Brazil’s Judicial Commission has tabled a bill allowing for genetically modified terminator seeds until February 2014, when it will again take up the topic.
Terminator seeds are lab-engineered for sterility; genes are modified to switch on production of a toxin that would kill off developing plant embryos, reports Nature.
Another type of terminator technology is an inducible molecular mechanism, explains Ban Terminator. “The gene for seed sterility or germination can be turned on or off from the outside – by treating the plants with a chemical or other factor.”
The risk, according to biologists, is when (not if) the modified plant pollinates natural plants and passes on externally controlled sterility. The other risk is that all seeds will become controlled by corporations, so that seed saving becomes impossible. As the last 150 years have shown, when corporations control a market, things die and people go broke.
Since the introduction of GM seeds into the environment, innumerable contamination events have occurred. Back in 2006, it was determined that GM rice had contaminated a full third of the US rice supply.
By its own admission, the biotech industry cannot prevent genetic contamination. In court, Bayer CropScience defended its containment protocols, saying they “were equal to or exceeded industry standards when the test rice escaped into the general supplies,” adding, “Even the best practices can’t guarantee perfection.” [emphasis added]
Last May, Oregon ag authorities confirmed that Monsanto’s GM wheat had contaminated a field on which it was never lawfully grown. In fact, those GM wheat trials had ended 8 years earlier.
A destructive technology incapable of being contained should be banned entirely. In fact, in 2000, 193 countries agreed to a moratorium on terminator technology at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. That agreement was reaffirmed in 2006, and is expected to be discussed in October 2014 in Korea at the next CBD meeting.
“Brazil is the frontline. If the agro-industry breaks the moratorium here, they’ll break it everywhere,” said Maria José Guazzelli, of Centro Ecológico, which represents a coalition of Brazilian NGOs.
Centro Ecológico presented a petition signed by 34,000 to the Brazilian authorities and is calling for more. Organizations can sign at Ban Terminator. English speakers can sign the petition on change.org. (NOTE: You must enter your first name (Nome), last name (Sobrenome), email address, street address (Endereço), city (Cidade), state (Estado), zip code (CEP); tick the first box if you want to receive mailings from change.org; tick the second box if you want to receive updates on the Terminator issue.)
Though Brazil initially plans to plant non-food terminator seeds, the door is opened to later approve food plantings with this technology. It hopes to plant terminator eucalyptus forests. Already seven states have planted GM trees in the Southeast US, replacing entire ecosystems with trees that exude pesticide from its roots to its bark to its leaves and twigs.
The Global Justice Ecology Project created a documentary in 2005 that describes GM trees as killing machines. (My review here.)
Follow this issue at:
- Ban Terminator http://www.banterminator.org/
- Canadian Biotechnology Action Network http://www.cban.ca/Resources/Topics/Terminator-Technology
- Planet Diversity http://planet-diversity.zs-intern.de/index.php?id=1067
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