Monsanto In Closed Talks
With USDA To Finalize
Terminator Control
From Hope Shand <>
Monsanto is moving swiftly to finalize its control over the Terminator technology. The company may extract an exclusive license from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) within weeks. RAFI is initiating an urgent internet-based international campaign to stop the USDA - Monsanto negotiations before it's too late. A special WWW page has been set up at to enable anyone with internet access to send a customized message to the USDA asking it to cease negotiations and bury this anti-farmer, anti-biodiversity technology. Additional contact details are provided below.
A Monsanto subsidiary, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL), is currently negotiating with the USDA to exclusively license the US Government's interest in the controversial Terminator technology patent, a genetic technique that renders farm-saved seed sterile. The seed-sterilizing technology - developed with US taxpayer dollars - will prevent farmers from saving seed from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial seed market every year.
The Terminator patent (US # 5,723,765) is jointly owned by D&PL and the USDA. Under US law, since D&PL worked with USDA to develop the technology, the company has the option to negotiate an exclusive license. Hoping to find a gullible international public, Monsanto's PR machine in Brussels, New Delhi, Harare, St. Louis, and points in between, are massaging jittery governments and publicly trying to distance the company from the Terminator technology by referring to it as "conceptual" and "not yet proven." But the company's move to negotiate an exclusive license with USDA confirms that Monsanto is eager to commercialize Terminator seeds.
Despite international controversy boiling over in at least two UN agencies rather than engage in public dialog, a leaked internal memo by Deputy Administrator K. Darwin Murrell reveals that USDA hopes to quietly manage controversy over the patent. The memo warns USDA employees that Terminator research is "a sensitive issue that requires an extra level of review" to help "avoid potential political and legal pitfalls." But the USDA insists that the Terminator is a beneficial technology and confirms that its scientists are themselves interested in developing the seed sterilizing technique as platform to host a package of "stacked" traits in genetically engineered plants.
RAFI invites you to join an international e-mail campaign being initiated today to protest the licensing and commercial development of the Terminator technology. RAFI has set up a special web page ( that automatically sends a customized e-mail to US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (also see address information below). We urge you to write to US Department of Agriculture officials to demand that USDA cease licensing negotiations and abandon all international patent applications on a dangerous and immoral technology that should never see the commercial light of day.
RAFI is urging government institutions to hold public inquiries on the alarming rate of seed industry consolidation, and to take steps to safeguard - not eliminate - the fundamental right of farmers to save seed and breed crops.
RAFI is also calling for protest over the fact that public research funds were used to develop a technology that will bring no agronomic benefit to farmers, and no benefits to consumers. The Terminator technology is designed simply to increase seed industry profits by forcing farmers to return to the commercial seed market every year.
Global Issue
The potential impact of the Terminator technology goes far beyond US borders. It is an international issue, with global implications. Delta & Pine Land says that it will target the use of Terminator seeds in the South, where over 1.4 billion people - primarily poor farmers - depend on farm-saved seed as their primary seed source. Monsanto, which recently merged with American Home Products, is the world's second largest seed corporation and the number one agrochemical corporation.
The owners of the Terminator patent have indicated that they will apply for patents in 87 countries worldwide. The patent is pending at the European Patent Office, in Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa. USDA should be asked to abandon all international patent applications, and to revoke Terminator patents that have already issued, on the basis of public morality as provided in Article 27(2) of GATT TRIPS.
The Terminator technology is the subject of controversy and debate worldwide. For example:
In May, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP IV) recommended that the precautionary principle be applied to the Terminator technology. COP IV also directed its scientific body to examine the technology's impact on farmers and biodiversity. In light of the Biodiversity Convention's ongoing assessment, USDA should cease negotiations that will lead to its commercial development.
India's agriculture minister Som Pal told the Indian parliament in August that he has banned the import of seeds containing the terminator gene because of the potential harm to Indian agriculture.
By majority vote, the Dutch Parliament recently moved to oppose the European Patent Directive by appealing to the European Court of Justice. The Terminator patent is one of the key issues that prompted the Dutch to renew objections to the Patent Directive that was passed by the European Parliament earier this year.
Negotiations between USDA and Monsanto are now underway, it is important to act now! Stop Monsanto's bid to license and control the dangerous Terminator technology. E-mail messages and/or faxes should be sent to the following USDA officials and members of Congress. To see sample letters, and automatic sending options, go to RAFI's web site:
The Honorable Dan Glickman,
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
200-A Whitten Bldg.
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington DC 20250
tel: 202 720-3631
fax: 202 720-2166
Dr. Floyd P. Horn, Administrator
USDA Agricultural Research Service
302-A Whitten Building
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington DC 20250
Tel: 202 720-3656
Fax: 202 720-5427
The Honorable Robert F. Smith, Chair
House Agriculture Committee
1126 Longworth Bldg.
Washington DC 20515-3702
Tel: 202 225-6730
Fax: 202 225-0917
The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Chair
Senate Agriculture Committee
306 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington DC 20510-1401
Tel: 202 224-4814
Fax: 202 224-1725
Hope Shand
Research Director
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
New address:
c/o Center for Public Service
Gettysburg College
Box 2456
Gettysburg, PA 17325
Tel: (717) 337-6482
Fax: (717) 337-6499