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Terminator Five Years Later

ETC Group
News Release
April 1, 2003

Terminator Technology & Exorcist Technology:
New Issues and Old Controversies

The ETC Group (formerly known as RAFI) today releases "Terminator Technology: Five Years Later," a report on new issues and controversies surrounding the ongoing development of genetic seed sterilization - plants genetically engineered to render sterile seeds. Terminator technology is being developed as a biological mechanism to extinguish the right of farmers to save and re-plant seeds from their harvest, thus creating greater dependence on the commercial seed market.

ETC Group also reports on "Exorcist Technology," the biotech industry's recent attempt to develop genetically modified crops that shed their foreign DNA before harvest - with the help of chemical inducers - as a means of silencing anti-GM critics. "Exorcist is a new technology, but the basic strategy is the same - the biotech industry wants to shift all the burden to the farmer and society. If gene flow is a problem, the farmer will be obliged to apply a chemical inducer to excise the offensive transgenes. It's the newest bag of genetic tricks to fix the biotech industry's leaky genes and public relations problems," explains Hope Shand of ETC Group.

"We're still discovering new patent claims on Terminator, this time by Syngenta, and now the seed industry and the US Department of Agriculture are boldly extolling the virtues of Terminator technology for small farmers and indigenous peoples," explains Shand.

"Even more dangerous, industry is greenwashing Terminator by promoting it as a biosafety tool," says Jim Thomas of ETC Group. "The promotion of Terminator seeds as a biosafety mechanism to prevent GM pollution is biotech's Trojan Horse," explains Thomas, "If Terminator technology wins market acceptance under the guise of biosafety, it will eventually be used everywhere as a monopoly tool to prevent farmers from saving and re-using seed."

Even UPOV, the international body that promotes plant breeders' rights, concedes that Terminator has "considerable disadvantages for society." A new memo from UPOV explains that Terminator will hinder access to genetic resources.

If ministers of trade, agriculture and environment accept the US government's invitation to attend the Sacramento Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology, June 23-25, the ETC Group recommends that the US government be held accountable for its role in developing, patenting and licensing Terminator technology. The meeting is sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture (owner of 3 Terminator patents), US AID, and the US Department of State. "If the US government plans to showcase biotech's new and controversial agricultural technologies for the South in the lead up to the WTO Ministerial in Cancún, it should begin by explaining why it supports an anti-farmer, anti-diversity technology for use in the developing world - where 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds," advises Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group.

Five years later, Terminator is not dead yet. Together with hundreds of civil society, farmers' and indigenous peoples organizations worldwide, ETC Group concludes that the only solution is for governments to recommend a global ban on suicide seeds.

The full text of the 10-page report on Terminator is now available:


Vermont Senate Passes GMO Seed Labeling And Registration

(Wednesday, April 9, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- With a strong bipartisan margin of 25-3, the Vermont Senate today passed a landmark bill requiring the labeling and registration of all GMO seeds sold in the state. This is one of two bills passed at the end of March by the Senate Agriculture Committee, with the second addressing the issue of farmer liability for GMO-related damages (see below). Two additional bills, calling for food labeling and a moratorium on GM crops, have been deferred to a legislative summer study committee.

The farmer liability bill is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it may face stronger opposition. Passage of either bill in the Republican-controlled House is expected to be more of a challenge, but the Senate vote was clearly influenced by many legislators getting 50-100 calls on this issue, following the passage of 37 more Town Meeting resolutions in Vermont in early March. A total of 70 VT towns, almost 30% of the state, have passed resolutions opposing GE food and crops in the past 3 years.

The Senate debate today remained tense until the very end, with the Republican Minority Leader unsuccessfully attempting to poke holes in the bill on various legalistic and technical points.

Here's Rural Vermont's summary of the 2 bills that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 27th, with additional comments added:

The title of the bill now passed by the full Senate is "An Act Relating to identifying living modified organisms intended for intentional introduction into the environment" (S 182). This bill essentially does four things: (1) defines "living modified organisms" (i.e., GE seeds), based on language from the Biosafety Protocol (for legal protection from industry lawsuits, such as the one that derailed VT's rBGH labeling law in 1995); (2) requires that GE seeds be clearly labeled as such (the Ag. Commissioner gets to decide what is clear); (3) requires that manufacturers or processors who distribute GE seed in the state report on sales to the Commissioner of Ag. on how many seeds were sold (happens once/year); and (4) establishes a Legislative Committee on Genetic Engineering to "study the consequences from, and possible regulation of, use in Vermont of GE seeds and plant parts for agricultural and any other purpose"...this committee is intended to meet over the summer. (This final provision was stricken from the bill that passed today and, as required, moved into the omnibus bill covering summer study committees.)

