Terminator biotechnology could be back

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Terminator biotech technology is being relaunched despite being
overwhelmingly discredited, claims the UK's Food Commission.

Patented in the US in 1998, the process sterilises seeds in order to force farmers and gardeners to buy new seed each season. The Commission says that if permitted, it could increase the biotech companies monopoly control over seeds.

There is currently an international de facto moratorium on the field testing and commercialisation of terminator technology, agreed in 2000 by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). But the Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian governments took a major step last week to undermine the existing moratorium.

At a CBD meeting in Granada, Spain, recommendations were put forward arguing that the technology would increase productivity. It was also recommended that CBDs precautionary approach should be replaced by case-by-case risk assessment.

These recommendations will now go forward to the main CBD Conference, which takes place in Brazil in March this year.

Food campaigners argue that if this moratorium gets overturned and terminator is allowed, food security could be threatened. And GM contamination of food products could increase.

With almost 2,000 companies, Europe is nearly on a par with the US when it comes to biotechnology. But European consumer opinion is still unequivocally anti-GM, and retailers have tended to respond by advertising their products as non-GM', creating an impression that this is a health and safety as well as an environmental issue.

The European biotech industry could therefore find it very difficult to justify the reintroduction of Terminator technology, when countries such as Luxembourg, Greece and Austria consistently vote against standard GMO approvals.

Nonetheless, Canadas efforts will likely be built upon by other countries in March. New patents for Terminator technology have already been granted in Europe and Canada, and applications have been submitted in China, Japan and Brazil.

But the Food Commission argues that the reintroduction of Terminator technology would be an unequivocally bad thing. It would prevent farmers around the world saving their own seed, damaging seed security, the environment and consumer choice.

The Food Commission is an independent food watchdog campaigning for safer, healthier food in the UK. It says that it never knowingly accepts campaign funding from the food industry that might compromise its ability to provide independent advice and information on food and health issues.

Related topics: Policy

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