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June 1998: We have at best two years, and at worst six months
to safeguard the right of farmers as seed-savers and breeders.

See the summary listing of ongoing UPDATES (last updated: 3/29/99) from the
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Press Release Index at the bottom of this file.

From Tue Aug 18 17:57:58 1998
From: Mary Jo Olsen <>
Organization: Indigenous Earthlings
To: Dave Ratcliffe, rebecca lord
Subject: Terminator technology, "policing the unauthorised use of American technology"

Your site is wonderful! Didn't see any info specifically on this topic, so am sending you mine. I'm sorry it is so long, it is as short as I could make it. Included at the end are the places the info came from, so you can do your own checking.
        I've gotten some feedback suggesting my concern is an over-reaction, but I think that is the same argument we heard when AIDS was new ("why worry, it only kills gay men"!). Right.

This file is RICH with hyper-links. Find it at

patenting life -- patenting death
by Mary Jo Olsen

The only thing that can keep pace with the rate of agricultural biotechnological change these days is the speed with which the transnational Life Industry is eating itself. In the last couple of years, Monsanto has spent more than $6.7 billion buying seed and other agbiotech companies. Now, American Home Products is merging with Monsanto for another $33 billion. Other massive mergers are inevitable with the next few months. That transnational agri-business wants to stop farmers from savings seeds and conducting their own plant breeding is hardly news. That the battle over Farmers' Rights has come so abruptly to a crisis is news that governments and the scientific community are trying to ignore. We have at best two years, and at worst six months to safeguard the right of farmers as seed-savers and breeders. Rather than coming to their defence, public sector institutions are keeping silent or joining in the attack. Either way, public researchers could be contributing to the destruction of agricultural biodiversity. Who's interests are being served? The 12 thousand year-old right of farmers to save and improve seed could be coming to an end -- now.

Terminator Trends: The Silent Spring of Farmers' Rights
Seed Saving, the Public Sector, and Terminator Transnationals
(PDF format), RAFI, Occasional Paper Series, June, 1998

On March 3, 1998 the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and Delta & Pine Land Company of Mississippi announced a new patent (US # 5,723,765) which uses genetic engineering to program a mature plant's seed to sterilize itself by destroying its own embryos. If a farmer or gardener saves seed from these plants, it will not grow. If you want another tomato plant or crop of soybeans, you must go back to the company for their seeds. This patent (which they have now applied for world-wide) applies to all plants and seeds.

"With this patent announcement, the world's two most critical food crops -- rice and wheat -- which are staple crops for three-quarters of the world's poor, potentially enter the realm of private monopoly." ("RAFI Communique," March/April 1998)

And it seems that is exactly why it was developed. According to inventor Melvin Oliver of the USDA ("End of the germ line", New Scientist, 3/28/98) "Our system is a way of self-policing the unauthorised use of American technology. It's similar to copyright protection." That analogy will be accurate when copyright protection means your tapes and CDs erase themselves after one play and your books are printed with light-activated disappearing ink.

India's Devinder Sharma, coordinator of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security says, "For some time now the US has viewed farmer's rights [to save, cross, and replant seed] as incompatible with intellectual property rights that emphasises private monopolies. . . . Having been thwarted at international fora by world opinion, the US has now developed a biotechnological solution." ("AGRICULTURE-INDIA: Biotech Firms Sow Seeds of Discord", InterPress Service (IPS) News Report, 7/15/98)

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is trying to ban imports of Terminator seeds, because "farmers could be enslaved to the seed market and indigenous crops could be destroyed by cross-pollination." But Dr. R.S. Paroda, director-general of ICAR has admitted that there is no reliable way of ensuring that Terminator seeds can't be sneaked past the inspectors. (Ibid.)

