Indigenous people defend United Nations "terminator" ban

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Indigenous people defend United Nations "terminator" ban

SOURCE: Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable
Development, Peru
& International Institute for Environment and Development, UK
http://www.iied.org/mediaroom/releases/061005.html
DATE: 6 Oct 2005

See also PDF report: Indigenous Peoples of Cusco, Peru on the Potential
Impacts of Terminator
Terminator Impacts
and
ipsnews.net Terminator

LIMA/LONDON: Indigenous farmers in Peru, the birthplace of the potato,
have slammed a move to overturn a UN moratorium on using genetically
modified "Terminator" technology in agricultural production.

Genetic Use Restriction Technology, commonly known as Terminator, means
that food plants could be genetically modified so that their seeds are
rendered sterile, thus preventing farmers from reusing harvested seed.

However, according to a new report from indigenous leaders, Peruvian
farmers and small farmers worldwide "are dependant on seeds obtained from
the harvest as a principal source of seed to be used in subsequent
agricultural cycles."

More than 70 indigenous leaders representing 26 Andean and Amazon
communities have agreed that Terminator represents a dangerous technology
that could undermine traditional livelihoods and damage the environment.
Meeting in the mountain village of Choquecancha in southern Peru late
last month, they produced a report detailing their concerns to be
presented to UN and government officials.

A defacto moratorium has existed on Terminator under the UN Convention on
Biological Diversity, applying the "precautionary principle" to
potentially dangerous GM technology.

The fear is that Terminator would transfer sterility to and effectively
kill off other crops and wider plant life, as well as increasing the
reliance of farmers on big agribusiness which is already patenting seeds
traditionally owned by indigenous people. Industrialised "mono-culture"
farming would benefit at the expense of tried and tested local
agricultural knowledge, threatening livelihoods, cultures and biodiversity.

The indigenous leaders warn that, in Peru alone, 2,000 varieties of
potato could be put at risk by Terminator technology.

=46elipe Gonzalez of the indigenous Pinchimoro community said: "Terminator
seeds do not have life; they only work once. Like a plague they will come
infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our
own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing."

Recently, the Swiss-based company Syngenta won the patent on Terminator
potatoes, but the UN moratorium blocks the commercialisation of the product.

Some governments led by Canada have challenged the UN's safety
regulation, leading Convention on Biological Diversity officials to
consult widely on whether the moratorium on Terminator should be relaxed.

The issue is expected to come to a head in March 2006, when Brazil will
host the next international meeting on biodiversity (8th Conference of
the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, COP8). Peruvian
indigenous leaders are urging the UN to expose the dangers of Terminator
technology and uphold the moratorium. They also demand that indigenous
people have a say in the process equal to the influence of the
agribusiness lobby.

The indigenous leaders meeting in Choquecancha was co-organised by the
Association of Communities in the Potato Park in Pisaq near Cusco. The
recently-established "Potato Park" is a ground-breaking initiative that
puts indigenous people back in charge of managing biological resources.

The meeting was supported by the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature
and Sustainable Development (ANDES) based in Cusco and the London-based
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Dr Michel Pimbert, Director of the Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity
and Livelihoods Programme at IIED, said: "Indigenous peoples from Peru
are asking the international community to 'stay strong' in the face of
huge pressure from corporations that now promote terminator technology
for their private gain and monopoly control over the global food system.
Decisive and coordinated action is needed by world governments to fully
apply the precautionary principle in biosafety policies and reinforce the
United Nations de facto moratorium on the release of terminator technology."

Alejandro Argumedo, Associate Director of ANDES, said: "The UN moratorium
helps to protect millenarian indigenous agricultural knowledge and the
agrobiodiversity and global food security it enables. The rush to exploit
Terminator technology for corporate profit must not be allowed to
sabotage vital international biosafety polices."

=46or further information
Tony Samphier on +44 208 671 2911
Liz Carlile on +44 207 388 2117
Alejandro Argumedo on +51 849721852

Notes to editors

Spokespeople are available in Lima and London.

The Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable
Development (ANDES) is governed by a general assembly which is largely
composed of indigenous people from villages in the Andes. ANDES has three
professional staff in their office in Cusco, in southern Peru, while
another 15 technicians and university-trained professionals and 25 local
villagers work in the field with local communities.

The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is a
London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted in the
reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable development.
www.iied.org

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Farmers Move to End Terminator

SOURCE: IPS News, by Sanjay Suri
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp=3Fidnews=3D30589
DATE: 11 Oct 2005

LONDON, Oct 11 (IPS) - A group of Peruvian indigenous farmers have
prepared an extensively researched counter to a Canadian move to revive
'terminator' seeds.

Terminator seeds work only once. For a new crop, farmers would have to go
back to sellers. These seeds that do not regenerate like normal seeds
would work hugely to the advantage of corporations, to the detriment of
farmers.

A United Nations moratorium at present blocks commercialisation of
terminator seeds. But a group of countries led by Canada have challenged
the UN safety regulation. This has led the Convention on Biological
Diversity based in Montreal to open new discussions on relaxing the
moratorium on such seeds.

One of the strongest counters to the move so far has come not from
experts and officials but by Peruvian, says Michel Pimbert from the
London-based International Institute for Environment and Development
(IIED) that promotes sustainable development at local levels.

After monitoring cultivation methods, about 70 indigenous leaders
representing 26 Andean and Amazon communities met in a mountain village
last month over two days to collate their findings and assess the damage
that could be caused by terminator seeds.

''When does it happen that marginalised, excluded citizens come out and
talk in this way,'' Pimbert told IPS. The Peruvian indigenous farmers
came together under the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and
Sustainable Development (ANDES) and the International Institute for
Environment and Development, a general assembly largely composed of
indigenous people from villages in the Andes.

''Indigenous people and marginalised groups barely have a voice when it
comes to policies and legislation,'' Pimbert said. ''These were the
voices of the poorest of the poor living in biodiversity hotspots.''

Officials at the Montreal institute had acknowledged that the input from
the Peruvian indigenous farmers was one of the strongest they have
received so far, Pimbert said.

The indigenous farmers reported that Peruvian farmers and small farmers
worldwide ''are dependent on seeds obtained from the harvest as a
principal source of seed to be used in subsequent agricultural cycles.''

But their findings went beyond that to examine several aspects of any
change. The farmers ''evaluated the evidence and assessed the risks of
terminator technology on land, spiritual systems and on women, who are
their seed keepers,'' Pimbert said.

The farmers also showed that Terminator (Genetic Use Restriction
Technology) would transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other
crops and wider plant life, as well as increasing the reliance of farmers
on big agribusiness which is already patenting seeds traditionally owned
by indigenous people.

They reported that industrialised 'mono-culture' farming would benefit at
the expense of tried and tested local agricultural knowledge. They warned
that in Peru alone, 2,000 varieties of potato could be put at risk by
Terminator technology. Peru gave the potato to the world.

''Terminator seeds do not have life,'' Felipe Gonzalez of the indigenous
Pinchimoro community said in a statement. ''Like a plague they will come
infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our
own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.''

The Swiss-based company Syngenta recently won the patent on Terminator
potatoes, but under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it cannot
market these potatoes.

The submission by the Peruvian farmers will be reviewed at a conference
on such agricultural technology in Granada in Spain later this year. The
moratorium issue will come up at a conference on biological diversity to
be held in Brazil in March next year.

''These voices and their research will be formally communicated there,''
Pimbert said. They would seek to challenge claims by academics who feel
terminator technology is safe, he said.

Peruvian indigenous leaders are urging the UN to expose the dangers of
Terminator technology and uphold the moratorium. They also demand that
indigenous people have a say in the process equal to the influence of the
agribusiness lobby.

''The UN moratorium helps to protect millenarian indigenous agricultural
knowledge and the agrobiodiversity and global food security it enables,''
Alejandro Argumedo, associate director of ANDES, said in a statement.
''The rush to exploit Terminator technology for corporate profit must not
be allowed to sabotage vital international biosafety polices.