[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[SANET-MG] moratorium on terminaor reaffirmed with caveats
Title : Moratorium on Terminator Technology reaffirmed, but with
Date : 29 January 2006
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
RE: Moratorium on Terminator Technology reaffirmed, but with qualifications
The fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group
on Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention on Biological
Diversity met in Granada, Spain from 23-27 January.
On the final day of the meeting, the Working Group finalized its
recommendation on GURTs (popularly known as Terminator Technologies),
which will be forwarded to the eighth meeting of the Conference of the
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to be held in
The 8(j) Working Group reaffirmed the CBD’s existing “de facto”
moratorium on GURTs. However, this was weakened by the inclusion of
language in another paragraph, at the insistence of Australia, that
further research and studies on potential impacts and other aspects of
GURTs, be undertaken on a case by case risk assessment basis. Parties
repeatedly clashed on many issues, and it was clear that some Parties
are determined to undermine the moratorium.
However, Parties to the CBD will still have a crucial opportunity to
strengthen the decision on GURTs at COP8, which will make the final
decision. Indigenous peoples, farmers and NGOs are calling for an
international ban on Terminator Technology.
Countries could, as sovereign nations, enact national legislation that
bans GURTs. Furthermore, farmers as well as indigenous and local
communities would now be assisted to apply the “de facto” moratorium
within their communities and territories.
We provide below a report on the outcomes of the meeting.
With best wishes,
Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twnside.org.sg
CBD moratorium on Terminator Technology reaffirmed, but with qualifications
Granada, 28 January 2006 (Third World Network) - The fourth meeting of
the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and
related provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which
ended on 27 January, saw Parties clashing repeatedly over the issue of
Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs).
The 8(j) Working Group reaffirmed the Convention on Biological
Diversity’s (CBD) existing “de facto” moratorium on GURTs. However, this
was weakened by the inclusion of language in another paragraph, at the
insistence of Australia, that further research and studies on potential
impacts and other aspects of GURTs, be undertaken on a case by case risk
GURTs are also popularly known as Terminator Technologies. Terminator
Technology is a genetic engineering technique that renders seeds sterile
at harvest, thus preventing farmers from saving and re-using seed, a
practice carried out by millions of farmers, particularly in developing
countries. Apart from these socio-economic impacts, there are also
serious threats posed to agrobiodiversity and biodiversity.
In 2000, the CBD adopted Decision V/5 (Agricultural biological
diversity) section III, paragraph 23, which recommends that Parties not
approve GURTs for field-testing or commercial use, until transparent
scientific assessments of its impacts are made and its socio-economic
impacts validated, thereby establishing a “de facto” moratorium on GURTs.
The 8(j) Working Group met in Granada, Spain from 23-27 January, and one
of the issues on its agenda was on the potential socio-economic impacts
of GURTs on indigenous and local communities. On the final day of the
meeting, the Working Group finalized its recommendation on GURTs, which
will be forwarded to the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties
to the CBD, to be held in Curitiba, Brazil in March 2006. Parties to the
CBD would still have an opportunity to strengthen the decision on GURTs
at COP8, which will make the final decision.
One of the most contentious issues in the recommendation had to do with
the inclusion of language recommending case-by-case risk assessments for
further research and studies on potential impacts and other aspects of
GURTs. The drafting group that was formed to draft the recommendation
had adjourned the day before (26 January) without agreeing on this, and
had placed the paragraph in brackets. However, informal consultations
were made among the contending Parties as the Sub-Working Group went
into plenary, and there they approved the removal of the brackets.
Paragraph 2(b) of the decision reads:
"2. Invites Parties, other Governments and relevant organizations and
(b) Promote cooperation and synergies between agencies and experts in
order to undertake further research and studies on potential impacts and
other aspects of genetic use restriction technologies, including their
ecological, socio-economic and cultural impacts on indigenous and local
communities, including on a case by case risk assessment basis with
respect to various categories of GURTs technology subject to the
The reference to case by case risk assessments could undermine the “de
facto” moratorium, as it may open the door for the countries pushing to
field test and commercialize GURTs, to do so at their national level.
