across Eastern Uganda.
3) The international ban on Terminator has been in place since 1999. However, at the most recent meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Canadian delegation attempted to end the ban. It is strongly suspected that the Canadian delegation has been lobbied and influenced by the GM industry. For more information visit www.etcgroup.org
4) The CBD has put out a call for written submissions on GURTS/ Terminator, particularly from groups representing smallholder farmers, local communities and indigenous peoples. For more information please visit www.banterminator.org
5) No GM crops are currently grown commercially in Uganda, but President Yoweri Museveni has declared his support for the technology.
6) For more information on GMOs, please visit www.gmwatch.org
7) Contact: Frank Twinamatsiko, Tel: 077 430 726 for more information
2.Statement on Genetically Modified Organisms and Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTS) or "Terminator" Seeds
Food Rights Network (FORINET), Eastern Uganda
22 September 2005
Submission to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Working Group on Article 8(j)
Advice on the report of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS)
Ref: SCBD/STTM/ DCO/va/48601
We, the members of the Food Rights Network (FORINET), an alliance of farmers’ organisations, community based organisations and civil society organisations based in 26 districts across Eastern Uganda have met today at a conference in Jinja, Uganda, on the 22nd September 2005. We thank the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for giving us the opportunity to make our submission on the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and specifically on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS), also known here as "Terminator".
We understand that certain parties to the CBD are looking to re-examine the existing international moratorium on GURTS/ Terminator, with a view to ending it. It is for this reason that the CBD has called for submissions, and we feel compelled to respond.
Threat to Farming from GMOs
Firstly, we wish to share our concerns about GMOs. We object to the use of GMOs in our agriculture due to the many risks that they may pose to our economy, health and environment.
* GMOs will bring high costs to farmers because the seeds are patented by the corporations that sell them. Patented seeds mean that seed saving is forbidden and we must buy new seeds each season. Many Ugandan farmers, especially small-scale farmers, will be unable to bear the additional cost of buying expensive patented seed each season.
* GMOs have had genes from different species put into them. They are new and potentially unsafe. There could be unknown health risks associated with inserting genes from different species into our food. Uganda has no systems in place to monitor any negative impacts of GMOs. We also fear that including genes from different species in our food could violate cultural taboos.
* There is a risk of contamination of our indigenous crops from fields planted with GMOs, through the likely event of cross-pollination. We may lose our indigenous seed security through contamination with GM genes.
* We are also aware that in other countries such as Canada and the US, farmers have been sued by the corporations for saving their GM seed, or for being accidentally contaminated with GM genes through cross-pollination.
* If seed saving is forbidden, future generations will lose the knowledge of natural and traditional seed and its value.
* We fear that contamination of our agriculture and seed with GM0s will mean the loss of export markets to countries that have already rejected GM foods.
* GMO technology could replace the need for labour, for example by spraying of herbicides instead of weeding of Herbicide-Tolerant GM crops. This will be an important loss of work and livelihood in Uganda’s agricultural sector.
* GMOs will lead to the perpetual enslavement of small farmers by corporations, by controlling all the seed and forcing us to buy on their terms, season upon season.
* GMOs do not address the real problems of food insecurity in Uganda. They are only serving to distract policy makers from the good options that already exist, which are being underutilized.
Specific Threat to Farming from GURTS/ Terminator
Now this new GMO technology, called GURTS or "Terminator", poses even more risks to Ugandan farmers, food security, seed, traditional knowledge and culture. Terminator seeds produce crops that are sterile, so the seed from the harvest will not germinate when planted. This is to ensure that farmers continue to return to buy seed each season. The idea of producing seed that is deliberately sterile is wrong to us. It offends our principles of farming and seed, it offends our cultural practices, and it offends our notions of God and the sacredness of life.
Food Insecurity and Loss of Seed and Traditional Knowledge
* Sterile seeds will cause total dependence of the farmer on the corporations. If we are forced to buy seed every season, and lose our seed saving practices and seed heritage, we will lose ownership, sovereignty, independence and our dignity. We will have no choice over our seed and be forced to accept only what is on the market.