The second bill is S164, "An act relating to liability for Genetic Engineering". This bill does four things: (1) says that anyone (including companies or seed dealers) who misrepresents or omits information about GE "characteristics, the safety, the adverse effects, or directions for use of seed or plant parts" is liable for any damages resulting from the incorrect use; (2) says any language that says the companies are not liable is unenforceable (like contracts which try to put liability on farmers); (3) says anyone who follows the directions (dealers, farmers) is not liable for damages resulting from use of GE seeds; and (4) a person who is found to have GE crops but has not intetionally planted or obtained GE seeds is not liable for copyright or patent infringement (the Percy Schmeiser scenario).

Continuing updates are available at, and the full text of these bills (as well as the labeling and moratorium bills) is at The Maine legislature is also discussing a GE moratorium bill this year.


Altered Animals, Crops Eyed In Ban

By Elizabeth Allen
Express-News Business Writer
Web Posted : 04/11/2003 12:00 AM

The Texas House of Representatives' Agriculture Committee is considering a bill that would ban from the state genetically engineered animals and food crops that would produce drugs.

Livestock and food crops such as corn shouldn't be genetically tinkered to produce drugs, industrial chemicals and other nonfood items, and they should not be allowed in Texas, according to the bill sponsored by Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth.

"Our position is not if there's a mistake, it's when," said Colin Leyden, Burnam's legislative aide. "We just need to not use food crops for these kinds of experiments."

The bill does not address other types of engineered crops such as the commonly used Bt cottons and Roundup-ready corn that have pesticides inserted in their genes.

There already have been problems with drugs inserted in food crops, noted bill supporter Reggie James of Consumers Union. Half a million bushels of Nebraska soybeans were destroyed last year after they were contaminated by pharmaceutical corn developed by Texas company Prodigene.

The company also was fined for an Iowa incident in which pharmaceutical corn was planted adjacent to a regular corn crop, causing possible cross-pollination.

Groups such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology have said regulation of genetically engineered crops is inadequate. "People don't really know what's going on, and government's not adequately protecting them," James said.

Another supporter, Frito-Lay executive Bob Drotman, who's also chairman of the National Food Processors Association regulatory council, told committee members such mistakes have cost the food industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

Starlink corn, which is not approved for human consumption, got into the processed food supply almost three years ago and caused more than 600 product recalls, Drotman said.

But several groups - including Texas Farm Bureau, a number of farmers and representatives of the biotech industry - opposed Burnam's bill.

"They've got the farmers all believing that they're going to get rich if they produce these things," James said. "If they accidentally enter the food supply, we're going to have children getting bags of chips with insulin in them. It's ludicrous."

You can view the hearing online. Click Agriculture and Livestock committee April 10th 1:30 - 4:00 and scroll the fast forward bar a little past the middle, the bill number is HB 3387.


Ann M. Veneman - Agriculture Secretary

Corporate Connections:
Calgene/Monsanto -
Pharmacia -

Between her tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (under George Bush Sr.) and being named head of California's Department of Food and Agriculture in 1995, Ann Veneman served on the board of directors for Calgene Inc.

In 1994, Calgene became the first company to bring genetically-engineered food, the Flavr Savr tomato, to supermarket shelves. Calgene was bought out by Monsanto, the nation's leading biotech company, in 1997.

Monsanto, in turn, became part of pharmaceutical company Pharmacia in 2000. Monsanto, which donated more than $12,000 to George Bush's presidential bid, wants two things this year: no mandatory labeling of biotech foods and better access to international markets.

Veneman also served on the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade, a group funded by Cargill, Nestle, Kraft, and Archer Daniels Midland. (See:

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics


Agribusiness Takes Most Seats On USDA Biotech Panel

April 8, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman on Tuesday gave agribusinesses and farm industry groups most of the seats on a federal advisory committee responsible for examining the future of biotech crops.

