6 April 99

Table of Contents

Brit Legal Move Over Seed Fast-tracking
Growers' Group to Work With USDA Seed Banks
SANFEC's Statement of Position on TRIPs Article 27.3(b)
Genetically manipulated salmon exposed in New Zealand
Monsanto's Crisis Management on the Internet
Agrobacterium gene vectors
Montanto's Propaganda and Scare Tactics

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Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 22:14:04 -0700 (PDT)
From: MichaelP
Via: in

Brit Legal Move Over Seed Fast-tracking

Shock GM Legal Move by All-party MPs Politicians and FOE Sue Government Over Seed Fast-tracking

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY Norman Baker MP, John Randall MP, Alan Simpson MP, representatives of Friends of the Earth, and Frankenstein's ubiquitous monster, will be outside the High Court in the Strand at 10.30am on Wednesday

MPs from all three major parties are to join Friends of the Earth in suing the Government over an attempt to speed up the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) food.

The MPs involved in the case are:

The case is crucial to the commercial future of GM crops in Britain, and will see an important clash over the powers of the legislature and the executive. Legal papers to begin the case will be presented to the HIgh Court on Wednesday.

The "unprecedented" legal move by the MPs and FOE concerns a key decision last month by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). MAFF has extended a non-statutory seed approval scheme to cover GM crops, short-circuiting the slower statutory seed approval system. This cuts about two years off the time needed for commercial growing of GM crops for human consumption to begin.

Before seeds can be marketed, their variety must have been entered on the National List and the seeds themselves must be certified. (For GM seeds, a GMO marketing consent must also be obtained.) To obtain National Listing , a plant variety must be shown to be distinct, stable, uniform and to have value for cultivation and use. To be certified , a seed lot must meet various tests including purity and freedom from disease.

The statutory certification process takes place after National Listing and typically takes about two to three years. But since 1975, MAFF has allowed a non-statutory certification process to take place before National Listing. This allows necessary tests to be carried out in advance and means that statutory certification can usually be completed immediately after National Listing [1]. In February 1999, MAFF decided to extend this non-statutory scheme to cover GM crops.

But Friends of the Earth has been advised by Counsel that the whole non-statutory scheme is unlawful. At a meeting last week between FOE and MAFF officials, the Government side was unable to give a legal defence of its scheme. FOE and the MPs have therefore sought a judicial review. FOE and the MPs argue that MAFF has used the Royal Prerogative to create a new certification scheme, but that this decision has no legal force and could only properly be made through Parliament.

Commenting on the case, FOE Legal Adviser Peter Roderick said:

For MPs of every major Party to be involved in a judicial review of a key Government decision is unprecedented and heartening. The Government have behaved outrageously by helping the biotech industry speed up GM food-growing, behind Parliament's back and with no public support. MAFF has created a scheme with no legal basis to shave two years off the time it will take to grow GM food in Britain. Meanwhile the Government's spin-doctors have been claiming that they are listening to public opinion, and slowing the whole process down. The Government hoped to use the obscurity of seed law to sneak this decision past the public without anyone noticing. But this court case - and the vital decision of the MPs to back it - shows that they have been caught in the actM-^T.

-------------- ENDS ----------------


[1] Seeds are certified for marketing on a statutory 'generational ladder', needing certification at each rung of the ladder. For example, the generational ladder for seeds of oilseed rape is: Breeder's Seed (which produces) Pre-Basic Seed (which produces) Basic Seed (which produces) Certified Seed. Only Certified Seed is intended for human and animal consumption, and it is only when this stage is reached that sufficient quantities of seed for full commercialisation will have been built up. Progressing up the generational ladder takes perhaps two to three years. But the non-statutory scheme allows M-^SprovisionalM-^T certification for every stage up to the production of Certified Seed, before National Listing is completed. Statutory certification as Certified Seed can therefore be granted immediately after Listing and commercial growing can begin at once.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 22:16:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: MichaelP
Via: ARS News Service []
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 1999 9:47 AM

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
March 25, 1999
Jim De Quattro, (301) 504-1626

Growers' Group to Work With USDA Seed Banks

Scientific contact: Richard M. Hannan
ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station
Pullman, Wash.
phone (509) 335-1502, fax (509) 335-6654,

A budding cooperative project of researchers, organic growers and others that begins this week could help replenish the nation's seed banks. More important, it could create market opportunities for new public and heirloom crop varieties.

The Agricultural Research Service, USDA's chief scientific agency, maintains the National Plant Germplasm System. Its 27 repositories now hold about 437,000 specimens of germplasm--seed, cuttings and other tissue. Thousands of accessions are added each year. Researchers worldwide use the germplasm to breed crops with improved yield, nutrition, resistance to pests, disease and environmental stress or other traits.

ARS is cooperating with the Farmer Cooperative Genome Project to test a new way for organic growers, farmer cooperatives and small seed companies to tap into this storehouse of genetic diversity. FCGP members will grow fresh supplies of germplasm, following NPGS guidelines. These ensure, for example, that regenerated seed is true to type--not contaminated by pollen from nearby crops of the same species.

FCGP members will also develop marketable new varieties from germplasm they may never have known about otherwise. For example, an ARS repository in Corvallis, Ore., has more than 400 heirloom pear varieties. In Pullman, Wash., ARS maintains more than 200 lines of garlic. These represent most of the crop's genetic diversity. Only a few varieties account for nearly all commercial production, according to horticulturist Richard Hannan. He's based at ARS' Western Regional Plant Introduction Station in Pullman.

On March 27-28 in Salem, Ore., Hannan, Corvallis ARS plant pathologist Joseph Postman and other scientists are among scheduled panelists at FCGP's first general meeting. Other plants with FCGP potential include heirloom varieties and wild relatives of tomato, lettuce, bean, broccoli, Egyptian onion, radish, blue and other Native American corn, blackberry, strawberry, Turkish grain legumes and little-known herbs such as black cumin.

More than 200 small family farmers, organic farmers, seed producers, breeders and others will participate in FCGP, according to J.J. Haapala. He is research and education director of Oregon Tilth, a growers' group in Salem that certifies organic growers and processors. Haapala administers a USDA Fund for Rural America grant to the FCGP.


This item is one of the news releases and story leads that ARS Information distributes on weekdays to fax and e-mail subscribers. You can also get the latest ARS news on the World Wide Web at

Feedback and questions to ARS News Service via e-mail:
ARS Information Staff, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD 20705- 5128, (301) 504-1617, fax 504-1648.


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Date: 3 Mar 1999 10:35:11 -0600

The following article uses abreviations:
IPRIntellectual Property Rights
SANFECSouth Asian Network on Food, Ecology and Culture
TRIPTrade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
WTOWorld Trade Organisation

SANFEC's Statement of Position on TRIPs Article 27.3(b)

Fore more information, please contact

ActionAid India
Policy and Advocacy Unit
3 Rest House Road
Bangalore 560 001 India
Tel: (91-80) 224 03 99
Fax: (91-80) 558 62 84

Survival of the Human Race
Logic of the Rat Race
Biodiversity is Not for Sale
Rights for Whom and Rights for What?
Our Position : Biodiversity Out of TRIPS
SANFEC Plan of Action on Article 27.3(b)


The following Statement of Position and Plan of Action on Intellectual Property Rights in lifeforms was adopted by South Asian Network on Food, Ecology and Culture (SANFEC) in the 'Workshop on Preparing for the Review of Article 27.3(b) of TRIPs' that took place in Tangail, Bangladesh during 22-25 February, 1999. The Workshop was jointly organized by UBINIG and ActionAid India and was attended by participants from Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, The Phillipines and Canada representing organizations and networks active at various national, regional and international levels.

South Asian communities are historically premised on the deep sense of moral, religious and cultural values. The region is inhabited by multi-ethnic, multi-religious and large indigenous communities. All trees, crops, animals, birds, organisms, and soils are inalienable part of our worships, our rituals, our celebrations, our joys, our culture of sharing and our loving affinity to each other. Our region is replete with hundreds of thousands of sacred groves where trees and plants are worshipped by people. We have a long history of spiritual and political movements where Sufis, Saints and various bhakti traditions have fought to preserve the integrity of Nature in her multiple expressions, including the beauty of the life forms.