* Terminator may lead to food insecurity as farmers may accidentally plant it without realising, and suffer when their crops fail to germinate. This technology of sterile seeds will prevent us from implementing the Millennium Development Goal on Hunger, and the Poverty Eradication Action Plan here in Uganda.
* Terminator seeds may spread sterility into other crops through cross-pollination and contamination. They may cause sterility in our traditional seed. If the traditional seed is sterile, past and future generations of seed will be lost. If we lose our seed, we will have food insecurity and hunger.
* Once we have lost the seed and traditional knowledge that we have had for centuries, the next generation of children will be irreversibly condemned to dependence on the corporations forever.
Threat to Cultural Practices around Seed
* There are many cultural associations with seed in Uganda, including those of the tribes of Iteso, Sabiny, Basoga, Bagwere, Banyole, Karimojong, Samia, Jopadhola and Kumam.
* We hold festivals each season for the planting and germination of seed. Seeds are blessed by many communities at the end of each harvest, in hope for a better harvest next year. If the seeds are sterile, we would be insulting the ancestors.
* The practice of seed exchange is important in our culture for helping to consolidate relationships within communities, and also to help with conflict resolution. On Mount Elgon, for example, the Sabiny and Bamasaba communities on one part of the mountain exchange seed for other goods with communities on other parts of the mountain, and this maintains good relationships between the communities.
* Seeds are given to women and men as a gift on their wedding day in many cultures across Africa. They symbolise a new start for a new life.
* Women are the traditional custodians of the seed. If all seed becomes commercialised due to the spread of sterile seed, women will be undervalued in the home, and may face increased domestic violence.
* Acknowledging a farmer’s seed among his possessions at a funeral is an important part of honouring his life, and leaving a legacy to those he has left behind.
* These traditions would all be threatened with the advent of sterile seed that we could not save, and that has nothing to offer for the next generation.
Threat to Communities
* Accidental seed sterility from Terminator will lead to blame, suspicion and conflict between farmers within the community.
* If farmers are contaminated with Terminator, and get only sterile seeds, it will be impossible for them to successfully claim for compensation. They will not be able to provide scientific proof, or to pay for expensive legal action. The state does not make it easy for farmers to claim compensation from the corporations if they are contaminated with GMOs or Terminator.
GURTS/ Terminator technology appears to hold no respect for the rights of farmers, traditional cultures, or for Ugandans who value their seed diversity and heritage. This is a dangerous technology that should never be approved. The existence of GURTS/ Terminator clearly disproves the notion that GMOs will improve food security in Africa.
We feel strongly that the international CBD moratorium on GURTS/ Terminator must remain in place. In this submission to the CBD Working Group on Article 8(j), we call upon the parties to the CBD meeting COP8 to approve the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on GURTS (AHTEG), to prohibit commercialisation of GURTS/ Terminator. We also call for a ban on all field testing of GURTS/ Terminator, in order to protect the rights of farmers.
We call on the CBD to respect farmers' rights, food security, seed diversity and traditional cultures, through ensuring that GURTS/ Terminator technology is never allowed to enter into agriculture. We note that GMOs as an agricultural technology can never hope to address the genuine food security problems in Uganda, and will only serve to worsen our problems. And we fear that if we open the door to GMOs, Terminator may follow.
3.ACTION NEEDED TO STOP TERMINATOR
Indigenous peoples, local communities, peasants and small-scale farmers' organizations and others have the opportunity to send written comments on the potential impacts of Terminator to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) before September 30, 2005.
SAMPLE DEMANDS to put in your letter/email and more info are at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5698
WRITING YOUR SUBMISSION:
You can present your written comments in any format. You may also send comments in the form of audiotape with recorded comments from community members, representatives or elders.
Please use the following reference in your submission so that your comments go to the right place: "Ref: SCBD/STTM/DCO/va/48601 "Advice on the report of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies".
SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO (by email and/or fax if possible): Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Environment Programme, World Trade Centre 413 Saint-Jacques Street, Suite 800, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2Y 1N9
FAX: 1 514 288 6588