Monsanto in Negotiations with USDA to Finalize Control of Terminator
October 9, 1998
The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) has launched
an international campaign to stop negotiations between the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a subsidiary of Monsanto
regarding the "Terminator" technology. Terminator technology -- co-
developed by USDA and Delta & Pine Land Co. and partially financed
with U.S. taxpayer dollars -- will force farmers to return to the
commercial seed market every year since they will no longer be able
to save seed from their harvest. This technology enables a company
to genetically alter seed to produce crops that in turn produce
Delta & Pine Land Co. (D&PL) and the USDA received the patent on
Terminator technology in March 1998. In May, Monsanto announced that
it would acquire Delta & Pine Land Co. for US$1.8 billion. Monsanto,
which recently merged with American Home Products, is now the
world's largest agrochemical corporation and second largest seed
company. Monsanto's total 1996 revenues were US$9.26 billion, and
the company's genetically engineered crops are expected to be used
on approximately 50 million acres worldwide in 1998.
Currently, Monsanto's subsidiary Delta & Pine Land is negotiating
with USDA to have an exclusive license on the U.S. government's
share in the Terminator technology patent. The patent is broad,
applying to plants and seeds of all species, including both
transgenic (genetically engineered) and conventionally-bred seeds.
Since D&PL worked with USDA to develop the technology, the company
has the option to negotiate an exclusive license under U.S. law.
RAFI is asking everyone concerned about the use of Terminator
technology to urge U.S. government officials to stop negotiations
with Monsanto's subsidiary and to halt all commercial development of
Melvin J. Oliver, a USDA molecular biologist and primary inventor of
the Terminator, explained why the U.S. government developed a
technology that prohibits farmers from saving proprietary seed: "My
main interest is protection of American technology. Our mission is
to protect U.S. agriculture, and to make us competitive in the face
of foreign competition. Without this, there is no way of protecting
the technology [patented seed]."
The potential impact of the Terminator technology goes far beyond
U.S. borders. It is an international issue with global implications.
Delta & Pine Land has said that it will target the use of Terminator
seeds in developing countries, where over 1.4 billion people --
primarily poor farmers -- depend on farm-saved seed as their primary
seed source. They have indicated that they will apply for patents in
87 countries around the world. The patent is pending at the European
Patent Office, in Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa.
The Terminator technology is the subject of controversy and debate
worldwide. For example:
In May, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on
Biological Diversity recommended that the precautionary principle be
applied to the Terminator technology. The Conference also directed
its scientific body to examine the technology's impact on farmers
India's agriculture minister Som Pal told the Indian parliament in
August that he has banned the import of seeds containing the
Terminator gene because of the potential harm to Indian agriculture.
By majority vote, the Dutch Parliament recently moved to oppose the
European Patent Directive by appealing to the European Court of
Justice. The Terminator patent is one of the key issues that
prompted the Dutch to renew objections to the Patent Directive that
was passed by the European Parliament earlier this year.
RAFI is urging government institutions to take steps to safeguard --
not eliminate -- the fundamental right of farmers to save seed and
breed crops. RAFI is also calling for protest over the fact that
public research funds were used to develop a technology that will
bring no agronomic benefit to farmers, and no benefits to consumers.
Negotiations between USDA and MonsantoUs subsidiary are now
underway. To see sample letters, and automatic sending options as
well as additional information on Terminator technology, go to
RAFI's web site: http://www.rafi.org/usda.html. Email messages
and/or faxes can be sent to the following USDA official and members
The Honorable Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
Email email@example.com; fax (202) 720-2166
The Honorable Robert F. Smith, Chair
House Agriculture Committee
Email Bob.firstname.lastname@example.org; fax (202) 225-0917
The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Chair
Senate Agriculture Committee
Email email@example.com; fax (202) 224-1725
Source/contact: Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI),
P.O. Box 640, Pittsboro, North Carolina 27312; phone (919) 542-1396;
fax (919) 542-0069; email firstname.lastname@example.org; web site www.rafi.ca.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94102
Phone (415) 981-1771
Fax (415) 981-1991
web site www.panna.org/panna/
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