Such gifts must be cared and respected and only then we gain moral rights to use them for our livelihood needs. The human as omnipotent consumer, that owns, controls, mutates, displaces and destroys the environment, through privatizations, colonizations and now through intellectual property rights (IPRs) in lifeforms, is totally against our cultures. We are strongly opposed to non recognition of the rights of other cultures to live on their own historical premise and principles.

The egocentric notion of rights that privatise and colonise natural resources is very alien to the deep sense of moral, spiritual and cultural values of our communities. Similarly, knowledge as an intellectual property of an individual or a corporation is totally absurd proposition to our people. The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that have inscribed such alien values are based on long colonial and racist histories of the world, and must be seen as a cultural and political issue, and not merely as elements of emerging legal discourse of new global order.

We are not surprised to see that the old history of colonisation and privatisation is now being conducted openly and in bizarre legal rhetorics that are hardly understandable by the people. WTO and other trade regimes eliminate all possibilities of the people of our countries resolving issues of national concern within their own localities and within the boundaries of nation states. People all over the world have been depoliticised and transnationals have concentrated political powers in their hands and are enforcing it through the establishment of the World Trade Organization. Raw greed and the logic of profit dictates their morality, law, cultural values and politics. This is not acceptable to us. Patenting of life through the introduction and expansion of Intellectual Property Rights is creating a great upheaval in our societies, amidst the precarious conditions precipitated by the new global order. As history reminds us the Great Indian Uprising of 1857 in the subcontinent was triggered by a culturally inappropriate technology (lard was introduced by the British for gun grease which offended the sensibilities of Muslim soldiers). Today a similar outrage is being perpetrated by transnational corporations through introduction of new genetic technologies that are a direct threat to our cultures and religions and has all the potential to trigger off greater turmoil. Worse still, they are demanding that we recognise patents on these technologies. This is a serious issue of public morality, and not a trade or legal issue to us.

Given this historical social, cultural and religious context, we do not see any options, but to say NO to any form of intellectual property rights on life forms.

No IPRs on life means no IPRs on micro-organisms, as well as on plant and animal varieties. Micro-organisms need to be excluded from TRIPS through an exclusion for "biodiversity" at large. TRIPs impedes the implementation of Convention of Biological Diversity, specifically the CBD objectives such as conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use and rights for local communities

Survival of the Human Race

In resisting intellectual property in life forms and opposing TRIPs we are not merely concerned about South Asian cultures and values. It is imperative for all of us to also understand that the biodiversity that is still preserved in Asia, Africa and Latin America, by diverse communities through the practice of their diverse knowledge and cultural systems, supports global food security and affords the only chance for human survival on the planet.

It is this recognition which prompted the Convention on Biological Diversity to state in its preamble that the Contracting Parties affirm, 'that the conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of humankind'. CBD also clearly emphasised on international co-operation in 'respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversityi. The implementation of Article 27.3(b) will further deteriorate the already precarious situation of the biodiversity of the world. The Northern industrial nations have substantially destroyed their life supporting biodiversity and agricultural systems. This has made the people of the industrial countries more vulnerable than ever. Article 27.3(b) which requires IPRs on plant varieties will industrialise our biological world, privatise life forms and accelerate monoculture, promote environmentally-destructive forms of biotechnology and genetic engineering, resulting in the control of our lives and environment by Transnational Corporations. The people of the industrialised North must recognise their crucial interest in the conservation and enhancement of the biodiversity of Asia, Africa and Latin America and distance themselves clearly from TNCs who are our common enemies. We Must Be United Together To Fight This Enemy Before Time Runs Out.

Logic of the Rat Race

IPR regimes are a product of corporate greed and profit and work against the survival of the human race which depends on agriculture based on natural laws. The IPRs will promote monocultures and destroy biodiversity.

The whole purpose of WTO agreement is supposedly to facilitate free trade. Patenting which by definition, creates monopolies, goes against this professed intention and it is hypocritical to argue that IPRs are the instruments of free trade.

Besides, in the current political context of a unipolar world where one country, the USA, takes all the decisions for the entire world and punishes those who try to resist them through naked military aggression and economic sanctions, where is free trade? Free trade in this context is a myth and will not delude us.

