Minda News (Mindanao, Philippines), April 10, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Terminator technology is a technique for sterilizing a crops's seeds, to prevent them from being planted year after year, thus forcing farmers to purchase new seed each year. If adopted, terminator technology would transfer control of the world's food crops from local farmers to corporations like Monsanto, the St. Louis chemical giant.]

By Walter I. Balane

[Rachel's introduction: The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity recently upheld a ban on terminator technology. Developed with taxpayer money by the U.S. Department of Agriculture but patented by a seed company now owned by Monsanto, terminator technology is a genetic technique that renders seeds sterile after one or two years. This assures that Monsanto's seeds cannot be illegally saved and re-planted year after year.

With terminator technology, anyone who becomes dependent upon Monsanto's genetically-modified seed will have to come back to Monsanto each year to purchase new seed. By this means, Monsanto will gain a substantial measure of control over the food supply of any nation that widely adopts the company's genetic technologies. It is clear that Monsanto's goal is effective control of many of the staple crops that presently feed the world. --RPR editors]

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- An agricultural research group called the decision of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN- CBD) to maintain the moratorium imposed on the Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS) terminator technology a victory to the small farmers.

"It landmarks the victory of small farmers," the Southeast Asia Regional Initiative for Community Empowerment (Searice) said in a press statement to MindaNews.

The Conference of the Parties of the CBD, in its 8th Meeting in Curitiba, Brazil from March 20 -- 31, reaffirmed the moratorium on GURTS as contained in an earlier decision of the same body.

CBD rejected the proposal for a "case-by-case" risk assessment clause proposed by Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Indigenous groups, peasant and farmers movements, and civil society groups who staged protests during the 2-week CBD meeting criticized the proposal as a move to weaken the de facto moratorium.

Searice believed that the clause will lead to field testing and eventual commercialization of the terminator technology.

"Even though the moratorium was reaffirmed, we must not stop campaigning against this technology. The battle has not ended. The companies, backed by the US government and biotech corporations that own the patent of this technology will not stop in finding ways to lobby and commercialize the terminator technology. Let us remain vigilant and observant", said Vincent Malasador, Searice technical officer.

In December 2005, during the "Go Organic Mindanao" forum in Davao City, around 200 Mindanawons from different sectors sought a total phaseout of synthetic agricultural inputs in the country by 2015 and a ban on field releases of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and agriculture.

Mindanao has become a haven for high value export crops with the spread of banana, pineapple and other mono-crop plantations.

After the government approved the release of GMOs in the country in 2003, the anti-GMO movement has "changed strategy."

Roberto Verzola, sustainable agriculture campaigner of Philippine Greens, told participants to the forum that promoting sustainable organic agriculture is the new strategy in campaigning against GMOs.

"The promotion of sustainable organic agriculture is a positive step towards attaining environmental sustainability," according to a covenant signed in the forum.

Also, the Philippine Senate has to ratify immediately the Cartagena Protocol, a protective instrument against the damaging effects of genetic engineering and GMOs which has been signed by 120 countries as of 2003.

The forum, which discussed GURTS, likewise called for the implementation of the precautionary principle in dealing with synthetic technology.

The forum was organized to help revitalize debates on genetic engineering and at the same time strengthen and promote organic agriculture as an alternative.

Farmers who attended the forum considered the technology unfair, selfish and beneficial only to the interests of hybrid seed companies.

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