Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Terminator technologies

A threat to food sovereignty and biodiversity

Organiser: Christof Potthof, Gen-ethical Network, Germany and Georgina Catacora, Tierra Viva, Bolivia

Terminator technologies or GURTS (genetic use restriction technologies) encompass a wide range of genetic engineering technologies to sterilize seeds or to control their ability to germinate. Biotech-companies are interested in these technologies to control the use of their seeds and prevent farmers from replanting patent protected varieties. GMO proponents argue that terminator might help preventing the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered plants, especially trees.
The use of terminator seeds has been strongly criticized as depriving farmers of their right to reproduce and further develop seeds and as a massive threat to biodiversity. The Convention on Biodiversity has outlawed terminator technologies and re-iterated a moratorium on their use over the past 8 years. However, research and development of terminator technologies continues, not only in the private sector.

Even though its delegates supported the CBD moratorium, the European Union is funding a research project, called "Transcontainer",  developing a set of  terminator technologies under the pretext of "biological containment".

This workshop aimed to bring together initiatives from around the world working on the impacts and following the latest developments of terminator technologies. It provided an overview on the state of development and discussions. It aimed to discuss joint activities and strategies, also with respect to the upcoming discussion at the CBD. It integrated such strategies also with the work on genetically engineered trees, where terminator strategies play an especially important role.

Speakers and Minutes:
The workshop on Terminator technonologies (under CBD called GURTs = genetic use ristriction technologies) brought together some 20 people from at least 4 continents (Asia, North and South America, and Europe). Some had been involved in the debates and campaigns since quite a long time, others joint them only recently.

Veronica Villa (ETC group) gave an overview about the "history” and the background of the Terminator Technology and the different campaigns on it.
Presentation    Notes
1.4 billionen people depend on saving seeds from their harvests as main source of seeds for the following season.
Three quarters of the world‛s farmers save their seeds and exchange it with their neighbours. These way to act is the basis of the local food security.

The CBD has a moratorium on Terminator technologies in place since 2000 (COP 5). It had been reaffirmed in 2006 (COP 8).
Veronica found three changes in the debate since the reaffirmation of the CBD moratorium:
- the Transcontainer project, funded mainly by the European Union
- the enormous push for the agrofuels especially in the global south
- Monsanto acquired Delta and Pine Land, the holder of the „original” Terminator patents

Inge Wenzl, Germany
Minutes of the Workshop

Andreas Bauer (Munich environmental institute) presented the european Transcontainer project. At the moment developments and tests only take place in green houses and laboraties.
Presentation: Terminator technology and the European Transcontainer project
The Transcontainer project is a program where Terminator crops are developed and endorsed. The project is perfectly in line with the corporate agenda.
There are nine public research institutions from eight european countries, one governmental agency from Germany, and three companies from the private sector involved.
In contrast to the „traditional” Terminator technology, the new approach has turned the mechanism the other way round. Now the seeds must be woken up from death through the addition of certain chemicals (e.g. Antibiotics, alcohol ...). The pollen of this „Zombie Seeds is fertile so outcrossing of transgenic DNA is still possible. The so called RBF (recoverable block of function) mechanism is a special v-GURT, that‛s the most common Terminator technology.

Ruth Tippe (No patents on life!, Kein Patent auf Leben!, Germany) showed a list of patents and envolved companies and universities.
Presentation: Patents on Terminators
She rose the question about the reason of developing Terminator plants if there are legal approaches  of monopolising the intelectual property with patents: The patent cannot be enforced in any place, esp. not in developing countries, so the companies need the biological seed control.

Normita Ignacio (CBDC forum, searice) presented a film with farmers perspectives that will be on the web soon.
Presentation: Bringing Across Farmers’Voices on Terminator Technology

Maria Jose Guazelli (Centro Ecologico, Brasil; Latin American Ban Terminator Campaign) presented experiences from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay.
Presentation: Terminar Terminator Campaign in South America
With respect to the expected social impact of the Terminator technologies the campaign in South America is working with a broad definition of Terminator. They do not use the specialised CBD definition that mainly focus on the so called v-GURTs.

During the following discussion the workshop members concluded with six main demands:
- the CBD moratorium is not enough - BAN terminator!

- GM trees, agrofuels, and pharmaceutical crops must not legitimate GURTs

- GURTs cannot be seen as a safe meassure of  containment of transsgenic DNA

- no public money for the development of Terminator technologies / GURTs

- better use the broad definition of Terminator technology and look for social impacts

- campaigns should be done for producers, consumers, policy makers, and media

Watch the videos

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Veronica Villa, ETC group, Mexico

Part 1      Part 2

Andreas Bauer, Munich Environmental Institute, Germany

Part 1      Part 2

Ruth Tippe, No patents on life!, Kein Patent auf Leben!, Germany

Normita Ignacio, CBDC forum, searice

Maria Jose Guazelli, Centro Ecologico, Brasil; Latin American Ban Terminator Campaign

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