The 18 committee members will meet as USDA implements new restrictions on the planting of experimental pharmaceutical plants and reviews Monsanto's application for the commercialization of the first biotech wheat crop.

Monsanto (NYSE:MON - News), Cargill (News - Websites), DuPont (NYSE:DD - News), General Mills (NYSE:GIS - News), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG - News), BASF Plant Science (XETRA:BASF.DE - News), CropTech Corp. and the North Mississippi Grain Co. were each given one seat.

The National Corn Growers, American Seed Trade and the National Association of Wheat Growers also have members on the committee.

"This committee will take a forward look at agriculture biotechnology and will serve as an important resource as USDA addresses emerging issues related to this field," Veneman said.

USDA spokeswoman Alisa Harrison would not elaborate on what biotech issues the committee will examine.

The remaining seven seats were given to academic experts, consumer groups and an international plant research center in Mexico. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Science in the Public Interest were each given a spot.


Doing Anything And Everything To Gain
Acceptance Of Biotech Wheat

By Paul Beingessner

(Wednesday, April 16, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- The issues around the acceptance of genetically modified (GM) wheat varieties, specifically Roundup Ready wheat, grow hotter with each passing week. And farmers in Canada should note that there are striking similarities between Canada and the U.S. in the way this issue is playing out.

Monsanto is attempting to register its Roundup Ready wheat in both countries at the same time. Opposition in both countries is coming from users and marketers. In Canada, the CWB and the Ontario Wheat Board have joined with millers, bakers and many farm groups to urge the government to refuse registration to Roundup Ready wheat. In the U.S., farmers have been vocal in opposition. Also, a recent survey of grain elevator operators in North Dakota, the largest hard spring wheat producing state, found 98 percent of respondents to be concerned about its introduction.

In Canada, groups opposed to the introduction of GM wheat are asking the federal government to make market acceptability part of the licensing requirements before the uncontrolled release of GM wheat. In the U.S. this February, wheat growers asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to approving Monsanto's GE wheat petition. Such an examination would include an analysis of the socio-economic impacts of GE wheat introduction. The USDA, like Agriculture Canada, has been reluctant to use this assessment criterion on GM crops.

Perhaps the most striking similarity between Canada and the U.S. on this issue comes in who is supporting the introduction of Roundup Ready wheat and what tactics they are taking. Support in Canada is coming from the Grain Growers of Canada, a lobby group which includes canola growers, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers, the Western Barley Growers Association and Ontario corn producers, among others. These groups oppose examining the market impact of GM wheat in the registration process. They claim that assurances by Monsanto that it will not do anything to harm farmers are enough.

In the U.S., the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and the U.S. Wheat Associates are the two main groups, other than seed companies, that are arguing against regulated restrictions on the introduction of GM wheat. NAWG is comprised of various state wheat grower associations. U.S. Wheat Associates is charged with expanding the markets for U.S. wheat abroad. It is funded 54 percent by the American government, 31 percent by a farmer check-off, and other organizations, largely agribusiness corporations provide the remaining 15 percent.

In the past U.S. Wheat Associates had frequently mentioned that foreign customers for American wheat did not want GM wheat. Now, a biotechnology committee formed between NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates has ordered U.S. Wheat not to publish such survey results without the committee's approval.

NAWG receives some of its funding from the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences. Similarily, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and the Western Barley Growers Association in Canada find themselves on the receiving end of the largesse of Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow and Cargill. Various canola organizations in Canada also find themselves courted by agribusiness, and farmer reps to these groups are given perks including overseas trips by Monsanto.

Not surprisingly, in both countries, groups that support GM crops receive money from the companies that will profit from the release of these crops.

Though for many the issue of the release of GM wheat is a grim one, there is the odd moment of humor. An internet website from the U.K. conducted a web survey of attitudes to GM crops in March. It found overwhelming opposition to GM crops in the first few days of the survey. Then the tide began to swing and many survey participants registered their support for GM crops. When the website examined where these pro-GM responses were coming from, it turned out that 72 percent of them originated from Monsanto or Cargill IP addresses. Employees of these two companies were doing their best to alter the poll results.

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