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Terminator patent granted

(Friday, Oct. 28, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. EU will not accept tolerance levels
2. Terminator patent granted
3. Sustainable farming can feed the world
4. Panelists urge biotech discussions

1. EU will not accept tolerance levels

GM Watch

An important test case involving a cereal manufacturer in Germany is clarifying the EU GM labelling issue. At the moment, food manufacturers do not have to label a product as containing GM ingredients if it contains material of less than 0.9% content as long as it is "adventitious" or "technically unavoidable".

However, this case has established that if your product is tested by the authorities and found to contain, say, 0.6-0.7% GM material, you must label it as containing GM ingredients *unless* you can prove that the contamination was truly adventitious or technically unavoidable.

To prove this, you would have to demonstrate your efforts to avoid the use of such material. And you must submit evidence proving that no equivalent ingredient at less than 0.1% GM is available on the market. Knowingly processing ingredients above 0.1% GM content does not meet the adventitious criterion. Consequently, in such cases even GM content below 0.9% will result in labeling.

A "blending down" to a GM content below the 0.9% threshold can be no solution to avoid labeling.

The national legislation of Germany sanctions infringements with fines up to 50,000 euros ($61,000) and with prison terms. http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5836

2. Terminator patent granted

Press release
DATE: 25 October 2005
URL: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/Terminator_patent

Amsterdam, 25 October 2005 -- Greenpeace today exposed details that the patent for the controversial "Terminator technology" was granted in Europe on 5 October 2005. The Terminator patent (1) has been approved for all plants that are genetically engineered so that their seeds will not germinate. Further research by the "Ban Terminator Campaign", a network of farmers' unions and environmental organisations revealed that a patent was also granted in Canada on 11 October 2005.

Plants created using Terminator technology will produce sterile seeds, creating a monopoly and unnatural control of the seeds. Farmers will not be able to use seeds from such plants for the following season's cultivation. The seeds will rot in the soil without producing new plants. If this technology is introduced in crops such as soya, wheat, canola and cotton it will force farmers to buy new seeds every year from the same company.

"Farmers should be aware that corporations all over the world are ready to take control of their seeds with genetic engineering (GE). These corporations will control the entire food chain with the help of monopoly patents and Terminator technology," said Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "We need a global ban on this technology and on any patents on seeds. These corporate instruments will disrupt the backbone of global food supply, making it impossible for the farmers to reuse their own harvest for planting."

So far, the market introduction of the Terminator technology -- which was already developed about ten years ago -- was successfully prevented through worldwide protest of several groups and stakeholders. But many observers believe that the GE industry will drive towards the legalisation of this technology at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in March next year. The grant of the patent could push even harder for market introduction.

"These new patents confirm that corporations are once again actively pursuing Terminator technology and an international ban on the technology is urgently needed," said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the new global Ban Terminator Campaign, which involves farmers unions, environmental and Indigenous peoples organisations (2).

Although the GE industry claims that Terminator technology will help contain the spread of GE contamination, Greenpeace believes otherwise. "GE technology can not be controlled by Terminator seeds. On the contrary, it is likely that farmers will find their harvest being contaminated with this Terminator technology, if introduced. This is a real threat for estimated 80% of the farmers all over the world who save their seeds for cultivation."

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Notes to editors:

(1) The Terminator patent, EP 775212B, was granted to US-based Delta & Pine and the United States of America, represented by the Secretary of Agriculture. According to further data bank research the patent was already granted in similar versions in USA, further applications were filed in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey and South Africa.
(2) http://www.banterminator.org

Contact information:
Christoph Then, Greenpeace International GE Campaign, +49 171 8780832
Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign, +1 613 2412267, mobile: +1 613 2226214

3. Sustainable farming can feed the world

swissinfo, October 16, 2005
http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=107&sid=6157727&cKey=1129 451815000

On World Food Day, Swiss agricultural specialist Hans Rudolf Herren tells swissinfo that hunger can be overcome if farming practices are improved.

Herren, who won the World Food Prize in 1995 for helping to save cassava crops throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, says rich countries need to support education and to do more research.

The theme of this year's World Food Day, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is "Agriculture and intercultural dialogue".

The FAO says that the intercultural movement of crops and livestock breeds revolutionized diets and reduced poverty. The organization adds that these exchanges are still necessary to fight hunger and protect the environment.

But this dialogue could be under threat with pressure on governments and farmers to adopt technologies such as genetic manipulation to increase productivity.

Herren, however, says that agricultural specialists should step back and consider all the options before taking the plunge.

swissinfo: A large part of the world's population suffers from malnutrition. Can intercultural exchanges as promoted by the FAO help alleviate hunger?

Hans Rudolf Herren: I think it can help us understand better how hunger works and help overcome this problem. Plenty of food is grown, but not always in the right places.

