Fwd: Action Alert: Terminator gene technology to be patented

	Action Alert: Terminator gene technology to be patented

The US Department of Agriculture has concluded a deal with Delta Pine to
approve patents on terminator gene technology.  This requires urgent 

Please post info on your responses and initiatives to:

	Hope Shand, RAFI: <hope at rafi.org>
	Chris King WED <wisdom_earth_democracy at yahoo.com>
	The Terminator Gene List <terminatorseedwatch at yahoogroups.com>

News Release - 3 August 2001

It's official. The US Department of Agriculture announced this week
that it has concluded negotiations to license the notorious
Terminator technology to its seed industry partner, Delta & Pine Land
(D&PL). As a result of joint research, the USDA and D&PL are
co-owners of three patents on the controversial technology that
genetically modifies plants to produce sterile seeds, preventing
farmers from re-using harvested seed. A licensing agreement
establishes the terms and conditions under which a party can use a
patented technology. Although many of the Gene Giants hold patents on
Terminator technology, D&PL is the only company that has publicly
declared its intention to commercialize Terminator seeds. (for
details, see "2001: A Seed Odyssey" RAFI Communique, January/February
2001, www.rafi.org)

"USDA's decision to license Terminator flies in the face of
international public opinion and betrays the public trust," said Hope
Shand, Research Director of RAFI. "Terminator technology has been
universally condemned by civil society; banned by international
agricultural research institutes, censured by United Nations bodies,
even shunned by Monsanto, and yet the US government has officially
sanctioned commercialization of the technology by licensing it to one
of the world's largest seed companies," explains Shand.

"USDA's role in developing Terminator seeds is a disgraceful example
of corporate welfare involving a technology that is bad for farmers,
dangerous for the environment and disastrous for world food
security," adds Silvia Ribeiro of RAFI. Terminator has been
universally opposed as an immoral technology because over 1.4 billion
people, primarily poor farmers, depend on farm-saved seeds as their
primary seed source.
Michael Schechtman, Executive Secretary to USDA's Advisory Committee
on Agricultural Biotechnology, made the official announcement
regarding the licensing of Terminator at the Committee's August 1
meeting. The 38-member Advisory Committee, established during the
Clinton administration, was created to advise the Secretary of
Agriculture on issues related to growing public controversy over GM
technology. Because of overwhelming public opposition to USDA's
involvement with Terminator, the issue became a top priority for the
Advisory Committee. USDA officials admitted last year that the Agency
had the option of abandoning patents on Terminator, but chose not to
do so. Although many members of the Biotech Advisory Committee urged
the USDA to abandon its patents and forsake all further research on
genetic seed sterilization, the USDA steadfastly declined. The
official statement released by USDA this week states that the Agency
"had a legal obligation" to license the technology to D&PL.
In a lackluster attempt to quell its critics, the USDA pledged to
negotiate licensing restrictions on how the Terminator technology
could be deployed by Delta & Pine Land. "In the end, the restrictions
negotiated by USDA are meaningless," concludes Michael Sligh,
RAFI-USA's Director of Sustainable Agriculture, and member of the
Biotech Advisory Committee. According to Sligh, "USDA's promotion of
Terminator technology puts private profits above public good and the
rights of farmers everywhere." Sligh spearheaded efforts amongst
Advisory Board members who urged the USDA to abandon Terminator.

USDA places the following conditions on D&PL's deployment of Terminator:

_ The licensed Terminator technology will not be used in any heirloom
varieties of garden flowers and vegetables and it will not be used in
any variety of plant available in the marketplace before January 1,
2003. (RAFI's comment: In other words, Terminator will not be
commercialized, at the earliest, until 2003 - only 17 months from
now. To suggest that USDA is protecting heirloom varieties from
genetic seed sterilization technology is ludicrous. There's no money
to be made on genetic modification of heirloom vegetables and
flowers. The seed industry aims to engineer seed sterility in major
crop commodities - especially those crops that have not been
successfully hybridized on a commercial scale such as soybeans, rice
and wheat.)

_ USDA scientists will be involved in safety testing of new varieties
incorporating the GM trait for seed sterility, and a full and public
process of safety evaluation must be completed prior to regulatory
sign-off by USDA.(RAFI's comment: Can USDA play a role in both
developing and regulating this technology? Is it a blatant conflict
of interest for the agency to conduct a biosafety review of a product
in which it holds a financial interest?)
_ All royalties accruing to USDA from the use of Terminator will be
earmarked to technology transfer efforts for USDA's Agricultural
Research Service innovations that will be made widely available to
the public. (RAFI's comment: "Technology transfer" is a very broad
concept. Terminator seeds in every foreign aid package? More paper
clips for ARS patent lawyers?)
USDA concludes that Terminator "is a valuable technology."
Ironically, the agency promotes Terminator as a "green" technology
that will prevent gene flow from transgenic plants.

"We reject the notion that Terminator is a biosafety bandage for GM
crops with leaky genes, but even if it were, biosafety at the expense
of food security is unacceptable," concludes RAFI's Silvia Ribeiro.

Last year the FAO's Panel of Eminent Experts on Ethics in Food and
Agriculture concluded that Terminator seeds are unethical. When heads
of state meet at FAO's World Food Summit Five Years Later in Rome,
9-15 November, they will have the opportunity to re-affirm that
finding, and recommend that member nations ban the technology. In
keeping with its image as a rogue, isolationist state in
international treaty negotiations on global warming and biological
weapons, the US also appears to stand alone on Terminator.


Delta & Pine Land (Mississippi, USA) is the world's 9th largest seed
corporation, with revenues of $301 million in 2000. The company has
joint ventures and/or subsidiaries in North America, Brazil,
Argentina, China, Mexico, Paraguay, South Africa, Australia, and

RAFI is an international civil society organization based in Canada.
We are dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of
biodiversity and to the socially responsible development of
technologies useful to rural societies.
For further information on this news release: Hope Shand, RAFI:
hope at rafi.org, 919 960-5223 Michael Sligh, RAFI-USA (member of USDA's
Ag Biotech Advisory Committee),: msligh at rafiusa.org (919) 542-1396


Bob Phelps
GeneEthics Network
340 Gore St, Fitzroy 3065 Australia
Tel: (03) 9416.2222  Fax: (03) 9416.0767 {Int Code (613)}
email: geneethics at acfonline.org.au (Bob Phelps)
WWW: http://www.geneethics.org

The problem with the gene pool is, there is no lifeguard.

Knowing is not enough, you must also act.

"If the people will lead, the leaders will follow." David Suzuki



The Gene Ethics Network is totally dependent on your financial 

We work hard to empower and activate all citizens and groups concerned 
the fast tracking of gene technology and its products into all aspects 
our lives, without public knowledge or consent.

To help us continue this important work, please donate (over $2 is
deductible). Please send us an email for advice on how you can support


             Please don't send unsolicited attachments


NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational 


Alessandro Gimona
agimona at libero.it