Terminator Seeds – Poor farmers could face billions in extra seed bills
Immediate release (22 Mar 2006)
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065
UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology
The first estimates of the costs of GM terminator technology to farmers around the world has been released as the debate about the controversial sterile seed technology intensifies at the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) talks in Brazil today.
The estimates , prepared by civil society organisation ETC Group in cooperation with farm organisations, show that if Terminator was commercialised and displaced all farm saved seed the extra seed costs for farmers in just seven countries could easily exceed $1.2 billion per year equivalent to 23% of the UK’s £5.3 million aid budget. Examples of the extra costs to replace farm saved seed used for major crops include:
- Soya beans in Brazil 70% of the planted area – additional costs- $407m/year.
- Wheat in Pakistan 88% of the planted area – additional costs $191m/year.
- Rice in the Phillipines 59% of the planted area – additional costs $172m/year.
If Terminator technology were applied over time to all the seed lines around the world, the costs to farmers of buying fresh seed annually would be billions of dollars. Even Canadian wheat farmers, whose government is one of the leading proponents of Terminator at the CBD, could be stung with an annual bill of US$85
Biotech companies have made no secret of their plans to maximise their share of the global seed market. The global farm saved seed market is potentially huge and even in the UK it is estimated that between 10 and 40% of oilseed rape seed is saved each year . In Argentina, where 90% of soya is now GM, farmers continued the practice of seed saving when GM soya was introduced and Monsanto has made retrospective attempts through the courts to re-coup its lost sales from European importers. 
Companies are likely to want to circumvent such GM seed saving with the use of Terminator technology.
The issue of Terminator technology is being negotiated at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), meeting in Curitiba, Brazil this week. 
Terminator crops (or GURTS – genetic use restriction technologies) are genetically modified to create sterile seeds at harvest so that farmers must buy new seed every season. Over 500 organisations around the world have joined the Ban Terminator campaign to prevent the current CBD decision which placed a global moratorium on outdoor testing or commercial growing of Terminator crops before global socio-economic assessments had been completed, being weakened at this week’s talks.
A small group of industrialised nations, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK (supported on the sidelines by the US which is not a member of the CBD) promoted “case by case risk assessment” for Terminator Technology. This “case by case” clause would open the door to field testing and eventual commercialisation of sterile seed technology ahead of an understanding of the socio-economic impact on the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm saved seeds for their food security and livelihoods. 
The ETC data is the first attempt to be published to assess the cumulative impact of hundreds of |terminator seeds lines around the world.
Roberto Requião, the Governor of Brazil’s Paraná state, opened the CBD conference on Monday with a strong condemnation of Terminator.
Suicide seeds are the next step in the transnational industry’s strategy to control the production and commercial use of seeds.
Requião told the opening plenary of 3000 delegates:
It is one more step by transnational industry to obtain total control over the production of the grain.
Commenting for the UK Terminator Alliance , Pete Riley said:
No wonder the multinational seed industry is so keen to win ‘case by case’ assessment of Terminator. If they can undermine the existing moratorium they will use Terminator as a technology platform for all commercial seeds and extract billions of extra dollars from farmers. The UK government and others backing the case by case approach need to listen hard to Southern voices on this vital issue and maintain the moratorium.
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065.
Notes The Potential Economic Impact of Terminator Seed Technology Estimates for Selected Crops and Countries
ETC Group ( www.etcgroup.org )
Background: The president of Delta & Pine Land, the world’s largest cotton seed company, predicted in 1998 that Terminator could be used on over 400 million hectares of crops worldwide, and that it would provide seed companies with a safe way to introduce their patented seeds into countries like China, India and Pakistan – especially for crops like rice, wheat, soybeans and cotton. He also speculated that the technology fee would range from a low of 50 cents per acre to $1.50 per acre for high-value crops. (1 hectare = 2.47 acres). Delta & Pine Land is now growing Terminator plants in greenhouses in the United States.
If farmers who now use farm-saved seeds were forced to buy new seeds every time they planted, what economic impact would it have on those countries?
The following case studies were compiled using statistics from national governments, farmers’ organizations, trade groups and universities. These statistics are theoretical – but they illustrate what’s at stake if the CBD fails to strengthen the de facto moratorium on Terminator and reject proposed language on “case-by-case risk assessment.” If Terminator seeds are commercialized, the multinational Gene Giants will take total control over the first link in the food chain.
Brazil – Soybeans:
In Brazil, an estimated 70 percent of the 22 million hectare soybean crop is planted in farmer-saved seed. If Terminator seeds were commercialized and used in soybeans, it would cost Brazilian soybean farmers US$407 million per year (Brazilian Real $866 million).
Argentina – Soybeans
In Argentina, an estimated 70 percent of the 14 million hectare soybean crop comes from farmer-saved seed and purchases of “bolsa blanca” (black market) seeds. If Terminator seeds were commercialized and used in soybean seed, the estimated cost would be US$276 million per annum (BRL$588).
