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Canada Under Pressure to Take Clear Stance Against Terminator Technology
Canadian Actions at UN Meeting
March 13, 2006 -- For Immediate Release
Ottawa, March 13, 2006. It is being dubbed the Battle in Brazil. A crucial meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that takes place March 13-31 in Curitiba, Brazil will decide the fate of a 6-year de facto moratorium on "Terminator" technology. At stake are not only the huge profits that a handful of biotech companies stand to make, but also the fate of more than 1.4 billion people who depend on farmer-saved seeds for their food security and livelihoods.
Terminator technology is known as Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), a form of genetic engineering designed to produce plants with sterile seeds. Thousands of farmers and civil society organizations gathering in Brazil are demanding that it be banned forever.
"Terminator technology will be devastating," says Stewart Wells, President of the National Farmers Union of Canada. "Farmers rely heavily on saving seeds for replanting crops. Forcing them to buy seeds every year will mean huge increases in operating costs. Family farms will be forced out of business, while multinational seed companies reap higher profits and increase their control over the food system."
For farmers in developing countries, the impact of Terminator technology could be even more disastrous. The inability to save seeds will destroy the livelihoods of millions of farmers. "Terminator technology will kill farmers, plain and simple - this is about people's lives," says Anna Paskal of Inter Pares, an Ottawa-based international development organization. "These aren't just 'suicide seeds', they're homicide seeds."
In Canada, hundreds of groups have signed on to the Ban Terminator campaign. They want Canada to explain its position. "A large number of Canadians have serious concerns about this technology. Even some of the biggest seed companies say they won't touch it. Farmers who really understand Terminator are universally opposed to it, and governments around the world are enacting laws against it," says Faris Ahmed of USC Canada, an Ottawa-based international development organization. "Why does Canada want suicide seeds? Who's pulling the strings?"
Since 2005, Canadian delegations to the CBD have been working to weaken the moratorium on Terminator technology. A leaked memo at a Bangkok CBD meeting in 2005 instructed the Canadian delegation to push for field-testing and commercialization, and to "block any other outcome". "Canada has been trying to undermine the moratorium for the last year, and we suspect they'll do it again," says Paskal. "They are now calling for a 'case-by-case' assessment of the technology. A case-by-case approach will effectively end the moratorium. It's just another way of saying 'let's open the door'. But once you let Terminator out, you can never put it back in."
All eyes are on Environment Minister Rona Ambrose as the Canadian delegation led by Environment Canada heads to Brazil. Wells says farmers are watching closely. "We're counting on the delegation to speak for the people of Canada, not for somebody else."