Terminator campaign in India (18/3/2006)

from pv satheesh:

Dear Jonathan

Under the leadership of SAGE, South Against Genetic Engineering, we have been campaigning against Terminator for the last two months. In every local market, fair and religious festivities and villages in the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka people are signing their petition against Terminator.

This is being presented to the Prime Minsiter of India on March 20th on the eve of the Terminator Discussion in Curitiba.

Please see the copies of the Press Release (1) as well as the Submission (2) made to the Indian trade negotiators which are below.

with warm regards

1.Don't terminate Indian agriculture
Ban Terminator Seeds

Over half a million farmers and concerned citizens across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are urging the Prime Minister of India to firmly act against the new threat of Terminator Seeds which poses a serious threat to farming and farmers of this country.

Terminator, the popular terminology used to describe Genetic Use Restriction Technology [GURTS] is the ultimate in killing the freedom of seed saving practices of farmers in India which is in vogue since millennia.

The Convention on Biological Diversity, which is in session now will take a decision on this within a week. The Terminator Technology had been banned worldwide in response to a global uproar when they first appeared about five years ago. Even companies such as Monsanto had promised that they will never commercialise this technology and had withdrawn it.

But regrouping themselves since last year, led by Canada, Australia and New Zealand, deviously backed by the United States [which is not even a signatory to the CBD] the Terminators are on a prowl. Their immediate aim is to get the governments of the world to annul the Ban on Terminator.

The first meeting of CBD was held in Granada, Spain in January 2006. The Terminators were successful in watering down the current moratorium on the technology to a "case by case" consideration by national governments. This was the most devious way of ensuring that the global ban disappears and subsequently they could bully and bulldoze weak national governments and push through the Terminator Technology and conquer the agrarian landscape of countries such as India.

Seed and agriculture for us in this country has always represented Life. Terminator completely contradicts this image and brings us Death through seeds. Seed is the symbol of reproduction for us. But Terminator seeds offer sterility. This is a diabolical science which subverts the basic reproductive function of nature.

The new argument by the Terminators from the Genetic Engineering industry is that since the planted seed does not reproduce itself and thereby does not lend itself to contamination, it is safe for the environment. However the deviousness of this argument is so wide open that even a child can see through it. Contamination does not wait to happen until seeds reproduce themselves. It happens at the pollinating stage when the pollen from one plant rides wind, bees and birds to other plants and pollinates it.

When this happens the Terminator seeds can render all plants and crops around them become sterile. This will be the mass genocide of nature that we will ever have witnessed in history [except for the kinds of war in Vietnam wherein the USA sprayed huge amounts of Agent Orange, a chemical that burnt thousands of square kilometers of forest foliage to lay bare the landscape to open up the Viet Cong to American guns.] And the inevitable suicides of millions of Indian farmers who depend upon their seeds and crops.

India, which has already banned Terminator, was expected to argue strongly against the resurrection of this technology in the interest of farmers in India and the Third World. But the Indian arguments were very weak and muted.

In the present atmosphere in India where the biotech Industry rules the roost, one suspects that the global biotech industry has had the last word. This is not new to us. Whenever farmers interests conflict with the elite interests, farmers face the guillotine. This happened when palm oil import duty from Malaysia was reduced to get some contract for Indian railways. As a result the oilseed industry in India was destroyed and oilseed farmers killed themselves in thousands.

The recent US India agricultural agreements provide another frightening context to the introduction of Terminator Technology into Indian agriculture. US is aggressively pushing its genetic engineering industry all over the world. India is its latest willing victim. Terminator is the ultimate arm of the US agri war.

It is in this atmosphere that we demand that the Indian government acts in the interest of hundreds of millions of its farmers and not protect the interest of a handful of its biotech industries.

If Indian government does not act now in the issue of Terminator seeds, history will repeat itself and hundreds of thousands of farmers will kill themselves earning a rare and dubious distinction of being the Country of Farmer Genocides. If followed, the "Case by Case" argument of the biotech industry will result in "coffin by coffin" exit of farmers from their farming.

This is a disaster waiting to happen. We must prevent it at all costs.

Therefore we demand from the Government of India to stick to the argument that Terminator must be banned in the interest of conservation of biodiversity, in the interest of farming and indigenous populations, in the interest of uncontaminated environment and in the interest of billions of livelihoods of farming communities who depend upon their biodiversity.

