Agribusiness giant in new GM seeds threat

Two companies set to agree to merge today to form Syngenta, the world’s largest agribusiness pose a new threat to farmers in developing countries with GM crops which depend on chemicals to grow. This warning comes in a report issued to coincide with campaigners’ protests at merger meetings to approve the creation of the $20billion corporation Syngenta in London and Basle, Switzerland.

Syngenta Switching off farmers’ rights? shows that AstraZeneca and Novartis, due to combine their agribusiness interests, have broken commitments not to develop GM ‘Terminator ’ technology which grows plants that produce sterile seeds. They have also taken out 11 new patents on GM crop technologies which require specific chemicals to switch on and off essential traits, such as disease resistance, fertility, flowering, sprouting and ageing.
Critics warn this new technology known as ‘Traitor’ technology controls or betrays the functions of GM crops through the application of chemicals. It may also threaten farmers’ rights to save seed for sowing in subsequent years. The new Syngenta will hold more then 40 per cent of the world’s ‘Traitor’ and ‘Terminator’ patents. The Canadian-based Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) first exposed the technology and coined the terms ‘Terminator’ and ‘Traitor’ in 1998/99, and this report builds on their work.
The report is published by a pan-European coalition of NGOs which includes ActionAid, GeneWatch UK, Berne Declaration (Switzerland) and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
The authors said "‘Traitor’ and ‘Terminator’ threaten to make poor farmers in the South dependent on seed and chemicals from this giant multinational. The UN recommends there should be no field trials of ‘Traitor’ until the impacts are assessed. Shareholders must question why Syngenta is ploughing on regardless, at the risk of poor people as well as the company’s market value and public image. Syngenta should pledge not to develop technology which threatens the rights and livelihoods of millions of farmers in developing countries."