Camila Montecinos of Centro de Educacion y Tecnologia (CET) of Chile is calling for a global boycott. "This is an immoral technique. . . . The sole purpose is to facilitate monopoly control and the sole beneficiary is agribusiness." ("RAFI News Release, 3/13/98") Furthermore, she says "We've talked to a number of crop geneticists who have studied the patent. They're telling us that it's likely that pollen from crops carrying the Terminator will infect the fields of farmers who either reject or can't afford the technology. . . . (WINDS, "New Technology "Terminates" Food Independence," 4/1/98) This is the neutron bomb of agriculture." ("RAFI News Release, March 20, 1998")

According to a listing of scientific studies posted by San Francisco State University from Andy Savage of South Downs EarthFirst!, UK, there is enough solid scientific evidence for a complete ban on genetically engineered plants, at least for the present. (He references 8 studies showing dangers ranging from cross-pollination, to gene transfer from plants to microorganisms, to seed spillage during transport, and a further 10 studies on the extreme danger of using cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) to "promote" the spliced gene.) Andy says, "The campaign for labeling is making a life-threatening technology appear to be merely a civil-rights issue . . . [but] no one has the right to choose [technology] that threatens the lives of others." ("Why Labeling Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless", 2/97)

And don't think that only `eco-freaks' are worried. According to Charles Clover, Environment Editor of The Telegraph, "All four of the [British] Government's nature advisory bodies have called for a five-year moratorium on herbicide-resistant crops [because with them] farmers can now kill all the weeds which form the food for birds and host plants for insects in spring. This could spell disaster for millions of already-declining birds and plants." Meanwhile, a review has been launched to examine the possible "effect of genetically-engineered crops on non-target insects. This follows a study in which the lacewing (which eats aphids) was shown to be at risk if they ate corn borers killed by genetically-manipulated maize." ("Genetic Crops Study to Address Widespread Concerns". Electronic Telegraph, 6/16/98)

Scary as these considerations are, concerns about the effects of Terminator don't end there. RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) Research Director Hope Shand points out "Terminator was developed by the public sector together with the private sector [the USDA gets about 5% of net sales]. There will be enormous pressure on public breeders to adopt the technique in order to feed cash-starved government and university research departments." Edward Hammond, RAFI Programme Officer adds, "The biotech companies will probably insist that licensees use the Terminator as protection for their patents. It won't take long before farmers run out of choices." ("RAFI News Release, March 13, 1998")

Terminator technology proponents insist that poor farmers won't be affected, while more affluent farmers will have the choice of buying Terminator seed or sticking with standard varieties. Neth Dano of SEARICE (Southeast Asian Regional Institute for Community Education) based in the Philippines, says "That's not how it will work. Public breeders wanting access to patented genes and traits will be forced to accept Terminator as a licensing requirement. The better-off farmers in the valleys will be forced to pay. Their poor neighbors on the hillsides will no longer be able to exchange breeding material with their counterparts in the valleys. This could drive hundreds of millions of poor farmers out of farming." Hope Shand of RAFI adds, "these poor farmers grow 15 to 20% of the world's food and directly feed at least 1.4 billion people." ("RAFI News Release, March 20, 1998")

But is it likely that the Terminator technology will be so aggressively promoted?

At the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Bratislava, May 4-15, 1998, where the US was an observer, not a party to the convention, several members attacked the Terminator technology "arguing that it would destroy farmer-based plant breeding; jeopardise the food security of at least 1.4 billion people; and wipe out the South's remaining in-situ agricultural biodiversity." To the member's surprise, the US delegation "did not actively defend the USDA-supported technology".

This situation changed on May 11, 1998, when Monsanto "a company with close White House and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) connections and major multinational muscle" bought Delta & Pine Land, and with it control of the Terminator technology. The US delegation swung into action and began "lobbying hard to rewrite the Friends of the Chair report . . . throwing its weight around, trying to squelch concerns and amend the CBD's [UN Convention on Biological Diversity] conclusions." From Bratislava, RAFI's Edward Hammond wrote, "This is a technology that deliberately sterilises farmer's fields, that offers zero agronomic benefit, that is openly aimed at the South, and that is now in the hands of a giant, aggressive multinational with more that enough resources to follow through. . . ." ("RAFI Press Release, May 14, 1998")

Then on June 1, 1998 it was announced that Monsanto will be bought by the New Jersey based American Home Products Corporation (AHP) for $33.9 billion. It is estimated that this will now be the largest agrochemical/life industries company in the world ("AHP and Monsanto Announce Plan to Combine To Create $96 Billion Life Sciences Company", 6/1/98, from, displacing European giant Novartis (Ciba-Geigy & Sandoz) in crop chemicals and plant breeding.