We demand our government not to fail us in this critical juncture of our agriculture, our environment and our planet itself.

We are committed to defending our seeds, our culture, our knowledge systems and our freedom associated with our farming systems, our seeds and our biodiversity and hope that the Government of India partners us in these efforts and keeps our issues central to their hearts and arguments.

2.March 13, 2006

Dr. Desh Deepak Verma
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan,
CGO Complex, Lodi Road
New Delhi 110 003
Fax: 91 11 2436 1613 / 24369192

Dear Dr Verma,

Greetings from the South Against Genetic Engineering from the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu as well as Maharashtra where we operate among millions of farmers, civil society groups, consumer movements, scientists and academicians.

We have learnt that an Indian Delegation led by you will be going to Brazil to attend the COP 8 of CBD to articulate the Indian position on various issues concerning the convention. We are confident that as the Chair of the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries (LMMCs), you will put forth our key concerns in a forthright manner.

We also understand that one of the most important issues going to be discussed there is the Terminator technology.

It is in this regard that we are submitting our concerns on behalf of half a million farmers who have signed an appeal to the Prime Minister of India. [Please see the attached copy of the petition].

We don’t think that there is any need for an Indian farmer to stress that seeds, soil and cattle are the most sacred in our tradition. For millions of years these are the fulcrum of our knowledge system. After the "market seeds" entered in our agriculture these have been marginalised. The Green Revolution technologies with their emphasis on chemical fertilizers and pesticides have already poisoned our food, water air and environment. The bigger danger

that we as farmers are facing is the incursion of genetically engineered (GE) seeds into our farming environments. We are convinced that these seeds will bring another colossal damage into our agriculture and those hundreds of millions whose livelihoods are intimately linked to this sector.

We as farmers and citizens concerned with farming understood the damage done by hybrid seeds but, we thought they came from the same family of seeds which are hybridised to develop a new seed.

But the genetically engineered seeds are "manufactured" in an unimaginable and unnatural way such as putting pig genes in maize, scorpion poison in rice and such other constructions that are being created by scientists who have been compelled to work for corporate interests even though what they create are highly damaging to our environments our farming culture and our precious biodiversity.

Even while we are reeling under this assault of GE seeds, we are confronted with the possibility of the new threat from the Terminator Technology -

Since ages we have believed that seed is life. But terminator technology acts completely counter to this. If we use terminator seeds and grow a crop we cannot use the seed from that crop to grow another crop. They won’t germinate again. This means that a diabolical science is in operation to generate sterile seeds.

We clearly see that hidden behind this is a conspiracy of multinationals and the governments of rich nations which are under the control of these corporations. The final aim of this conspiracy is to introduce terminator seeds into major agriculture nations such as India and destroy our rich seed heritage and people-controlled agriculture. If we lend ourselves to this conspiracy, several generations of us will have to become slaves of these large corporations.

We understand that in the Convention on Biological Diversity, many of you are trying to fight for the larger interests of our country, and in particular, of the 700 million farming population of this country.

Most of us, nearly 500 million farming people, live and work in the dryland areas, and depend heavily on the agro-biodiversity which we have nurtured and conserved over the millennia. This biodiversity is not only an issue of insuring our inherent the risk insurance which all against all vagaries of nature to which our farming is subjected to since we depend enrirely upon rainfall for our food and crop production.

Our biodiversity is not only central to our food security but also offers us multiple securities, including fodder, fibre, health, nutrition, livelihood and ecological securities. Our entire life and living revolves this diversity.

This diversity is most critical in our rituals, festivals and culture. We grow some crops only for our weddings and worships. We grow certain crops for our diets and medicine. We grow certain crops specific to our ancestral worship. If biodiversity is removed from us, it is akin to removing our culture from us.

Far more critical is our knowledge associated with this biodiversity. An invaluable knowledge base is owned and preserved primarily by the women and the excluded people.

All these, our food, nutritional and livelihood securities, our knowledge systems and our environment, face the danger of being terminated by this diabolical Terminator technology.

We would therefore insist that the Indian Delegation to CBD keeps this focus constantly while arguing for a complete ban on Terminator. And, we are confident you will do so. This is the policy of the Government of India and represents the wishes of hundreds of millions of us. This is the only way the future of our food and farming can be assured.