Corporate seed monopolies will destroy agriculture and lifestyle of millions of farmers in our region. Nearly 90% of our region's seed requirements are met by farmers themselves through biodiversity based production systems of farmers and will be forced to give way to markets controlled by monopolists. Current evidence tells us that international seed trade is monopolised by a small cartel of companies which controls a growing proportion of the world seed trade. This monopoly will be disastrous for farmers throughout the South.

Biodiversity is Not for Sale

Many of our megadiversity sites are heritage sites with ecological, religious and cultural significance. We cannot allow this sacred heritage of ours to be destroyed by an IPR regime.

Security of our nations is directly linked to biodiversity and therefore non negotiable. Moreover millions of our people are dependent on the biodiversity for their livelihoods. If we destroy it through IPRs we are directly affecting their livelihoods.

All our countries in this region are signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity. By implementing Article 27.3(b) of TRIPS agreement we will be undermining certain clauses in CBD like article 8j on community rights. Since our governments have both signed and ratified the CBD in their respective parliaments, we must not allow a trade treaty to violate the solemn agreement we have made for the sake of humankind.

Rights for Whom and Rights for What?

Right to Livelihood which is a basic human right will be violated by IPRs on life which threaten food security. By destroying biodiversity it will create special problems to millions of our rural women who are the traditional conservers and controllers of seed, who depend for their livelihood on plants, crops and other life forms. This will be particularly so at times of great environmental stress such as floods and droughts. Therefore IPRs are patently gender unjust and should be rejected.

The indigenous people have traditionally developed and conserved the megadiversity in their areas. The IPR regime applied to biodiversity will threaten the inalienable rights of these indigenous peoples, recognised in several international covenants and enshrined in some constitutions. This stands seriously compromised by the IPR regime.

Our Position : Biodiversity Out of TRIPS

We want to be unequivocal: we are very much in favour of innovation. Innovation is an ongoing and highly valued process in our societies and should be supported by appropriate incentives and rewards. In our view, the kind of rights we really need are not IPR and they would not be governed by WTO but they would support farmers, indigenous and local communities in their efforts over millenia to conserve and enhance biodiversity.

In the light of the above arguments, we the members of the SANFEC demand the exclusion of biodiversity from TRIPs. Article 27.3(b) should be reworded to provide a full and unconditional exclusion of all forms of biodiversity be they microorganisms, plants or animals, from IPR regimes.

We recognise that many countries and peoples have been looking at the 'sui generis' option under TRIPs Article 27.3(b) as a 'lease worst option' or idamage control' mechanism. However, we feel this is a trap. Sui generis rights under TRIPs would have to provide some kind of IPR over seeds and plant varieties -- which we are against. Further, it would have to be 'effective' -- which means determined by industrialised countries and their corporations, and subject to trade sanctions.

We recognise that developing countries that are members of the WTO are obliged to implement TRIPs Article 27.3(b) in its current form from the year 2000. We call on governments not to implement the above and at the same time press for its substantive review to demand total exclusion of all IPRs on life from the TRIPs regime. We suggest that Article 27.3(b) be reworded as follows:

Countries must exclude from Intellectual Property Rights (Patents, PBRs etc.) plants, animals, microorganisms and parts thereof, and any process making use thereof, or relating thereto.


SANFEC Plan of Action on Article 27.3(b)

We call upon the Governments of the region to:

We call upon the media of this region to We call upon women and men farmers to We call upon the consumers to We call upon the youth and students, to We call upon NGOs to We call upon the international organisations and UN bodies to

SANFEC will work towards greater mobilisation of opinion with regard to the IPR on life forms within the SAARC forum.

ABOUT THIS LISTSERVER -- BIO-IPR is an irregular listserver put out by Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN). Its purpose is to circulate information about recent developments in the field of intellectual property rights related to biodiversity & associated knowledge. BIO-IPR is a strictly non-commercial and educational service for nonprofit organisations and individuals active in the struggle against IPRs on life. The views expressed in each post are those of the indicated author(s).

