The UN Convention on Biological Diversity met in Brazil last March. On the agenda was terminator, or gene sterilisation, technology. Three governments — Australia, Canada and New Zealand — were dubbed the “Terminator Trio” when they teamed up to try and overturn a global moratorium on terminator technology, which prevents farmers saving and reusing seeds. The U.S. Government wants the moratorium lifted but, as it has not signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, it asked its buddies to do the dirty work.
Corporate greed. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a subsidiary of Monsanto developed a new patent for sterile seeds in order to force farmers to buy commercial seed every year. Very profitable for the seed companies!
About 1.4 billion people — primarily Indigenous, peasant and poor farmers from Africa, Asia and Latin America — depend on farm-saved seed as their primary source of food security. Widespread use of terminator technology would prevent them from doing this.
Rebellion of the downtrodden. These farmers know what is at stake. They’ll be beholden to the corporations. Biodiversity is threatened, as there is no guarantee that nearby crops can be protected from cross-pollination.
Thousands of peasant farmers, including contingents from Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, protested every day during the convention. Women from the international Via Campesina movement held protests inside the hall. Indian farmers collected half a million signatures demanding that the Prime Minister strongly uphold the moratorium. In Madrid, protesters planted local varieties of organic vegetable seeds outside Monsanto’s office. And in Australia more than 8,000 people have signed a petition to Agriculture Minister, Peter McGauran, demanding that the moratorium be maintained.
This organising stopped the Terminator Trio — for now. Nature is increasingly being commodified. The gene pool, which was once part of the collective inheritance of humanity, is being privatised and sold to the highest bidder. This tendency will continue as CEOs everywhere are driven to maximise short-term profit, even if it is socially destructive. In a world where competition reigns supreme, if one company doesn’t run with profitable but dangerous technology, a competitor will. That’s the logic of the capitalist system. We need a permanent ban on terminator technology and to scrap the system that dreamed it up in the first place.