Why we should worry about seeds

Monsanto Buys ‘Terminator’ Seeds Company

by F. William Engdahl

I get to worry when I talk to the poorest farmers in Northern Malawi, where we work when I look at the seeds they use. They are all hybrids. For Maize and Rice and Cabbage and Soya and even tomato…all hybrids. Worse still when we have a pest on our farm,they can list off a collection of the most noxious chemicals all available in Mzuzu. If the likes of Montsanto and their like with questionable pasts, can be bothered with one of the poorest countries on the planet, they mean business!! The fact that a chemical company, posing as something altogether different can OWN patented seeds, puts doubt over the safety of the world’s  food supply. 

The United States Government has been financing research on a genetic engineering technology which, when commercialized, will give its owners the power to control the food seed of entire nations or regions. The Government has been working quietly on this technology since 1983. Now, the little-known company that has been working in this genetic research with the Government’s US Department of Agriculture– Delta & Pine Land– is about to become part of the world’s largest supplier of patented genetically-modified seeds (GMO), Monsanto Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri.

Relations between Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land and the USDA, on closer scrutiny, show the deep and dark side of the much-heralded genetic revolution in agriculture. It proves deep-held suspicions that the Gene Revolution is not about ‘solving the world hunger problem’ as its advocates claim. It’s about handing over control of the seeds for mankind’s basic food supply—rice, corn, soybeans, wheat, even fruit, vegetables and cotton—to privately owned corporations. Once the seeds and their use are patented and controlled by one or several private agribusiness multinationals, it will be they who can decide whether or not a particular customer—let’s say for argument, China or Brazil or India or Japan—whether they will or won’t get the patented seeds from Monsanto, or from one of its licensee GMO partners like Bayer Crop Sciences, Syngenta or DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

While most of us don’t bother to reflect on where the corn in the box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes or the rice in a box of Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice come from, when we grab it from the supermarket shelf, they all must originate with seeds. Seeds can either be taken by a farmer from the previous season’ seeds, and planted to produce the next harvest. Or, seeds can be bought new each harvest season, from the companies which sell their seeds.

The advent of commercial GMO seeds in the early 1990’s allowed companies like Monsanto, DuPont or Dow Chemicals to go from supplying agriculture chemical herbicides like Roundup, to patenting genetically altered seeds for basic farm crops like corn, rice, soybeans or wheat. For almost a quarter century, since 1983, the US Government has quietly been working to perfect a genetically engineered technique whereby farmers would be forced to turn to their seed supplier each harvest to get new seeds. The seeds would only produce one harvest. After that the seeds from that harvest would commit ‘suicide’ and be unusable.

There has been much hue and cry, correctly so, that this process, patented ‘suicide’ seeds, officially termed GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), is a threat to poor farmers in developing countries like India or Brazil, who traditionally save their own seeds for the next planting. In fact, GURTs, more popularly referred to as Terminator seeds for the brutal manner in which they kill off plant reproduction possibilities, is a threat to the food security as well of North America, Western Europe, Japan and anywhere Monsanto and its elite cartel of GMO agribusiness partners enters a market.

There is more at: http://tothedust.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/monsanto-buys-‘terminator’-seeds-company-3/

The final weapon of mass destruction for the poor.

from Common Ground
Common Ground is an independent publication, 100% Canadian owned. It is Western Canada’s biggest and best-loved monthly magazine dedicated to health, wellness, ecology and personal growth.