HOW TO PARTICIPATE -- To get on the mailing list, send the word "subscribe" (no quotes) as the subject of an email message to To get off the list, send the word "unsubscribe" instead. To submit material to the list, address your message to A note with further details about BIO-IPR is sent to all subscribers.
ABOUT GRAIN -- For general information about GRAIN, you may visit our website or send an email to

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Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 21:57:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: MichaelP

Genetically manipulated salmon exposed in New Zealand

Agence France Presse April 6

WELLINGTON, April 6 (AFP) - A small New Zealand political party Tuesday exposed a fish farm company developing genetically engineered salmon which grow faster and bigger than other salmon.

But the company, New Zealand King Salmon, denied it was doing anything wrong and said it was working to "preserve our clean, green image".

Green Party co-leader and member of parliament Jeanette Fitzsimons released documents from Communications Trumps, a public relations firm hired by King Salmon, which it said suggested keeping the trial under wraps.

Trumps warned that King Salmon's work with genetically modified salmon could easily turn into a crisis because of the strong campaign against genetic engineering.

"Whatever protest is made, we can be certain that television and other media will be extremely interested and will demand access to the facility."

The paper said the company's messages about its research and objectives must be clear, and clarify issues including safety, environmental protections and animal welfare.

"Issues such as deformities, lumps on heads etc. should not be mentioned at any point to anyone outside -- comments about those would create ghastly Frankenstein images and would be whipped up into a frenzy by Greenpeace."

King Salmon operations and contracts manager Mark Gillard said claims by the Green Party that it was an experiment gone wrong were "completely false."

He said the salmon involved in the trial looked "perfectly normal," with the only difference being that they grew faster and bigger than other salmon.

Gillard said the trial involved taking a chinook salmon gene, rearranging it and introducing it into a chinook salmon so that the fish had two of the genes, which promoted growth.

He said the company was closely monitoring the fish, which were kept in separate containers at its facility south of here.

"We're concerned about risks too. We want to preserve our clean, green image," he said

Gillard said the experimental fish he had seen were growing fast and looked fine.

He said there was nothing secret about the firm's work, which had been known about in the scientific community and the salmon farming industry, and had been mentioned in overseas publications.

The trial, which started about four years ago, was still in its very early stages and was unlikely to be applied commercially for at least 10 years, Gillard said.

Fitzsimons said she was horrified at the extent of the secrecy surrounding the trial, and worried about risks to health and the environment.

"Because of New Zealand's lax laws on genetic engineering, the company has managed to carry on this work for several years with official knowledge and consent, but with no public hearing or debate whatsoever," she said.

She said little was known about the health risks of eating genetically-engineered salmon, and there was a danger that if they escaped into the wild they would cross-breed with wild salmon.

New Zealand King Salmon is the country's largest salmon producer, with an 80 percent share of the New Zealand industry.

It rears pacific king salmon from smolt, growing them in sea cages in the Marlborough Sounds and processing them in Nelson.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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Date: Tue, 06 Apr 1999 06:49:47 GMT
From: (Judy Kew)

Rounding Up Monsanto
A SEED Europe
P.O. Box 92066
1090 AB Amsterdam
The Netherlands
tel: +31-20-468 2616
fax: +31-20-468 2275
email: groundup@aseed.antenna.n

Monsanto's Crisis Management on the Internet

Bivings Woodell: A Face of the Corporate America's Free-Trade Fundamentalism

Monsanto's public relations over the Internet are tended by the Washington-based consultancy, Bivings Woodell, Inc. (BW) In particular, BW is managing Monsanto's corporate, UK, France and India sites.

BW advertises "recognised expertise in risk communications and the management of controversy in the public arena, both in the U.S. and internationally". The company boasts a clientele from the Fortune 100, trading organisations, multinational and global bodies, among them, the American Plastics Council, AMR (American Airlines), American Petroleum Institute, Chlorine Chemistry Council Public Site, Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, Corporate Response Group, NASA, Texaco, Inc. and the Trans- Atlantic Business Dialogue. Of particular note amongst its Internet clients are the free- trade fundamentalist bodies:

--------------------------------------- modem: 512.288.3903

Green Building Professionals Directory at

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Date: 5 Apr 1999 16:34:28 -0500
From: joe cummins

Agrobacterium gene vectors

By Prof. Joe Cummins

My enlosure about using Agrobacterium in human gene therapy to treat cancer and genetic disease caused some people a little confusion. The note below may help a little to clear up the technical confusion.. Agrobacterium tumefacians causes tumors in plants, its GM system takes out the tumor genes and but in biotech gene, about half the GM crops are made with agrobacterium.

