[permaculture] the night of the living dead

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Sun Jun 17 09:13:39 EDT 2007

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] the night of the living dead
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 06:46:58 -0400
From: jcummins <jcummins at UWO.CA>
Reply-To: Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group <SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU>

'Zombie crops' funded by British taxpayers to 'get
round' GM ban
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor the independent
Published: 17 June 2007
"Zombie" GM crops - so called because farmers will have to pay biotech
companies to bring seeds back from the dead - are being developed with
British taxpayers' money.
The highly controversial development - part of a £3.4m EU research
project - is bound to increase concerns about the modified crops and the
devastating effect they could have on Third World farmers.
Environmentalists charge that it appears to be an attempt to get round a
worldwide ban on a GM technology so abhorred that even Monsanto has
said it will not use it.
The ban is on the so-called "terminator technology", which was designed
to modify crops so that they produce only sterile seeds. This would force
the 1.4 billion poor farmers who traditionally save seeds from one
year's harvest to sow for the following one instead to buy new ones from
biotech firms, swelling their profits but increasing poverty and hunger.
Since the ban was agreed under a UN treaty seven years ago, companies
and pro-GM countries - including the United States and Britain - have
pressed to have it overturned, so far without success. But the new
technology promises to offer companies an even more profitable way of
achieving dominance.
Zombie crops would also be engineered to produce sterile seed that could
be brought back to life with the right treatment - almost certainly with a
chemical sold by the company that markets the seed. Farmers would
therefore have to pay out, not for new seeds, but to make the ones they
saved viable.
A report published last week by ETC - the Canada-based Action Group on
Erosion Technology and Concentration that led the campaign against
terminator technology - calls this "a dream scenario for the Gene Giants".
It says it will be cheaper for them to sell farmers the chemicals to
revive saved seeds than to pay the costs of storing and distributing new
ones. It
adds: "They will initially keep prices low. But once farmers are on the
platform, and the competition has been destroyed, the companies can start
pricing the chemical that restores seed viability as high as they like.
The key point is that the viability of the crop would be controlled by the
corporation that sells the seed."
The three-year EU research programme, called Transcontainer, which
involves 13 universities and research institutes and is partially funded by
taxpayers in Britain and other EU countries, says that it is developing
the technology to try to "reduce significantly" the spread of GM genes to
conventional and organic crops.
Such contamination - long denied and downplayed by the industry and its
supporters - is now accepted to be one of the main obstacles to the
advance of modified crops.
ETC's report also says that if the new technology is developed,
governments and regulators will insist that all GM crops will have to be
engineered to be "zombies" to try to prevent contamination and in the
process deliver farmers into complete dependence on the biotech
It adds, however, that no containment strategy is foolproof and that the
genes will inevitably spread anyway through pollen.
The Transcontainer project insists that it is "specifically targeted at
European agriculture and European crops". But it admits that such
technologies "may become a problem for farmers in developing countries."
ETC warns that if the technology is commercialised it will "ultimately
be adopted indiscriminately" everywhere. It concludes: "A scenario in which
farmers have to pay for a chemical to restore seed viability creates a
new perpetual monopoly for the seed industry."
'Zombie crops' funded by British taxpayers to 'get round' GM ban -
Inde... http://environment.independent.co.uk/lifestyle/article2666422.ece

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