Terminator Five Years Later
April 1, 2003
Terminator Technology & Exorcist Technology:
New Issues and Old Controversies
The ETC Group (formerly known as RAFI) today releases "Terminator Technology: Five Years Later," a report on new issues and controversies surrounding the ongoing development of genetic seed sterilization - plants genetically engineered to render sterile seeds. Terminator technology is being developed as a biological mechanism to extinguish the right of farmers to save and re-plant seeds from their harvest, thus creating greater dependence on the commercial seed market.
ETC Group also reports on "Exorcist Technology," the biotech industry's recent attempt to develop genetically modified crops that shed their foreign DNA before harvest - with the help of chemical inducers - as a means of silencing anti-GM critics. "Exorcist is a new technology, but the basic strategy is the same - the biotech industry wants to shift all the burden to the farmer and society. If gene flow is a problem, the farmer will be obliged to apply a chemical inducer to excise the offensive transgenes. It's the newest bag of genetic tricks to fix the biotech industry's leaky genes and public relations problems," explains Hope Shand of ETC Group.
"We're still discovering new patent claims on Terminator, this time by Syngenta, and now the seed industry and the US Department of Agriculture are boldly extolling the virtues of Terminator technology for small farmers and indigenous peoples," explains Shand.
"Even more dangerous, industry is greenwashing Terminator by promoting it as a biosafety tool," says Jim Thomas of ETC Group. "The promotion of Terminator seeds as a biosafety mechanism to prevent GM pollution is biotech's Trojan Horse," explains Thomas, "If Terminator technology wins market acceptance under the guise of biosafety, it will eventually be used everywhere as a monopoly tool to prevent farmers from saving and re-using seed."
Even UPOV, the international body that promotes plant breeders' rights, concedes that Terminator has "considerable disadvantages for society." A new memo from UPOV explains that Terminator will hinder access to genetic resources.
If ministers of trade, agriculture and environment accept the US government's invitation to attend the Sacramento Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology, June 23-25, the ETC Group recommends that the US government be held accountable for its role in developing, patenting and licensing Terminator technology. The meeting is sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture (owner of 3 Terminator patents), US AID, and the US Department of State. "If the US government plans to showcase biotech's new and controversial agricultural technologies for the South in the lead up to the WTO Ministerial in Cancún, it should begin by explaining why it supports an anti-farmer, anti-diversity technology for use in the developing world - where 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds," advises Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group.
Five years later, Terminator is not dead yet. Together with hundreds of civil society, farmers' and indigenous peoples organizations worldwide, ETC Group concludes that the only solution is for governments to recommend a global ban on suicide seeds.
The full text of the 10-page report on Terminator is now available: http://www.etcgroup.org