Quechua-Aymara Association (Peru)  [Printer-friendly version]
October 6, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: "Indigenous peoples from Peru are asking the
international community to 'stay strong' in the face of huge pressure
from corporations that now promote terminator technology for...
monopoly control over the global food system... Action is needed by
world governments to fully apply the precautionary principle..."]

LIMA, Peru and London -- Indigenous farmers in Peru, the birthplace of
the potato, have slammed a move to overturn a UN moratorium on using
genetically modified "Terminator" technology in agricultural

Genetic Use Restriction Technology, commonly known as Terminator,
means that food plants could be genetically modified so that their
seeds are rendered sterile, thus preventing farmers from reusing
harvested seed.

However, according to a new report from indigenous leaders, Peruvian
farmers and small farmers worldwide "are dependant on seeds obtained
from the harvest as a principal source of seed to be used in
subsequent agricultural cycles."

More than 70 indigenous leaders representing 26 Andean and Amazon
communities have agreed that Terminator represents a dangerous
technology that could undermine traditional livelihoods and damage the
environment. Meeting in the mountain village of Choquecancha in
southern Peru late last month, they produced a report detailing their
concerns to be presented to UN and government officials.

A defacto moratorium has existed on Terminator under the UN Convention
on Biological Diversity, applying the "precautionary principle" to
potentially dangerous GM technology.

The fear is that Terminator would transfer sterility to and
effectively kill off other crops and wider plant life, as well as
increasing the reliance of farmers on big agribusiness which is
already patenting seeds traditionally owned by indigenous people.
Industrialised "mono-culture" farming would benefit at the expense of
tried and tested local agricultural knowledge, threatening
livelihoods, cultures and biodiversity.

The indigenous leaders warn that, in Peru alone, 2,000 varieties of
potato could be put at risk by Terminator technology.

Felipe Gonzalez of the indigenous Pinchimoro community said:
"Terminator seeds do not have life; they only work once. Like a plague
they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to
continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation
and sharing."

Recently, the Swiss-based company Syngenta won the patent on
Terminator potatoes, but the UN moratorium blocks the
commercialisation of the product.

Some governments led by Canada have challenged the UN's safety
regulation, leading Convention on Biological Diversity officials to
consult widely on whether the moratorium on Terminator should be

The issue is expected to come to a head in March 2006, when Brazil
will host the next international meeting on biodiversity (8th
Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
COP8). Peruvian indigenous leaders are urging the UN to expose the
dangers of Terminator technology and uphold the moratorium. They also
demand that indigenous people have a say in the process equal to the
influence of the agribusiness lobby.

The indigenous leaders meeting in Choquecancha was co-organised by the
Association of Communities in the Potato Park in Pisaq near Cusco. The
recently-established "Potato Park" is a ground-breaking initiative
that puts indigenous people back in charge of managing biological

The meeting was supported by the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature
and Sustainable Development (ANDES) based in Cusco and the London-
based International Institute for Environment and Development

Dr Michel Pimbert, Director of the Sustainable Agriculture,
Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme at IIED, said: "Indigenous
peoples from Peru are asking the international community to 'stay
strong' in the face of huge pressure from corporations that now
promote terminator technology for their private gain and monopoly
control over the global food system. Decisive and coordinated action
is needed by world governments to fully apply the precautionary
principle in biosafety policies and reinforce the United Nations de
facto moratorium on the release of terminator technology."

Alejandro Argumedo, Associate Director of ANDES, said: "The UN
moratorium helps to protect millenarian indigenous agricultural
knowledge and the agrobiodiversity and global food security it
enables. The rush to exploit Terminator technology for corporate
profit must not be allowed to sabotage vital international biosafety

Tony Samphier on +44 208 671 2911
Liz Carlile on +44 207 388 2117
Alejandro Argumedo on +51 849721852

The Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable
Development (ANDES) is governed by a general assembly which is largely
composed of indigenous people from villages in the Andes. ANDES has
three professional staff in their office in Cusco, in southern Peru,
while another 15 technicians and university-trained professionals and
25 local villagers work in the field with local communities.

The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is
a London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted
in the reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable