Terminator terminated!

Feature story - March 28, 2006
Pressure on the NZ Government by grassroots activists, and cyber-activists has payed off! At pivotal negotiations over the last two weeks in Curitiba, Brazil, the NZ Government bowed to pressure from all sides and softened its obstructive position on two issues key to stopping the spread of GE, especially into the developing world.

Corn grenade: the winning image from the Greenpeace Seeds of Trouble competition

First came the Biosafety Protocol and rules around the trade in living GE organisms, where NZ's behaviour threatened to bring a halt to the entire convention.  But pressure forced NZ Government delegates back into line.

Then, last week, at the Convention on Biological Diversity, NZ was opposing a world-wide effort to maintain the "defacto" moratorium on the Terminator (sterile seed) technologies.  These technologies, also known as Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs), are of one of the nastiest genetic engineering technologies ever conceived - by rendering the offspring of food crops sterile they steal the right of farmers to save seed. The good sustainable and age-old practice of seed saving is supplanted by the a requirement to buy seeds every season.

New Zealand was arguing that an agreement made in 2000 not to go ahead with field trials or commercialisation of Terminator (in essence a defacto moratorium) should be opened up to a "case by case" consideration of trials.   But once again, NZ was beaten back by international protest.

Maintaining the moratorium on Terminator technology is a victory for farmers and developing nations that marks the beginning of the end of Terminator technology.

People from all walks of life, including indigenous groups, environmental groups, farmers, students, scientists and labourers were crucial to the inspiring energy that came together inside and outside of the UN Conference in Curitiba Brazil this month. 

It was this energy that moved government delegations to stand up and ensure that Terminator is not allowed to threaten the livelihoods of the 1.4 billion people who depend of farm saved seed.

Protests bv Brazilian farmers [photo] against the NZ position in Brazil;  outside the NZ embassy in London, protests in India, thousands of email messages sent via the Greenpeace website and some hard negotiations by Greenpeace and other NGOs in the meeting led to New Zealand's about turn in the meeting.

A Chilean farmer from international small farmers' organisation Via Campesina, described the civil sector movement in Brazil: as "the voice of the people who are fighting every day for life."

Having spearheaded calls for case-by-case trialling of Terminator in Montreal last year,  the NZ Government's representatives in Brazil declined to stand in the way of strong consensus against the case-by-case option. 

This followed a similar move the previous week, when New Zealand shifted from its consensus-blocking role on the Biosafety Protocol to allow a key article on documentation of GE shipments to pass.  


So thank you and well done to all those who sent in messages to the Government on this issue - it really made a difference!