Fight against terminator seeds not over

Murray Dobbin

Of all the perverse, corporate manipulations of the growing and processing of food, none is more sinister and destructive to the public good than the so-called terminator technology. Terminator seeds are patented, genetically modified seeds, deliberately engineered to become sterile after one harvest; farmers can’t use their seeds to plant the next crop and must purchase new seed every crop year. The technology threatens the livelihood of 1.4 billion people dependent on farmer-saved seeds and the globe’s biodiversity.
As the women of the international farmers’ organization La Via Campesina have said, “Terminator technology is a weapon of mass destruction.” That’s why it’s the focus of a new, social media activist site, RightOnCanada.ca. But more on this below.
In fact, there is a global fight against this technology – currently the subject of a moratorium on its commercialization – involving literally hundreds of farmers’ and peasants’ organizations and others concerned about the future of the planet. The Canadian government is one of the principal targets of the campaign. Canada is one of the “Terminator Trio,” comprised of the governments of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The US also wants the moratorium lifted, but it has not signed the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Many terminator critics accuse Canada of doing the US’s dirty work in the hope of some return favour. Last year, terminator opponents won a significant victory at a meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil. The Brazilian government, chairing the meeting, announced that the 188-member governments of the CBD agreed to reject language that would have undermined the six-year-old moratorium on terminator.
Despite this massive rejection, the Harper government has not changed its position, calling for a “case by case risk assessment” of terminator seeds. The Liberals also opposed a ban when they constituted the government, and despite their newfound commitment to the environment, have not changed their stance. According to Liberals’ agriculture critic Wayne Easter, “…all plants with novel traits must be studied on a case-by-case basis…”
As matters stand now, the two political parties that have a realistic chance of becoming government after the next election are both opposed to an outright ban on terminator technology. That leaves the Greens and the NDP at the national level. Both parties support a ban and last spring the NDP put forward Bill C-448, a private member’s bill known as the Terminator Seeds Ban Act. The bill, introduced by the NDP’s Alex Atamanenko, died on the order paper when Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament.
Part of the problem with a parliamentary system, especially one without proportional representation, is that it produces executive government with few checks and balances of its power. Voters have little influence between elections because they have no effective access to power. That’s something that Kathleen Ruff, former head of the BC Human Rights Commission and of the Court Challenges program (recently killed by the Harper government), wants to change.
Ruff has established the online activist site, RightOnCanada.ca, which is focussed on human rights and intended to replicate the famously successful MoveOn.org in the US. MoveOn has more than three million members and was a major player in the Democratic victory over the Republicans in the last US Congressional election.
MoveOn describes itself as “… a service – a way for busy, but concerned, citizens to find their political voice in a system dominated by big money and big media.” That pretty much describes RightOnCanada. It took on the terminator technology as its inaugural issue last spring and its email letter-writing campaign saw 13,000 messages sent to the leaders of the federal parties in the Commons. The campaign preceded the NDP’s private members’ bill and helped highlight what is normally a low-key affair. RightOnCanada has since taken on the issue of “deep integration,” the secret plan to divert Canadian water from Canadian rivers to the US and the so-called “harmonization” with the US of standards for pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables.
But it expects to revisit the terminator issue. That’s because Monsanto, the corporate poster boy for genetically modified organisms, is now poised to commercialize this technology. In 1999, feeling the enormous pressure of an international campaign, Monsanto pledged not to pursue terminator technology. But on June 1, 2007, Monsanto negotiated a $1.5 billion takeover of the world’s largest cotton seed company, Delta & Pine Land, the US company that developed and patented the world’s first terminator seed technology.
According to the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (a partner with RightOnCanada) this can mean only one thing: Monsanto has broken its pledge and is now on track to take this perverse technology into the marketplace. Kathleen Ruff notes that RightOnCanada will be there to fight any such move.

Murray Dobbin is a Vancouver author and journalist whose latest book, Paul Martin: CEO for Canada? published by James Lorimer is in BC bookstores now.

Tell the Canadian government to ban terminator technology
The right to save seeds is a crucial part of the human right to food. This basic right is threatened by terminator technology, which genetically engineers plants to produce sterile seeds after first harvest and, if introduced, would force farmers to purchase seeds every year from transnational seed corporations.
If allowed to proceed, terminator technology would transfer control of the world’s seed supply from the hands of farmers to the monopoly control of large corporations. It would also threaten the biodiversity of agriculture and the health of the planet’s food supply. “Preventing farmers from re-planting saved seed will increase economic injustice all over the world,” says the World Council of Churches, which has called for action to stop terminator technology.
Recognizing its inherent dangers, governments attending meetings of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity created an international moratorium on terminator technology in 2000. The Canadian government, however, with the help of Australia, New Zealand and some major biotechnology companies, tried in February 2005 and again in January 2006 to overthrow the moratorium.
Tell our government to support the ban on terminator technology. Visit http://www.rightoncanada.ca (click on campaigns) to send a letter to agriculture minister Chuck Strahl, Prime Minister Harper, the opposition agriculture critics and your MP.