The movement of proteins from cytoplasm to nucleus through nuclear pores requires proteins called importin, an energy source GTP (formed using ATP) and Ran that splits GTP for energy along with doing other clever tricks. The Agrob system adds genes to the plant chromosome at AT rich hot spots, before the genes are added they are stripped of a strand making them single stranded. Single stranded (ss) DNA is highly recominogenic ( an early researcher called it a poison arrow).

It is proposed to use Agrob in gene therapy to treat cancer and genetic disease because it is very potent in gene transfer. The cells used in the experiment are Hela a cervical cancer cell line from a human named Helen Lane an African American from Texas, her cells have made significant advances in cancer research possible because they grow so strongly.The next step is whole animal experiments.

Researchers with Agrob probably experienced gene transfer and may have auto immune disease from the laboratory exposure. People or animals eating Agrob crops may experience gene transfer, an area for immediate research independent of the chemical companies patenting the crops.

Hopes this note helps,


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Date: 6 Apr 1999 00:20:50 -0500
From: "Jon Campbell"

Montanto's Propaganda and Scare Tactics

Introductory Letter
TPS - Terminator Protection System
Advantages of TPS(!)
Country Guide Magazine Article

Introductory Letter

Hi, everyone,

For those of you who received a propaganda piece from someone named StevenP@dplcorp.

It's propaganda from the Dark Side. Delta and Pine Land. Remember, they're the people who developed terminator with the USDA. Now Monsanto's subsidiary.

They have skimmed the Internet for anyone who ever had his/her email address associated with genetic engineering of food, or terminator, and sending them this propaganda piece. Someone I know got it who had never had his name on any of the GE lists. (t is altogether possible that the USDA provided Monsanto with the email list of the people who sent letters about the organic standard.)

The email serves two purposes:

  1. Tries to convince us that they really know what they are doing, and we don't have to worry about them. Fat chance. It was in this piece that I discovered they admit that the terminator gene is likely to be in the pollen, and likely to spread to non-target species and wild plants (the author considers it a FEATURE that the resultant seed will be sterile, because it will then assumedly prevent the plant from reproducing. He forgets, however, that while the plant produces the sterile seed IT PRODUCES POLLEN!!!!!

  2. It puts us on notice that Monsanto knows about us. Scare tactics. Do not underestimate this company. This is the company that has sought an injunction against activists in the UK to reveal the names of everyone to whom an anti-Monsanto booklet was given, sought injunctions against journalists and MPs from going near Monsanto plots, (and earlier) lied to Congress, gotten an EPA researcher sent to the back offices, sued at least one prominent environmental researcher. I have read that they have 500 Pinkertons working for them in the Midwest and Canada. They own the USDA, FDA, the US Trade Office, and Bill Clinton here, and at least Tony Blair in the UK. This is the company that produced PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT, Pentachlorophenol, and now aspertame (Nutrisweet).

Remember, promotion and success of this technology is a life and death issue for Monsanto. They sold off almost the entirety of the chemical divisions, except for those having to do with agriculture, and invested solely in biotech. They are the 2nd largest seed company, almost overnight. They buy whole seed companies.

I'll try to get in touch when I'm not fading...


------------------Original Message-------------------

Date sent: Mon, 05 Apr 1999 10:42 -0500
From: "Peel, Steven - Scott"

TPS - Terminator Protection System

TPS Brief Paper


The Technology Protection System (TPS), developed through the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Delta and Pine Land Company (D&PL), has received significant attention since the patent was awarded last spring. To insure that D&PL employees and others in the agricultural industry have accurate information, we have prepared this information on TPS.


This technology will insure North American farmers a more level playing field when competing in commodity production with farmers worldwide. North American farmers have been paying for advanced seed technologies for the past several years based upon the value of proven enhancements. Some of these advanced technologies have been pirated into other countries without payments by the farmers receiving the advantages of these traits, creating an uneven playing field.