Pakistan – Wheat:
In Pakistan approximately 88% of the total wheat area is planted in farm-saved seeds. If wheat farmers in Pakistan were forced to rely on Terminator seeds it would cost them an estimated US$191 million per year (BRL $406 million).
Pakistan – Cotton:
An estimated 40% of Pakistan’s 3.15 million cotton area is planted in farm-saved cotton seed. The estimated cost if cotton farmers in Pakistan were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology: US$33 million per annum (BRL $70 million).
Philippines – Rice:
In the Philippines, 59% of the rice crop is planted with farmer-saved seeds. If these rice farmers were forced to buy new seed every time they planted – they would spend an estimated US$172 million per annum (BRL $366).
Ethiopia – Wheat
In Ethiopia, approximately 90% of the total wheat area is planted in farm-saved seed. If Terminator seeds were commercialized and Ethiopian wheat farmers were forced to buy new seed every time they planted, it would cost an estimated US$66 million per year. (140 BRL)
Iran – Rice:
In 2001-2002 more than 600,000 hectares under rice production in Iran, and more than 80% of the total rice area under cultivation was dedicated to local varieties, which implies farmer-saved seeds. If rice farmers in Iran who use farm-saved seed on an estimated 480,000 hectares were forced to buy Terminator rice seed, it would cost approximately US$34 million (BRL$72)
Canada – Wheat:
If Canadian wheat farmers (who now grow wheat on 8.36 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy Terminator wheat seed, the total cost per annum would be US$85 million per annum (BRL$181). Page 38 “GM Crops? Coexistence and Liability” – A report by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), November 2003.  See www.checkbiotech.org/blocks/dsp_document.cfm?doc_id=11826  The COP8 of the CBD is being held in Brazil this week. Decisions on Terminator will be Wednesday 22nd March.  The global moratorium is CBD Decision V/5 section III agreed in 2000. This decision states that products incorporating Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) should not be approved for field-testing or commercial use until assessment of ecological, socio-economic and cultural impacts.  The UK Campaigning Group on Terminator Technology includes UK Food Group, Progressio (formerly CIIR), Friends of the Earth, GM Freeze, GeneWatch UK, The Gaia Foundation, EcoNexus, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Munlochy GM Vigil. Link to www.eco-matters.org for free copies of a leaflet on Terminator Technology.
EDM calling for moratorium on Terminator to be maintained has been signed by 215 MPs from all parties.
The group wrote to Margaret Beckett this week asking that the UK uphold the moratorium.[i] Bill Freiberg, “Is Delta & Pine Land’s Terminator Gene” a Billion Dollar Discovery?” Seed and Crops Digest, March/April 1998. [ii] Sources: Central Cooperative for Agricultural Research (Coodetec); Enrique Ortega. FEA, Unicamp, Campinas, Brasil, FAO.
Approximately 22 million hectares of soybeans were under cultivation in 2005/06. According to Central Cooperative for Agricultural Research (Coodetec), certified RR soybean seeds account for 2.5 million hectares of plantings – only 11.4% of the 22 million hectares under cultivation in the 05-06 growing season. We are using a conservative estimate that 70% of the total soybean crop in Brazil is planted in farmer-saved and/or black market seed. According to Enrique Ortega, the cost of certified soybean seed in Brazil per hectare/per year is US$25.20. 15.4 million hectares x $25.20 = $388 million. If Brazilian soybean farmers who are currently using farm-saved seed were forced to buy commercial seed every year they would spend $388 million on seed at current commercial soybean seed prices. If an additional fee of 50 cents per acre were charged ($1.23 per hectare $1.23 per hectare x 15.4 million hectares = $18,942,000. The total estimated cost to Brazilian soybean farmers, if Terminator seeds were commercialized and used in soybeans = $388 million + $19 million = $407 million.[iii] Sources: Secretaria de Agricultura, Republica Argentina: http://www.sagpya.mecon.gov.ar/new/00/agricultura/otros/granos/soja.php; Walter Pengue, Professor of Agriculture and Ecology, University of Buenos Aires; In Argentina, approximately 70% of the soybean area is planted in farmer-saved seeds and seed purchased on the black market (“bolsa blanca”). Of the 14 million hectares of soybeans harvested in 2005, an estimated 9,800,00 hectares were sown with farm-saved soybean seeds. In Argentina, the cost of soybean seed (RR) is approximately US $27 per hectare. If farmers who are now using farm-saved seed were forced to use Terminator soybean seed, how much would they have to pay? 9,800,000 ha x $27 per ha = $264,600,000; estimated Terminator technology fee (50 cents per acre) = $1.23 per hectare: $1.23 x 9,800,000 = $12,054,000
Total = $264,600,000 + $12,054,000 = $276,654,000.[iv] Sources: Lok Sanjh Foundation; www.nationalpak.com; FAOSTAT. Pakistan harvested approximately 8.3 million hectares of wheat in 2005. Only 12% of the total wheat area is planted with purchased seed. An estimated 7.3 million hectares of wheat are planted with farm-saved seed. The current price of wheat seed per hectare is approximately US$25.00. 7.3 million hectares x $25 per ha = $182,500,000
Estimated Terminator technology fee: $1.23 per hectare 7.3 million x $1.23 = $8,979,000
$182,500,000 + $8,979,000 = $191,479,000. Total estimated cost if wheat farmers in Pakistan (who are now growing wheat on 7.3 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology = $191,479,000.[v] Sources: Sources: Lok Sanjh Foundation, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. In 2005/06, Pakistan produced 3.15 million hectares of cotton. An estimated 40% of the total cotton area, 1,260,000 hectares, is planted in farm-saved cotton seed. Cost of commercial cotton seed per hectare is approximately US$25. $25 per ha x 1,260,000 hectares = $31,500,000 Terminator technology fee – $1.23 per hectare = $1.23 x 1,260,000 = $1,549,800
$31,500,000 + $1,549,800 = $33,049,800
Total estimated cost if cotton farmers in Pakistan (who are now growing cotton on an estimated 1.26 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology = $33,049,800.[vi] Sources: Philippines Department of Agriculture; SEARICE, FAO.
