Brazil Moving to Lift Ban on Genetically Modified Terminator Seeds

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Genetically-modified 'terminator' seeds are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

Remember terminator seeds?  They’re coming back in Brazil.

The word “terminator” refers to genetically engineered seed that dies at harvest, obliging farmers to purchase new seed every growing season.

Here’s the latest news on this highly controversial GMO technology, from The Guardian newspaper in Great Britain:

Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified ‘terminator’ seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

“The sterile or ‘suicide’ seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.

“Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.

“Major seed and chemical companies, which together own more than 60 percent of the global seed market, all have patents on terminator seed technologies. However, in the 1990s they agreed not to employ the technique after a global outcry by small farmers, indigenous groups and civil society groups.

“In 2000, 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recommended a de facto moratorium on this technology.

“The moratorium is under growing pressure in Brazil, where powerful landowning groups have been pushing Congress to allow the technology to be used for the controlled propagation of certain plants used for medicines and eucalyptus trees, which provide pulp for paper mills.”  

Read the full Guardian report here.

And here’s an excerpt from a release from ETC, a global watchdog group:

“Terminator technologies are highly imperfect and the sterility trait will inevitably bleed into neighboring fields and crops meaning that farmers will unwittingly plant seeds that they will never be able to harvest. More ominously, Terminator is fundamentally a ground-shifting market strategy. If major seed companies are allowed to use Terminator technologies they will immediately transfer all of their plant breeding research onto the suicide seed platform which affords them anywhere from 2 to 4 times the profitability of non-Terminator seeds. With the incentive of windfall profits, the multinationals will use every resource at their command to persuade government regulators to accept Terminator varieties and will quietly withdraw less-profitable, non-Terminator varieties from the market leaving both farmers and countries stranded with only the Terminator option. Terminator profoundly transforms the economic and political dynamics of global plant breeding.

“Brazilian civil society organizations warned yesterday that a 2007 bill to end Brazil’s ban on Terminator seeds could soon be on the move (again) in the Brazilian Congress. While two bills have been on the congressional agenda for several years, a 2007 bill (PL 268/2007, filed by Rep. Eduardo Sciarra – PSD party) began moving through the Congress last July and came to a head last October. The legalizing of Terminator in Brazil would have global implications, including as a violation of the United Nations moratorium on Terminator technologies, in place since 2000 at the Convention on Biological Diversity.” 

Read more here.