We thought it imperative to make this plea to you since we are witnessing the renewed aggression of countries such as Canada, Australia & New Zealand backed by US, and fuelled by their large agro chemical corporations, to back the Terminator Technology. Most of these countries had either declared a ban or moratorium on this technology a couple of years earlier, but are since having a serious rethink.

Even Monsanto, alarmed by the outrage against this technology had promised not to commercialise the technology in a public letter to Mr Gordon Conway.

More recently, however, the biotech industry has gone on the offensive and have been making their intent clear in the series of recent meetings that they have organized.

We do hope you will be able to withstand their pressure tactics and stand by hundreds of millions of us, not only in India but also in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

May we point out that the crucial objective that all our countries are trying to realize through the effective implementation of the CBD, is conservation and sustainable use of our agrobiodiversity. And, as this is the objective that you, as one of the key negotiators of the Government of India, would be helping us realize.

Please do remember that if Terminator enters this country, agrobiodiversity will be the first kill.

There are perverse arguments which say that since terminator seeds do not reproduce they are the best bet against contamination.

This is the most specious of the theories that one can advance. The contamination takes place in more ways than one, especially when the crop is at the pollinating stage when pollens can be carried by wind, birds and bees. Therefore sterility of terminator seeds is no guarantee against contamination.

In this context, we would urge you to stick to the argument that Terminator must continue to be banned in the interest of conservation of biodiversity, in the interest of farming and indigenous populations, in the interest of uncontaminated environment and in the interest of billions of livelihoods of farming communities who depend upon their biodiversity.

In continuation of this let us present to you what we hope our delegation will be doing in Brazil:

1. Challenge "case-to-case" risk assessment approach

2. Hold on to the argument that "Use, save and exchange their farm-saved seeds" will not be a possibility WITH Terminator Technology coexistence is a myth.

3. "Risk management" is clearly a way of "reducing" the DAMAGE, which is completely undesirable from the point of view of sustaining the livelihoods of the farming community and the environment that they have nurtured through the millennia.

4. There are constant efforts at diluting the well thought out and sound principle of "precautionary" approach and please keep your guard to defend this principle and do not allow it to be diluted.

5. Please be on your high alert whenever any text or decision is being put out for discussion which alludes to the net "gains" of using Terminator seeds.

6. We don’t see any point in international processes that cannot take a globally agreed position against Terminator technology. The current trend of putting the onus for preventing the entry of this technology on national governments is, in our view, fraught with dangers. We are firmly convinced that it this approach is adopted, developing countries would be face arm twisting by the developed countries and the multinational corporations for making their national law & policy pro-GM.

7. The outcome and recommendations emanating from Granada meeting is already hugely disappointing for all of us who had expected an agreement on the de facto ban on Terminator technology. Instead what happened there was a huge victory for the biotech industry which has been planning for quite a while to subvert the ban with active support from Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

8. It is this context, it is imperative that as negotiators representing an emerging power such as India you defend our position of having banned the use of Terminator technology.

9. As the leader of the LMMCs, India must also push for a ban on Terminator technology amongst all members of the group, all of whom stand to lose heavily on account of genetic pollution that the terminator technology would promote.

This is ultimately about HAVING THE RESOLVE TO SAY "NO" TO TERMINATOR! Our farmers have made the decision to rely on the strength of their time-tested agricultural practices, and it is therefore incumbent upon the government which is representing them to not only safeguard their interests but to also protect them from the coercive tactics of the multinational corporations.

(p v satheesh)

On behalf of South Against Genetic Engineering [a coalition of 50 South Indian networks of farmers, civil society groups, consumer movements, scientists, academicians and media persons.

Copy to :

1. Dr.Ranjini Warrier Additional Director, Member Secretary GEAC, CS Division
Ministry of Environment & Forests, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi -110003
Fax: 011 24361613

2. Dr. Sujata Arora, Additional Director, Ministry of Environment & Forests, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi -110003 Fax: 24364595 / 24366837

3. Prof. Biswajit Dhar, Centre for WTO Studies, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi, Fax: 011 26965124 / 26960893

4. Mr. Vinod Gupta, New Delhi Fax: 011 23717063

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