However, the reference to case by case assessments has been subjected to
a qualification, through the inclusion of a footnote to Paragraph 2(b)
of the recommendation. The EU, in the final plenary meeting, explained
the details. The footnote reads as follows: "this is meant to be with
respect to different variations within different categories of GURTs
When the Philippines asked for clarification on what this meant,
Australia said it was "to enable greater clarity, to make it quite
clear" what these assessments would be all about.
An NGO delegate representing the Federation of German Scientists had a
different view, saying these assessments would be "further down the
road", and in the meanwhile this will lead to national level
decision-making on GURTs, a scenario which may not be good, as most
governments do not have national biosafety regulations to deal with
Norway also spoke about its grave concern about this point but given the
qualification, it believed it could go along with such a footnote.
Uganda also voiced its support for the footnote.
The Chair of the Working Group, Amb. Jose Cuenca of Spain, instructed
the Rapporteur to take into account these observations in his final
report of the Meeting. It is however unclear whether the footnote
qualification will be sufficient to roll back the danger posed by
including the reference to case by case risk assessments for GURTs.
In any case, it is clear that the “de facto” moratorium on field-testing
and commercialization of GURTs remains. Furthermore, countries could, as
sovereign nations, still enact national legislation that bans GURTs.
Even farmers as well as indigenous and local communities would now be
assisted, through, among other things, capacity-building activities that
will enable them to apply Decision V/5, part III on GURTS, within their
communities and territories.
Australia had won the inclusion of the wording on case by case risk
assessment by using it as a bargaining chip, in return for dropping its
initial insistence during the drafting group discussions, that reference
to the precautionary approach be removed in the preambular paragraph of
the then draft decision.
During those discussions, the Philippines, the EU, and Norway opposed
Australia’s proposal, as it would have meant that any decisions relating
to GURTs would not be guided by the precautionary principle, one of the
cornerstones of the Rio Declaration as well as the Convention on
Biological Diversity. The drafting group eventually came to consensus
when it was agreed that the references to Principle 15 of the Rio
Declaration, as requested by New Zealand, would be couched in language
that will also refer to the Preamble of the Convention on Biological
Discussions on the draft recommendation saw many other clashes between
Parties. One disputed item delved on whether the socio-economic impacts
of GURTs were a mix of both positive and negative. Australia, together
with the US on the floor, and a pro-industry scientific group, wanted
this, along with the word “aspects”, which most of the delegations
opposed. Uganda pointed out that even the title of the agenda item used
the word “impacts” rather than “aspects”. Australia insisted “aspects”
was broader, which was greeted by dissatisfied grunts from those
observing the drafting group.
The delegates agreed to remove both the words “positive and negative”
and settled to have both the words “impacts” and “aspects” in the text.
References to the “potential benefits such as increasing productivity”
were also removed without much debate after this agreement.
However, tempers flared when Australia wanted to replace the word
“Reaffirms” in the first preambular paragraph with either “notes” or
“recalls”, referring to the 2000 decision of CBD COP V, which many
observers see as a decision that imposed the “de facto” moratorium on
GURTs. Australia, helped along by Canada and New Zealand, claimed that
there was nothing wrong with the words “notes” or “recalls”, though some
observers said that it is absurd for a COP to take note of its own
decision, as if it is not aware that it has made such decision in the
As discussions dragged on, the delegate from the Philippines reminded
the delegate from Canada that in the Friends of the Chair meeting in
Bangkok in 2004, where both of them were present, there was an agreement
then to revisit the 2000 decision of the COP in the light of new
technologies and related developments. Thus there is a need to determine
whether some of the conclusions of the 2000 decision are still valid at
this present time, and hence the need for a reaffirmation of whether
that decision is still valid or not.
