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E-M:/ Agriculture Technology that Hurts Family Farmers

Enviro-Mich message from "david zaber" <dzaber@gateway.net>

Folks, for those of us who care about farming and sustainable agriculture,
you may want to read this disturbing piece of information on a new
technology.  Oh, and by the way, if you do write to Monsanto, ask them why
the Sauget, Illinois sewage treatment plant was considered the most toxic
discharge into the Upper Mississippi River for years. (clue: Monsanto had a
huge chemical facility in Sauget, Illinois, which used the treatment plant
for its discharge).

Have a great day!

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 
sterile seed. 

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 
this technology. 

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 
and biodiversity. 

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 
of Congress. 

The Honorable Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture 
Email agsec@usda.gov; fax (202) 720-2166

The Honorable Robert F. Smith, Chair
House Agriculture Committee
Email Bob.smith@mail.house.gov; fax (202) 225-0917

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Chair
Senate Agriculture Committee
Email senator_lugar@lugar.senate.gov; 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 rafiusa@rafi.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
Email: panna@panna.org  
web site www.panna.org/panna/ 

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David John Zaber
904 Glaizewood Court
Takoma Park, MD 20912

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