Those who overproduce actually make it difficult for those who underproduce to increase their output and supply the food that is preferred and required by the people who are going hungry.

swissinfo: One of the UN Millennium Goals is to reduce hunger around the world. Are rich countries like Switzerland doing enough?

H.R.H.: Not enough is being done. Just the fact there are so many hungry people proves my point. Enough is not being done to alleviate poverty and provide jobs and income options for hungry people. They are hungry because they don't have the money to buy food or there is not enough incentive for farmers to produce. If there is a market, farmers can and will produce food.

Dealing with poverty will help us deal with hunger and this is where governments can do more. They don't have to give money away but can create options and means for people to earn a living.

There should be an emphasis by rich countries on developing capacities in poor nations. Farmers need to be trained properly because there is no genetic predisposition for being one. So more funding for education and research is needed for sustainable agricultural systems.

swissinfo: Do you feel the right economic or agricultural research is already being done to deal with these issues?

H.R.H.: What is needed is more research that is tailored to the different needs of different regions. I don't think we need to do more research into how to grow maize, for example, but we should consider diversifying our food base.

Africa is a good example where there could be crops other than corn that would grow better under precarious conditions such as limited rainfall.

More research could help revive traditional crops that have been abandoned and that would generate income for farmers. There's a lot of research to be done in reviving and improving traditional crops, including vegetables, fruits and nuts, and bringing them back into the mainstream.

This would also help improve nutrition and health in developing countries.

swissinfo: In Africa, some countries have accepted the introduction of genetically-modified (GM) crop varieties, others haven't. Is this really an issue, particularly in developing countries?

H.R.H.: We need to see if there is real need for these crop varieties. We already have plant varieties that can produce far more than they produce today.

The real constraints are elsewhere, such as soil fertility or the agronomic system. So what is really needed is more research in agronomy and sustainable farming practices.

An improved seed will not produce more unless it is planted in the right conditions, and we seem to have forgotten that.

So we need to promote agriculture in developing countries that helps maintain a healthy soil rather than industrial farming that impoverishes it.

If biotechnology is part of a more sustainable agricultural system, I don't have a problem with that, but we have to resolve many other issues before we spend millions on something that won't necessarily produce more food.

swissinfo: So, does the adoption of GM technology in developing nations have more to do with politics?

H.R.H.: It has a lot to do with politics and economics. American companies are pushing for the adoption of GM technology and there are lobbyists hard at work in Africa and other continents. Maybe this technology does some good, but there are alternatives that are much cheaper.

We have done our research on this and have shown you can apply other technologies that are far more farmer-friendly. African farmers can't afford GM technology - they can't even afford fertiliser.

So I don't think it is the right thing in the right place at the right time. We need to address the needs of farmers, find solutions that actually help and attain sustainable agricultural production as promoted by the FAO.

swissinfo-interview: Scott Capper

4. Panelists urge biotech discussions

Anne Fitzgerald
Des Moines Register
October 14, 2005

Biotechnology can help combat hunger around the world, but there needs to be more public discussion of the pros and cons of genetically engineered crops, participants in the World Food Prize symposium said Thursday.

Panelists representing some of the nation's largest agribusinesses promoted the benefits of the technology, such as reduced pesticide use because of crops engineered to thwart pests. They also cited the rapid and widespread adoption of biotech-based crops, especially in the United States.

Farmers must employ the technology to produce enough food to feed a growing world with limited arable land, speakers said. The world's population of more than 6 billion people is expected to top 9 billion by 2050.

Introduced to the marketplace a decade ago, genetically engineered seed was planted this year on 52 percent of U.S. corn acreage and 87 percent of soybean acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Iowa, engineered seeds were planted on 60 percent of corn acres and 91 percent of soybean acres.

Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, said he thought the "debate around biotechnology is over."

Others at the event disagreed, citing concerns that biotech seed will be too costly for the developing world and could damage human health and the environment.

Roselyn Makhumula of the Malawi embassy in Washington, D.C., was part of a delegation of officials from several African countries who met with Florence Wambugu, chief executive officer of Africa Harvest.

"We welcome any technology for the benefit of the country, but we need to understand the pros and the cons," Makhumula said.

Africa Harvest, a nonprofit organization, is leading an effort to use biotechnology to improve the nutritional qualities of sorghum, a staple crop in much of Africa.

Des Moines-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. is part of the project, which has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Wambugu supports the use of biotechnology to improve crops.

"Africa was bypassed by the Green Revolution," she told the delegation. "We should not let this bypass us."

All technology is "a two-edged sword," she said, but it is hard to see "how you cannot be part of this technology that is growing by 20 percent per year."

She also said it is important that people understand the risks associated with biotechnology's applications in agriculture.

"We can't just ignore the social concerns," Wambugu said.