Subject: News Release - "Trait" Sanctions?
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 6:07 AM

Rural Advancement Foundation International  |

News Release

Seedless in Seattle - Terminator Tech Trumps Trade Talks

"Trait" Sanctions?

Refusal to reject Suicide Seeds provokes fear that U.S. may use Terminator
as a 'political weapon' to enforce unilateral trade rules.   From Trade
Sanctions to Trait Sanctions?

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman's failure to reject Terminator
Technology (a genetic modification that renders harvested seed sterile) may
leave some World Trade Organization (WTO) trade delegations sleepless in
Seattle.  When the WTO meets next week in Seattle, governments are expected
to endorse a new bout of global trade negotiations dubbed the 'Millennium
Round.'  The United States will press for U.S. biased agricultural rules
and tougher intellectual property provisions related to biotechnology. Some
delegates and civil society organizations (CSO) attending the Seattle
meeting fear that Uncle Sam will be tempted to use Terminator or (more
likely) "Traitor" (the remote-control of crop production traits) Technology
to unilaterally dictate trade policies to countries in Africa, Asia, and
Latin America.

Trait Sanctions: According to Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI, a
Canadian-based CSO,  "It would be nonsense to suggest that the USA is
developing trait control technology for economic or biowarfare purposes. On
the other hand," Mooney adds, "history shows that it would be imprudent to
believe that the USA will turn its back on a technological weapon that
could help fulfill its trade and foreign policy goals."  "When we met with
Mr. Glickman a month ago," Hope Shand, Research Director for RAFI-USA
recalls, "we told him that Monsanto and AstraZeneca had abandoned the
Terminator and that the Rockefeller Foundation, along with international
agricultural research institutions and several countries, are all opposed
to the commercial use of the technology.  Glickman still refused to abandon
the sterility strategy.  This is kindling needless and undoubtedly
premature alarm that the technologies could become a kind of trait

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly developed the original
Terminator with Delta and Pine Land Co. Later, Delta and Pine Land accepted
a takeover bid from Monsanto, which was crafting its own version of the
Terminator.  When Monsanto agreed to scrap the technology, USDA officials
continued to defend their patent and said that they hoped the company would
reconsider.  The USDA's stance added more fuel to international speculation
that the U.S. may develop other uses for the technology.

Treaty Transgression?  Worry that Traitor Tech has bioweapons potential
comes as negotiators in Geneva prepare for what they hope will be the
wrap-up round of a multi-year effort to modernize the 1972 Biological and
Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).  The major stumbling blocks to the revised
Treaty are the United States and U.S. biotech companies who oppose some of
the protocol's R&D and production monitoring provisions.

Traitor Terrorism?  "In its essence," says Hope Shand, "the Terminator is
just one manifestation of Traitor Tech which in turn, is a biotech
mechanism to switch crop traits on or off through the application of an
external chemical inducer like a herbicide.  It's theoretically possible to
manipulate another country's crop production," Shand explains, "either by
giving - or withholding - access to the inducer."  In Ottawa, Julie
Delahanty of RAFI offers an example,   "Zimbabwe grows cotton - if Delta
and Pine Land succeeds in merging with Monsanto, the new enterprise will
control much of the world's conventional and biotech cotton seed supply.
Monsanto also has Round-Up, the world's most commonly-used herbicide.  As a
commercial strategy, Monsanto could develop new generations of high-tech
seeds with beneficial traits which Zimbabwe's farmers would welcome.  In
order to protect their market, Monsanto could embed the traits in such a
way that the crop would fail unless farmers spray their fields regularly
with a specially-enhanced formulation of Round-Up.  No spray, no trait, no
harvest.  This is more dangerous than Terminator," Delahanty continues,
"Because Terminator only sterilizes the seed so it can't be planted the
following season.  Traitor Tech can render the current crop useless unless
farmers commit to repeat purchases of the inducer chemical.  If Zimbabwe
gets into a textile dispute with the United States, all the U.S. Trade
Representative has to do is threaten to deny export licenses for the
souped-up Round-Up. This act alone would bring farmers to their knees."  In
Uruguay, RAFI's Silvia Ribeiro agrees. "Trait sanctions can come through
many technological means," she insists, "including the remote control of
traits for yield, nutrition, height, or hardiness.  It's possible to
engineer 'junkie' crops that can't be harvested without their chemical
'fix'. Turn off the herbicide supply and you can manufacture an instant crop