But while they compete in specific products, the biotech multinationals cooperate in other ways. Novartis, for example, is one of the 39 multinational biotech corporations (made up of about 600 companies like DeKalb, DuPont, Monsanto, and Zeneca) and 14 national research associations that have joined together into EuropaBio, an umbrella organization formed to represent the industry's interests in Europe. Their mission is, according to their website: "To establish an encouraging climate for biotechnology [the technology formerly known as genetic engineering] in Europe, and thereby promote the creation of wealth and skilled employment." (

To this end, they have hired public relations (PR) giant Burson-Marsteller (B-M). B-M is the PR arm of the well-known advertising firm Young & Rubicam, whose clients include AT&T, Colgate/Palmolive, DuPont, Sears, Ford, Phillip Morris, the US Army, and so on. If you are familiar with the phrases 'Quality is Job 1' or 'Be all that you can be' then you know Young & Rubicam.

The work done by B-M may be equally influential, but it is much less well-known because, unlike advertising, PR is not labelled as what it is. PR is positioned in that gray area between paid ads and news stories -- activists are calling it `disinfotainment' and `advertorials'.

B-M (according to its own website) "targets the financial community, policy-makers, consumers, trade groups, employees, and, importantly, the influencers who impact each of these audiences. The agency ensures that the perceptions that surround a client are consistent with the client's desired business objectives." (

Perception management is their key corporate mission phrase. B-M's global website at states boldly, "Perceptions are real. They color what we see . . . what we believe . . . how we behave. They can be managed . . . to motivate behavior . . . to create positive business results."

Who needs and uses this kind of service? B-M clients include:

B-M also creates many industry-sponsored 'public interest' groups to counter the activities of independent grass-roots activist groups. These have names like the British Columbia Forest Alliance, Keep America Beautiful, the Business Council for Sustainable Development, the National Smoker's Alliance, etc. ("Burson-Marsteller: PR for the New World Order", by Carmelo Ruiz).

And now EuropaBio has hired B-M to convince a reluctant Europe to accept genetically engineered products, including seeds and food.

[The following information comes from a document claiming to be a B-M strategy proposal for EuropaBio from January, 1997, which was leaked to Greenpeace ("Propaganda Strategy of Gen-Multis leaked out", Genetically Manipulated Food News). I cannot verify its authenticity, but it has every appearance of reality. You should access the source and judge for yourself. ("EuropaBio - The leaked PR documents" Part 1 and Part 2"]

The overall strategy is in two parts, the first of which has already been successfully accomplished, i.e. becoming "firmly established . . . as the primary representatives of European bioindustrial interest within the political and regulatory structures of Europe." The second goal is to "generate favorable perceptions and opinions" in the general public.

They admit that genetic engineering is especially vulnerable in three areas: dangers to the environment; dangers to human health; and the profit motivation of the industries. B-M recommends that companies avoid these "killing fields". Nor should the industry be seen to be advocating their own products. "It is for those charged with the public trust in this area -- politicians and regulators -- to assure the public that bioindustry products are safe." Of course, these same politicians and regulators were dealt with in Part One of the B-M strategy plan. But as long as our perceptions are `properly managed' we shouldn't perceive them as industry spokespersons.

All press releases to the media are to tell a good story and appeal to the emotions with "symbols of hope, satisfaction, caring, and self-esteem" instead of dishing up dull facts and logic. They should show people profiting from the products. And in every case they should present the products, and the company, as safe and environmentally friendly.

Each story should be 'localized', that is tailored to the specific region where it is used. This will help "overcome the perception that US interests have co-opted an unwilling Europe." Localized stories focusing on economic benefits "can be used to great effect to build pockets of strong support. ( . . . consider the political support generated by the tobacco industry in the US in certain southern states.)"

B-M assures EuropaBio that there will be no difficulty placing this information in all media (print, radio, and TV). "Most reporters and editors . . . are preoccupied with producing salable material under extreme deadline pressure. Deadlines dominate journalism and largely shape what is reported. EuropaBio must turn itself into the journalist's best and most reliable continuing source of biotechnology/bioindustries inspiration and information."

The estimated fee for this campaign is $1,880,000.00. B-M assures EuropaBio that "the potential pay-offs are a multiple of the investment."

