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NZ's Backing for "Terminator" seeds Prompts Battle

NZ's Backing for Monsanto's "Terminator" seeds Prompts Global Battle for Ban

The decision by US company Monsanto to commercialise "Terminator" gene technology to creates sterile seeds that farmers cannot replant, has shocked communities around the world. The move has prompted a global campaign to have Terminator banned (see www.banterminator.org), and has put the spotlight on the New Zealand government's shocking support for Terminator despite worldwide opposition.

The New Zealand government refuses to accept that there has ever been a de-facto moratorium on Terminator established by governments in 2000, and is backing the biotechnology industry's attempt to remove it.

"The New Zealand government's stance is a betrayal of basic values that most New Zealanders hold dear, and brings enormous shame," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

In October 1999, then-CEO of Monsanto, Robert Shapiro, wrote in an open letter to the head of the Rockefeller foundation, "I am writing to let you know that we are making a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed 'Terminator.'" But now Monsanto has changed its plans and says it will introduce Terminator in non-food crops. Monsanto's change of heart shows that its promises are not to be trusted, and that 'Terminator' technology must be banned.

GE Free NZ in food and environment is amongst over 300 organisations to sign up in support of the ETC Group's petition for all nations to come to consensus and block the deliberate creation of seed that becomes infertile after the first generation.

'Terminator' and other GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) are widely seen as a threat to sustainability, food security and the livelihoods of billions of people reliant on food from seed saved each year for replanting the next, and the technology is widely considered a crime against humanity. At a recent subsidiary meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (known as the Working Group on 8j), Australia, backed by the New Zealand government introduced text recommending that Terminator technologies be approached on a "case by case risk assessment" basis. This language echoes Monsanto's new 'pledge'. The intention behind the 'case by case' approach is to see Terminator plants regulated just like any other GMO - ignoring the uniquely devastating societal impacts of seed sterility. "Backing Terminator puts us on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the battle for global social justice and sustainability," says Mr Carapiet.

"Terminator is a fundamental threat not just to farmers and the environment but also to social justice and food security. Terminator is an anathema to Christian and most other religious traditions, and to Maori and indigenous peoples around the world. The Labour lead government and MP's from the Progressive, New Zealand First and United Future Parties, must stop this betrayal of the common good and ensure New Zealand support the ban on Monsanto's Terminator technology", says Mr Carapiet.

Terminator technology was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and US seed company Delta & Pine Land to prevent farmers from saving and re-using harvested seed, forcing them to buy new seeds each season. The technology has never been field tested and is not yet commercially available, although Delta & Pine Land is now testing Terminator plants in greenhouses and vows to commercialize them.

After delaying for many years, the European Patent Office has recently granted a patent on this technology. The next stage of the battle is expected at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil (March 20-31 2006).

"The world is watching and New Zealand must keep faith with the peoples of the world or see our standing in the family of nations forever undermined." says Mr.Carapiet

ENDS

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