- 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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