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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Morley Urged to Oppose Terminator Genes

Immediate release (8 Feb 2005)

The GM Freeze have urged Environment Minister Elliott Morley to oppose moves by the Canadian Government to force through a proposal to legalise the use of terminator genes at a UN meeting in Bangkok this week.

Documents released at the meeting of Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) [1] reveal that the Canadian Government is seeking to force through an amendment to recommendations to a UN report which would:

Allow for the evaluation of novel varieties, including those with GURTS, for field testing and commercial use based on appropriate science-based environmental risk/safety assessments.

Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS), especially terminator genes, have been widely condemned by governments and farming organisations across the world because they restrict farmers’ rights to save their own seeds for sowing the next year by making them infertile without the use of specific chemicals. Concerns were raised about the genes spreading to non-GM crops threatening the seed crops of poorest farmers when Monsanto first proposed to use terminator technology in 1998. Faced with public outrage, a number of corporations, including Monsanto, later promised to cease developing terminator technology, but the prevention of seed saving promises immense profits.

The Canadian government has stated that if their proposal is rejected they are “prepared to block consensus on this issue”.

Commenting GM Freeze Director Pete Riley said:

Canada’s actions fly in the face of world opinion. It suggests that they may be influenced by the giant biotech companies. The UK government must use all their power and influence to oppose the legalisation of terminator technology for the sake of farmers throughout the world who want the their rights to save seeds every year protected by international agreements which cannot be overturned by the likes of Monsanto.



[1] The meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) which provides advice of the Convention on Biodiversity is being held in Bangkok 7-11 February.

Documents from this meeting released to the media indicate that the Canadian Government is proposing amendments to a report to the UN by the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (AHTEG) that recommended that the moratorium of GURTS should continue.