A Serious Global Threat
For generations, the world’s farmers have saved seed from the crops they harvest to replant the following year. Across the globe, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 1.4 billion people depend on farmer-saved seed for their food. Saving seed is crucial to a stable global food supply – not just in the developing world, but everywhere.
Anything that threatens to take away farmers’ ability to save seed would not only pose a risk to farmer livelihoods, but it would also have a critical impact on the planet’s food supply, putting the lives of those 1.4 billion people at risk. And yet that threat exists, and it’s a technology that was designed specifically for this purpose. It’s called Terminator and it is very real.
What is Terminator Technology?
Officially known as a Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), Terminator refers to a biotechnology by which seeds are genetically modified to produce plants with seed that becomes sterile at harvest, making it impossible to save the seed for planting the following season.
For further information on this issue, see the following resources:
Terminator seeds – sometimes referred to as suicide seeds – have been developed and patented by the seed industry. If it becomes the norm, every year, farmers would need to buy seeds from seed companies, without the possibility of re-planting. The technology would ensure reliance on the seed supplier.
While suicide seeds have not yet been commercialized, the technology is being tested in U.S. greenhouses, and some governments, including the Canadian government, have been working towards the goal of field-testing, which would open the door to the spread of Terminator.
We believe Terminator is too big a risk to humanity and should face a global ban. And indeed, since 2001, there has been a de facto worldwide moratorium on Terminator. but along with many governments, indigenous peoples, and civil society organizations, we’re calling for a permanent ban on the technology because of the threat it poses to biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems, small-scale farmers, and global food security.
The issue has spawned a major global campaign – The International Ban Terminator Campaign – to raise awareness around the negative impacts of Terminator on farmers’ right to save and use their own seeds. In 2005, USC joined this coalition of farmers’ groups, NGOs, indigenous peoples’ organizations, advocacy groups, and concerned individuals.
USC Canada is also working with its Seeds of Survival (SoS) partners and like-minded organizations in each program country, including Canada, to develop strategies to influence public policy on this issue. USC’s overseas partners are approaching their national governments to raise awareness of the issue. Southern governments are not necessarily in favour of terminator technology, but they aren’t always aware of the issue and the threat it poses to farmers in those countries.
With our partners at CBAN and the international Ban Terminator Campaign, we’re encouraging citizens to write to government officials. The ongoing vigilance of the Canadian people is making a difference. The letters you’ve already sent are ensuring our politicians are taking notice. Write to your government representatives to let them know what you think of Terminator technology, and what you want Canada to do about it! And spread the word by telling your friends about this issue.
Contact the Prime Minsiter, the Minister of Agriculture, the Leader of the Official Opposition, or your own MP to voice your concerns. Here’s the contact info you’ll need:
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A2
Fax: (613) 996 8472
Phone: (613) 995 7080
Fax: (613) 941 6900
Phone: (613) 992 4211
Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Foods
The Honourable Gerry Ritz
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Leader of the Official Opposition
The Honourable Nycole Turmel,
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
Your Member of Parliament
You can find your Member of Parliament using only your postal code through the Government of Canada website.
Canada’s development assistance generously supports organizations like USC Canada to strengthen farmer’s choices, supporting their efforts to enhance the biodiversity in their fields. Seed saving and on-farm seed enhancement is key to biodiversity conservation and food security. Our government should be proud of its commitment to the expansion of farmers’ options and not be pressured into approaches that would limit them. Time-tested farmer-based solutions are needed, not a quick fix that could destroy livelihoods. The introduction of terminator seeds won’t benefit small farmers. Help us continue our work with small farmers by donating today!