Approximately 4.12 million hectares of rice were harvested in the Philippines in 2005. According to the Philippines Department of Agriculture, the area planted in certified, registered and hybrid rice for 05/06 targets = 1.68 million hectares. Of the 1.68 million ha, approx. 23% to hybrid rice; 77% to certified commercial rice seed. Approximately 41% total rice area in Philippines planted to purchased seed. An estimated 59% rice area planted to farmer-saved seeds and informal seed exchanges (SEARICE notes this is conservative estimate – in reality the area planted to farmer-saved seed is higher) With government subsidy the current price of hybrid rice is $24 per hectare. For two plantings of rice per year, the total is $48 per hectare/per year. Cost of self-pollinated commercial rice seed: $76.50 per hectare per year (two plantings)
If 389,000 ha planted in hybrid rice, the cost of seed = 389,000 x $48 = $18,672,000 (govt. subsidized price) If 1,291,867 ha planted in certified commercial rice, the estimated cost of seed (two plantings per annum) = 1,292,000 hectares x $76.50 = $98,838,000
What would be the cost if farmers were forced to buy seed for 2,420,000 hectares – the 59% of the total rice area now planted in farm-saved seeds? We calculate that 23% of total area is the cost of hybrid rice: 556,600 hectares x $48.00 = $26,716,800
Estimated additional technology fee of 50 cents per acre = $1.23 per hectare (1 hectare = 2.471 acres). The additional technology fee of $1.23 per hectare x 556,600 hectares = $684,618
$26,716,800 + $684,618 = $27,401,418
If 77% of Terminator rice area (1,863,400) – 77% of the area now devoted to farm-saved rice – was planted at cost of certified commercial (2 plantings per year = $76.50 per hectare) 1,863,400 ha x 76.50 = $142,550,100
1,863,400 ha x $1.23 = $2,291,982
77% of rice area calculated at cost of certified commercial seed + technology fee: Total = $144,842,082
144,842,082 + $27,401,418 = $172,243,500 – the total estimated cost if rice farmers in the Philippines (now growing rice on 2.4 million hectares with farm-saved seed) were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology.[vii] Sources: FAO; Dr. Regassa Feyissa, former director, Institute of Biodiversity, Addis Ababa. More than 90% of the wheat crop in Ethiopia is planted in farmer-saved seed. The total wheat area harvested in 2005 was 1,200,000 hectares. Approximately 1,000,000 hectares planted in farm-saved seeds. Price of commercial wheat seed in Ethiopia = approximately 525 birr per hectare = US$
1 Ethiopian Birr = 0.12443 US dollar 525 Birr = approximately $65.00 per ha
US$65 per hectare x 1,000,000 hectares = US$65,000,000 Estimated Terminator technology fee = $1.23 per hectare x 1,000,000 = $1,230,000
$65,000,000 + $1,230,000 = $66,000,000 per hectare
Ethiopian wheat farmers were forced to buy commercial wheat seed every time they planted, and if an additional technology fee of $1.23 per hectare were added to the price of commercial wheat seed, they would spend an estimated $66 million per annum.[viii] Sources: Ministry of Jihad for Agriculture MJA, FAO/TCDC Mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran; N. Shobha Rani. On the Internet: http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=//DOCREP/003/W8595T/w8595t00.htm. According to FAO more than 80% of the rice land under cultivation is dedicated to local varieties, which implies farmer-saved seeds. In 2001-2002 more than 600,000 hectares were under rice production in Iran. In 2001-02 the average cost of commercial rice seed per hectare was 568,560 rials, about $70 US dollars at the exchange rate of the time.
Estimated technology fee = US$1.23 per hectare x 480,000 hectare = US$590,400 480,000 x US$70 = US$33,600,000 US$590,400 + US$33,600,000 = US$34,190,400