Sources: MOJO WIRE Title: “A Seedy Business” http://www.motherjones.com/news_wire/broydo.html http://www.motherjones.corn/news_wire /usda-inc.html, Date: April 27, 1998, Author: Leora Broydo; THIRD WORLD RESURGENCE #92 Title: “New Patent Aims to Prevent Farmers From Saving Seed,” Author: Chakravarthi Raghavan; GLOBAL PESTICIDE CAMPAIGNER and EARTH ISLAND JOURNAL, Title: “Terminator Seeds Threaten an End to Farming,” Date: June 1998, Fall 1998, Authors: Hope Shand and Pat Mooney; THE ECOLOGIST, Title: “Monsanto: A Checkered History,” and “Revolving Doors: Monsanto and the Regulators,” Date: September/October 1998, Vol. 28, No. 5, Author: Brian Tokar
SSU Censored Researchers: Tom Ladegaard, Amber Manfree, and Amy Loucks
SSU Faculty Evaluators: Paul Benko and Tom Lough
Over the 12,000 years that humans have been farming, a rich tradition of seed saving has developed. Men and women choose seeds from the plants that are best adapted to their own locale and trade them within the community, enhancing crop diversity and success rates. All this may change in the next four to five years. Monsanto Corporation has been working to consolidate the world seed market and is now poised to introduce new genetically engineered seeds that will produce only infertile seeds at the end of the farming cycle. Farmers will no longer be able to save seeds from year to year and will be forced to purchase new seeds from Monsanto each year.
On March 3, 1998, Delta Land and Pine Company, a large American cotton seed company, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they had been awarded a patent on a technique that genetically disables a seed’s ability to germinate when planted a second season. This patent covers not only the cotton and tobacco varieties, but, potentially, all cultivated crops. Scarcely two months after the patent was awarded, Monsanto, the world’s third largest seed corporation and second largest agrochemical corporation, began the process of acquiring Delta Land and Pine and with it the rights to this new technology.
It is noteworthy that the USDA stands to earn 5 percent royalties of net sales if this technology is commercialized. Historically the USDA has received government money for research aimed at benefiting farmers, but recently the USDA has been turning more and more often to private companies for funding. As a result, for the first time in history, research is being done for the benefit of corporations, sometimes in direct opposition to farmers’ interests.
In an interview with Leora Broydo, Melvin Oliver, USDA researcher on the patent-producing technique, stated that the research is a way to put “billions of dollars spent on research back into the system.” When Broydo called back to ask exactly whose billions would be recouped by USDA’s patent, Oliver said he had been instructed not to speak to the press any further.
Dubbed “Terminator technology” by Hope Shand of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), Monsanto’s new seeds have diverse implications, including the disruption of traditional farming practices around the world, the altering of the earth’s biodiversity, and possible impacts on human health.
Monsanto has euphemistically called the process by which seeds are disabled the “technology protection system.” A primary objective of Terminator technology is to grant and protect corporate rights to charge fees for patents on products that are genetically modified. Terminator technology offers no advantage by itself, but when coupled with the production of the strongest, highest yielding seeds, farmers may be compelled to buy single-season plants. Due to the nature of modern farming, many farmers will have little choice. Up to this point the boldest attempt at policing crops has been made by Monsanto, who hires Pinkerton agents to ferret out wayward American farmers who save patented soybean seeds for reuse or trade. However, this method is minimally effective in foreign markets.
Genetic engineering is still in its early stages and the effects of flooding the environment with extensive transgenic monocrops are unpredictable. Traits from genetically engineered plants can sometimes be passed on to wild relatives in the area, causing genetic pollution, which has the potential to alter ecosystems in unknown ways for an indefinite period of time.
Terminator plants, if introduced on a wide scale, will effectively constrict worldwide crop diversity by preventing farmers from engaging in the seed selection and cross breeding that has, for thousands of years, given them the ability to adapt crops to local conditions. Crop uniformity increases vulnerability to pests and disease and heightens the potential for mass famine.
UPDATE BY AUTHORS HOPE SHAM AHD PAT MOONEY: “RAFI’s story on Terminator seed technology alerted the world to a dangerous new genetic technology that threatens to eliminate the right of farmers to save seeds from their harvest. This technology offers no agronomic benefit to farmers—it is designed simply to increase seed industry profits by forcing farmers to return to the commercial seed market every year.
“Terminator technology is a threat to global food security because it is aimed for use in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where over 1.4 billion people—primarily poor farmers—depend on farm-saved seed.
“There is an avalanche of public opposition to this technology. When we learned that Monsanto had entered into neg-otiations with the USDA to obtain an exclusive license on the Terminator patent, we launched an international email protest campaign on our Web site. In recent months over 3,500 people have written to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman from 60 countries, urging him to cease negotiations with Monsanto, abandon research on Terminator, and withdraw patent claims that are pending in over 87 countries.
“The specter of genetic seed sterilization is so serious that the world’s largest network of agricultural researchers adopted a policy in October 1998 prohibiting the use of the technology in its Third World plant-breeding programs. India’s agriculture minister says he will ban the import of Terminator seeds because of the potential harm Indian agriculture. Terminator technology is on the 1999 agenda of two United Nations agencies. Civil society organizations and national governments aim to reject the Terminator patent on the basis of public morality.”
For more information: http://www.rafi.org.
UPDATE BY AUTHOR BRIAN TOKAR: “The Ecologist magazine’s special issue on Monsanto has helped crystallize a growing, worldwide opposition to the company’s aggressive promotion of its genetically engineered crop varieties. When The Ecologist’s printer of 26 years refused to release the magazine and discarded 14,000 copies, citing fears of a libel suit, the ensuing controversy helped contribute to Monsanto’s rapidly deteriorating image all across Europe and worldwide. Public controversies over genetically engineered foods have escalated throughout Europe, as well as in Latin America, East Asia, and elsewhere. A farmers’ movement in southern India burned test plots of Monsanto’s pesticide-secreting cotton in November of 1998, calling for a worldwide campaign to ‘Cremate Monsanto.’
“The Ecologist story has received little play in the United States, outside of alternative outlets such as Z Magazine, the Multinational Monitor, and various electronic mailing lists for opponents of biotechnology. Still, opposition is growing here as well, and Monsanto has faced declining stock values and the collapse of its planned merger with the pharma-ceutical giant American Home Products.
Farmers report persistent problems with Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn and cotton varieties, and there is growing evidence that biotech crops contaminate neighboring fields with their pollen. A new coalition of biotech opponents and environmental activists in the Northeast has called for a nationwide campaign against the sale of genetically engineered seeds.”
New England Resistance Against Genetic Engineering
c/o Institute for Social Ecology
P.O. Box 89, Plainfield, VT 05667
c/o Edmonds Institute 20319-92nd Avenue, West Edmonds, WA 98020
Gateway Green Alliance P.O. Box 8094, St. Louis, MO 63156
London-based genetics e-mail list:
Campaign for Food Safety
Rural Advancement Foundation International
Union of Concerned Scientists
International Center for Technology Assessment