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May 2006 Updates

Take Action to Stop Terminator Seeds Demands WCC General Secretary

By World Council of Churches
May 15, 2006

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, called upon churches and ecumenical partners to take action to stop "terminator technology". "Applying technology to design sterile seeds turns life, which is a gift from God, into a commodity. Preventing farmers from re-planting saved seed will increase economic injustice all over the world and add to the burdens of those already living in hardship," stated Kobia.

He underlined: "Terminator technology locates food sovereignty, once the very backbone of community, in the hands of technologists and large corporations. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people depend on farmer-saved seed as their primary seed source. All Christians pray "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt 6:11). That this profoundly material request appears in this profoundly spiritual prayer, signals for us the centrality of food in our lives, as well as the indivisibility of the material and spiritual in the eyes of God. It is of great concern to me that life itself is now often thought of and used as a commodity."

Governments upheld the international de facto moratorium on "Terminator technology," which refers to plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds, about a month ago at the Eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Curitiba, Brazil. They finally gave in to strong pressure by social movements and civil society groups and a number of governmental delegations supporting their claims. The UN conference was held in Brazil only weeks after the WCC's 9th General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where delegates urged the WCC to respond to the challenges posed by science and technology.

The call for a ban on sterile-seed technology had taken center stage at the two-week meeting in Curitiba. Thousands of peasant farmers, including those from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra), protested daily outside the conference center to demand a ban. The women of the international peasant farmers' organization Via Campesina staged a silent protest inside the plenary hall on 23 March, holding hand-painted signs with the words "Terminar Terminator con la Vida" ("Terminate Terminator with Life").

Brazil and India have already passed national laws to ban Terminator - and other campaigns to prevent commercialization of seed sterilization technologies will follow in various countries around the world. Protestant churches in Germany lobby for a national law and European Union legislation to ban terminator seeds. They also argue against the patenting of terminator technologies.

"Though the international moratorium on Terminator was upheld at COP8, the battle to block the technology is now moving to the national level. This requires us to alert our member churches and ecumenical partners to be vigilant in their respective countries," explains the WCC general secretary who is confident that this concern unites Christian churches and people of other faiths who care for small scale farmers and God's creation.


Summary of Genetically Engineered Food Legislation

By Rep. Dennis Kucinich
May 2, 2006

Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced six bill before the House of Representatives that deal with genetically engineered crops, including the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act.

Here are the bill numbers and names:

  • H.R. 5266 - The Genetically Engineered Crop and Animal Farmer Protection Act
  • H.R. 5267 - The Genetically Engineered Pharmaceutical and Industrial Crop Safety Act
  • H.R. 5268 - The Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act
  • H.R. 5269 - The Genetically Engineered Food Right To Know Act
  • H.R. 5270 - Real Solutions to World Hunger Act
  • H.R. 5271 - The Genetically Engineered Organism Liability Act

Posted below is Kucinich's speech that he gave regarding the bills.

Speech of Hon. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio in The House of Representatives

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of six bills I introduced today that will provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all genetically engineered plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms. The bills will protect our food, environment, and health. They are a common sense precaution to ensure genetically engineered foods do no harm.

Genetic engineering is having a serious impact on the food we eat, on the environment, and on farmers. To ensure we can maximize benefits and minimize hazards, Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all genetically engineered products.

Current laws, such as our food safety and environmental laws, were not written with this technology in mind. Clearer laws are necessary to ensure that these new scientific capabilities and the associated impacts are closely monitored.

The six bills include the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2006, which requires food companies to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered materials and instructs the Food and Drug Administration to conduct periodic tests to ensure compliance. This is a basic consumer rights and consumer safety issue. People have a right to know what is in the food they are eating, and that the food is safe.

Combined, these bills would ensure that consumers are protected, increase food safety, protect farmers rights, make biotech companies liable for their products, and help developing nations resolve hunger concerns.

Summary of Genetically Engineered Food Legislation

The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act

Consumers wish to know whether the food they purchase and consume is a genetically engineered food. Concerns include the potential transfer of allergens into food and other health risks, potential environmental risks associated with the genetic engineering of crops, and religiously and ethically based dietary restrictions. Adoption and implementation of mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered food produced in the United States would facilitate international trade. It would allow American farmers and companies to export and appropriately market their products--both genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered--to foreign customers. This bill acknowledges consumers have a right to know what genetically engineered foods they are eating:

Requires food companies to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered material and requires the FDA to periodically test products to ensure compliance.

Voluntary, non-GE food labels are authorized.

A legal framework is established to ensure the accuracy of labeling without creating significant economic hardship on the food production system.

The Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act

Given the consensus among the scientific community that genetic engineering can potentially introduce hazards, such as allergens or toxins, genetically engineered foods need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and cannot be presumed to be generally recognized as safe. The possibility of such hazards dictates a cautious approach to genetically engineered food approvals. However, FDA has glossed over the food safety concerns of genetically engineered foods and not taken steps to ensure the safety of these genetically engineered foods. This bill requires that all genetically engineered foods follow a strenuous food safety review process:

Requires FDA to screen all genetically engineered foods through the current food additive process to ensure they are safe for human consumption, yet continues FDA discretion in applying the safety factors that are generally recognized as appropriate.

Requires that unique concerns be explicitly examined in the review process, a phase out of antibiotic resistance markers, and a prohibition on known allergens.

Requires the FDA to conduct a public comment period of at least 30 days.

The Genetically Engineered Crop and Animal Farmer Protection Act

Agribusiness and biotechnology companies have rapidly consolidated market power at the same time as the average farmer's profits and viability have significantly declined. Policies promoted by biotech corporations have systematically acted to remove basic farmer rights enjoyed since the beginning of agriculture. These policies include unreasonable seed contracts, the intrusion into everyday farm operations, and liability burdens. The introduction of genetically engineered crops has also created obstacles for farmers, including the loss of markets and increased liability concerns. To mitigate the abuses upon farmers, a clear set of farmer rights must be established. This bill provides several farmer rights and protections to maintain the opportunity to farm:

Farmers may save seeds and seek compensation for failed genetically engineered crops.

Biotech companies may not: shift liability to farmers; nor require access to farmer's property; nor mandate arbitration; nor mandate court of jurisdiction; nor require damages beyond actual fees; nor charge more to American farmers for use of this technology, than they charge farmers in other nations, or any other unfair condition.

Seed companies must: ensure seeds labeled non-GE are accurate; provide clear instructions to reduce cross-pollination, which contaminates other fields; and inform fanners of the risks of using genetically engineered crops.

The EPA is required to evaluate the concern of Bt resistant pests and take actions necessary to prevent resistance to Bt, an important organic pesticide.

The bill prohibits genetic engineering designed to produce sterile seeds and loan discrimination based on the choice of seeds an agricultural producer uses.

The Genetically Engineered Organism Liability Act

Biotech companies are selling a technology that is being commercialized far in advance of the new and unknown science of genetic engineering. Farmers may suffer from crop failures, neighboring farmers may suffer from cross pollination, increased insect resistance, and unwanted ``volunteer'' genetically engineered plants, and consumers may suffer from health and environmental impacts. Therefore, biotech companies should be found liable for the failures of genetically engineered crops. This bill ensures that the creator of the technology assumes all liability:

The bill places all liability from negative impacts of genetically engineered organisms squarely upon the biotechnology companies that created the genetically engineered organism.

Farmers are granted indemnification to protect them from the liabilities of biotech companies.

The bill prohibits any transfer of liability away from the biotechnology companies that created the genetically engineered organism.

Real Solutions to World Hunger Act

The demand for mandatory labeling, safety testing, and farmer protections do not constitute obstacles to the cessation of world hunger. Economics remain the significant barrier to a consistent food supply, and the development of expensive genetically engineered foods may only exacerbate this trend. Almost all research funding for the development of genetically engineered food target the developed nation's agriculture and consumers. However, agroecological interventions have had significantly more success in helping developing nations feed themselves with higher yields and improved environmental practices, all within reasonable costs for developing countries. This bill offers several new initiatives and protections to help developing nations resolve their hunger concerns: To protect developing nations, genetically engineered exports are restricted to those already approved in the U.S. and approved by the importing nation.

The bill creates an international research fund for sustainable agriculture research paid for the Sustainable Agriculture Trust Fund, a small tax on biotechnology company profits.

The Genetically Engineered Pharmaceutical and Industrial Crop Safety Act

A pharmaceutical crop or industrial crop is a plant that has been genetically engineered to produce a medical or industrial product, including human and veterinary drugs. Many of the novel substances produced in pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops are for particular medical or industrial purposes only. These substances are not intended to be incorporated in food or to be spread into the environment. That would be equivalent to allowing a prescription drug in the food supply. Experts acknowledge that contamination of human food and animal feed is inevitable due to the inherent imprecision of biological and agricultural systems. This contamination by pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops pose substantial liability and other economic risks to farmers, grain handlers, and food companies. This bill attempts to prevent contamination of our food supply by pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops.

The bill places a temporary moratorium on pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops until all regulations required in this bill are in effect.

The bill places a permanent moratorium on pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops grown in an open-air environment and on pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops grown in a commonly used food source.

The United States Department of Agriculture shall establish a tracking system to regulate the growing, handling, transportation, and disposal of all pharmaceutical and industrial crops and their byproducts to prevent contamination.

The National Academy of Sciences shall submit to Congress a report that explores alternatives methods to produce pharmaceuticals or industrial chemicals that have the advantage of being conducted in controlled production facilities and do not present the risk of contamination.

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