So yes, this technology has been, and continues to be aggressively promoted, and for the usual reason: market control (read: power and money). But the Terminator technology is not business as usual. To reiterate:

Concerned scientists and grass-roots groups from around the world have called for a ban on Terminator seed technology, its patent, and its applications. Dr. Vandana Shiva is the Director of The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. In a paper she contributed to the Women in Agriculture Conference held in Washington this summer, she spoke to the profoundly significant and disturbing implications and meaning of this situation with great human intelligence :

Termination of germination is a means for capital accumulation and market expansion. However, abundance in nature and for farmers shrinks as markets grow for Monsanto. When we sow seed we pray "May this seed be exhaustless!" Monsanto and the USDA on the other hand are stating "Let this seed be terminated so that our profits and monopoly is exhaustless."
        There can be no partnership between the terminator logic which destroys nature's renewability and regeneration and the commitment to continuity of life held by women farmers of the Third World. The two worldviews do not merely clash -- they are mutually exclusive. There can be no partnership between a logic of death on which Monsanto bases its expanding empire and the logic of life on which women farmers in the Third World base their partnership with the earth to provide food security to their families and communities.

Monocultures, Monopolies, Myths and the Masculinisation of Agriculture
by Dr. Vandana Shiva, Workshop on "Women's Knowledge, Biotechnology
and International Trade -- Fostering a New Dialogue into the Millenium", The International Conference --"Women in Agriculture",
Washington, June 28 - July 2 1998

And next: the Verminator!

RAFI announces that Zeneca BioSciences (UK) is applying for patents in 58 countries for a "new chemically activated seed killer. The Verminator kills seeds . . . by switching on rodent-fat genes that have been bioengineered into crops. . . . In the patent description, Zeneca described the source of one such `killer' gene as coming from `mammalian uncoupling protein isolated from . . . adipose tissue of Ratus ratus" -- or the `Fat Rat' gene. . . . `It looks like Zeneca can either choose to sell seeds that are already incapable of replanting -- or trigger the `killer' by chemical spraying at a later date,' says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. Or, plants . . . [may] not properly reproduce, or not resist disease(s) unless sprayed with Zeneca's chemical formula [at the proper time]." ("RAFI News Release August 24, 1998")

Greed is a human trait, we probably all have some. But do you get the feeling that these people have somehow slipped over the edge into madness?

The mind-numbing nature of all this is enough to challenge anyone's sense that these problems, created by human beings, can also be addressed and solved by human beings. In responding the question, What can we do?, Carmelo Ruiz states at the close of Burson-Marsteller: PR For The New World Order

The awesome power of the `manufactured consent' of the mass media, created in no small part by PR firms like Burson-Marsteller, can be discouraging to many politically aware citizens. However, despair is what the PR business sells: despair from even the smallest possibility of positive social change from below. If we are to believe that organized citizens cannot effectively challenge corporate and government power, then the PR flacks will have truly triumphed. But, as Rampton and Stauber say in their book, "The fact that corporations and governments feel compelled to spend billions of dollars every year manipulating the public is a perverse tribute to human nature and our own moral values".
So help spread the word. Join with your local environmental group or green party to call for a ban. Email your favorite folksinger and ask them to write a song. Get a cartoonist working on it. Exercise the extraordinary powers of creativity you possess and focus them on behalf of our ancestors, our descendants, and all life exploring itself here and now. Take every political action you can think of.

But the most important actions you can take are simple and joyous. Refuse to live in the pinched, poisoned, monocrop/monochrome world that agrobusiness is trying to form.

How? Read Seeding the Future ( by Christina Waters. That world of happiness, freedom, and natural richness is our world if we want to keep it. So vote with your pocketbook every day. Support these people. Become one yourself. Teach kids to love real food. Make a real alternative visible and available.

Zi (Mary Jo Olsen)
September 9, 1998

The hypertext version of this exists at


The Ark Institute.

InterPress Service.

MoJo Wire.

The New Scientist.

Rural Advancement Foundation International.

The World Internet News Distributary Source (WINDS).

San Francisco State University.

Electronic Telegraph.

Genetically Manipulated Food News.

Liberated Existence

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.

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