Canada then did not insist on changing the word “reaffirms” but
Australia was adamant that both the words “reaffirms” and “recalls” be
placed in brackets, to show that such words were not agreed upon by the
delegates and would need to be revisited at some future time by the COP
of the CBD. Eventually, the desire of the majority prevailed, and the
final recommendation from the Working Group reaffirms the previous CBD
Another difficult item centered on the invitation for CBD Parties,
governments and relevant organizations to respect the rights of farmers
to save and use seeds. Canada suggested that some references to its
national legislation be made to reflect its situation, but the
Philippines opposed it as the impression made was that Canada was trying
to bring in language from the International Treaty on Plant Genetic
Resources for Food and Agriculture, of which Farmers’ Rights in its
Article 9 is still made subject to national legislation.
Canada clarified that they are not doing so but the Secretariat inserted
language that made it appear that such farmers’ rights should be made in
accordance with national legislation, leading some indigenous leaders in
the room, to shout, in their own language, that that formulation was
simply unacceptable. A delegate from Africa said that the words in the
text should refer to farm-saved seeds, which again elicited protests
from the indigenous leaders in the room, as they said that not all the
time do they save and use seeds only from the farm.
Language was then proposed to specify that the rights of farmers and
indigenous and local communities to save and use seeds would be
respected. Canada again harped that their national situation needed to
be taken into account, thus their insistence on language that takes
account their national law on this matter of saving and re-using seeds.
Finally, it was agreed to keep intact, as a general principle, the right
of farmers and local and indigenous communities to save, use and
exchange their seeds, and to just take into account Canada’s situation
in a separate clause, within the same paragraph.
Another contentious item referred to technology transfer but got mixed
up in the sharp verbal exchanges between the Philippines and Australia
on whether capacity-building relating to GURTs would include the
enablement of farmers and local and indigenous communities to implement
Decision V/5, the 2000 COP decision which set the “de facto” moratorium
Australia simply went ballistic over the word “implement”, saying this
simply could not be done at the local level. The Philippines asserted
that that was precisely what needs to be done, as most farmers and
indigenous and local communities simply have no idea about these
international discussions and the capacity-building efforts should
simply apprise them that there is a moratorium at the international
level and that they should be helped to act, in accordance with their
customary rules and practices, to take steps to put this moratorium into
effect within their communities and territories. The EU mediated between
the two and the word “implement” was changed to “application”. Thus,
there is language in the final recommendation that capacity building
efforts would help farmers and local and indigenous communities apply
There was also some discussion on whether to call on Parties to ensure
the participation of local and indigenous communities in future
deliberations of the CBD on this issue. However, the Secretariat told
the meeting that the Parties could not be forced or compelled to allow
indigenous and local communities to join their CBD delegations; it was a
matter of sovereignty whether a Party wanted to include indigenous and
local communities in their delegations.
Final discussions centered on whether to call on WIPO, UNESCO and the
Human Rights Commission to investigate the patent record on GURTs and
assess its ethical and spiritual implications. The WIPO representative
said that it would be out of their mandate to tackle the ethical and
related aspects, but Egypt insisted that it would be up to these
international bodies, to act within their mandate to examine this
request. He said that if the international organizations find that it is
out of their mandate, then it should just tell the CBD such fact, and
work on the request in accordance within its mandate.
Many observers familiar with the processes of WIPO said that it would
take some time for WIPO to decide on this, especially if the request is
seen as something out of their mandate, and there could be a possibility
that they would reject this request, which may effectively set back the
data-gathering exercise on the patent landscape on GURTs. But,
ultimately, it is up to the WIPO General Assembly to decide on what to
do with this request
To unsubscribe from SANET-MG:
1- Visit http://lists.sare.org/archives/sanet-mg.html to unsubscribe or;
2- Send a message to <email@example.com> from the address subscribed to the list. Type "unsubscribe sanet-mg" in the body of the message.
Visit the SANET-MG archives at: http://lists.sare.org/archives/sanet-mg.html.
Questions? Visit http://www.sare.org/about/sanetFAQ.htm.
For more information on grants and other resources available through the SARE program, please visit http://www.sare.org.