Millennium Round-UP?  According to RAFI, Traitor technologies give the U.S.
a unique and powerful weapon that could be employed to enforce its own
agricultural and patent rules on trading partners. The use of the
technology to gain control of the world's food supply should be discussed
during the upcoming Millennium Round.  "The United States has consistently
used its own trade and agricultural legislation to threaten and apply
sanctions against its trading rivals," Silvia Ribeiro notes, "It has rarely
hesitated to defy GATT or WTO procedures and international norms if they
don't advance U.S. interests.  If the U.S. wants to shed its 'bad boy'
image it should declare Terminator and Traitor Tech contrary to public
morality.   Governments in Seattle should acknowledge the primacy of
national food security and the environment over trade agreements." "Seattle
should not launch the Millennium Round-Up," Hope Shand insists.

"Not only should Traitor Tech be rejected in Seattle," Pat Mooney of RAFI
adds, "in Geneva, the Ad Hoc Working Group revising the Biological and
Toxin Weapons Convention should also challenge the U.S. research as a
violation of Article One of the protocol."  Julie Delahanty concurs, "The
Terminator was developed by the U.S. Government for the announced purpose
of denying farmers in foreign countries the right to save seed.  When the
patent was granted in March 1998, USDA inventors were explicit on this
point and offered no agronomic justification for the technology. Countries
that accept Traitor Tech can have their food security held to ransom."
Aside from the USDA, every major ag biotech company in North America and
the EU is developing its own Trait sanctions.  Pat Mooney concludes,
"Governments in Seattle and Geneva have to condemn Trait Sanctions as an
offensive biological weapon." Unless the U.S. can prove that the Terminator
has beneficial uses - or that its research on the Terminator is purely
defensive - the United States is at least breaching the spirit of the BTWC.
"USDA bureaucrats have been taking creative writing classes trying to come
up with unique conditions that would make the technology useful.  It's a bit
like trying to explain the benefits of a lobotomy to a political prisoner,"
Mooney suggests. "RAFI does not believe that the U.S. has intentionally
"weaponized wheat" or intended to turn Terminator or Traitor into tools for
economic warfare.  We frankly doubt that the notion has even crossed their
minds. If the trade opportunity arises the United States will almost
certainly exploit its weapons potential.  In the final analysis, Trait
sanctions are war on farmers and on the hungry."

Background: 25 Years of Food as a Weapon: Would the U.S. Government use
food to impose its trade policies on other countries?  "Food has long been
a political tool in U.S. foreign policy," Mooney points out.  It was 25
years ago, in November 1974, that USDA Secretary Earl Butz told a World
Food Conference in Rome that food was a weapon, calling it  "one of the
principal tools in our negotiating kit."  That policy statement by a
Republican Agriculture Secretary also represented the view of a one-time
U.S. Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey of the (more liberal) Democratic
Party.  As far back as 1957, Humphrey told a U.S. audience, "if you are
looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you
in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence
would be terrific."

Excerpt from the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention currently being
negotiated in Geneva: Article I.  Each State Party to this Convention
undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or
otherwise acquire or retain: (1) Microbial or other biological agents, or
toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in
quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or
other peaceful purposes; (2) Weapons, equipment, or means of delivery
designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed

For further information:

Pat Roy Mooney, Executive Director
RAFI Headquarters
Tel:  (204) 453-5259  Fax: (204) 925-8034

Hope Shand
Research Director
Tel:  (919) 960-5223
Fax:  (919) 960-5224

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