TPS will also stimulate breeding and marketing efforts in countries which have not benefited from advances currently available in the developed world due to lack of protection of intellectual property. Critics of TPS say the technology will limit choices these farmers have. However, it will actually result in growers, particularly in less developed countries, having more options available to them, including high-yielding, disease-resistant and even transgenic varieties. We expect this new opportunity to present farmers in developing countries with the option of moving into production agriculture rather than their current subsistence farming.


Biosafety produced by TPS prevents the remote possibility of transgene movement. There has been some concern that biotech- derived genes might cross to wild relatives. This slight possibility should be prevented by TPS activated plants, as even the pollen, if it happens to pollinate flowers of a wild, related species, will render the seed produced non-viable. In addition, the non-viable seed produced on TPS plants will prevent the possibility of volunteer plants, a major pest problem where rotation is practiced.


TPS is a transgenic system comprised of a complex array of genes and gene promoters which, in the normal state, are inactive. This means the plant is normal and produces normal seeds which germinate when planted. Seeds carrying TPS produced for sale to the farmer will simply have a treatment applied prior to the sale of the seed which, at time of germination, will trigger an irreversible series of events rendering the seed produced on farmers' plants non-viable for replanting. It's important to note that TPS, like hybridization, will have no effect on the seed product whether for feed, oil , fiber or other uses.


While TPS is a first in biotechnology-based germplasm protection systems, there are other means of protecting genetic breakthroughs. The most common type of protection system is hybrid seed production. Although primarily a system for increased yield via hybrid vigor, it is also a protection system. Hybrids are seen in many cross-pollinated crops such as corn, sorghum, sunflower and canola. Reduction in performance and changes from the parent seed leads to little saving of hybrid seed. Farmers, recognizing the value added from increased yields, are willing to buy new hybrid seed each year instead of saving and replanting seed from their previous crop. Their purchase of new seed each year insures quality and funds new research that leads to new and improved products.

On the other hand, few germplasm protection systems have been successfully implemented for self-pollinated species, such as cotton, soybeans, wheat and rice. The difficulty in producing hybrids, combined with costly implementation and poor product performance has kept companies from investing heavily in some of these crops.


Farmers will continue to select those varieties which offer the highest returns and most benefits to the farmer. As is currently the case with transgenic varieties, farmers will be able to choose from TPS and non-TPS varieties. It is the expectation of both D&PL and the USDA-ARS that the benefits realized by planting TPS varieties, carrying advanced technology traits, will be significant. Many farmers will be likely to choose TPS varieties when given the opportunity.


TPS will be broadly available to both large and small seed firms. Because of this, it is anticipated that TPS will encourage increased breeding research in many crop species and geographic areas. Consequently, there should be sizable improvements in technology. Delta and Pine Land Company and the USDA-ARS believe that this is a distinct advantage to farmers because they will have better varieties and transgenics more widely available to them.

Genetic diversity in many important crops is a real concern of both private and public breeders today. There is no correlation between TPS and lack of genetic diversity. In fact, with the increased incentive for many private seed companies as well as universities to breed crops which have not received sufficient attention in the past, it is entirely possible that diversity will increase as breeders focus on providing unique and improved versions of germplasm to farmers.


Several years ago, a D&PL cotton breeder and researchers from the USDA-ARS generated the idea for a technology protection system during a casual meeting. With research beginning in 1993, it progressed over the next few years to move the concept to reality. In the spring of 1998, D&PL and the USDA were awarded a patent by the US government. The system is being developed further and we expect that it will be a few years before TPS transgenic varieties are commercialized. Though research is progressing well, there are no TPS plants, nor have there been any TPS plants of any species, growing in a field, anywhere in the world.


In the end, it is the farmers who will decide if the TPS and other new agricultural technologies have tangible benefits. Seed companies and technology providers are dependent on helping farmers be more successful. If a technology does not bring benefits and increased prosperity to our customers, then they will not purchase the technology. It is in everyone's interest that more choices be available to all of the world's farmers, and the TPS is a means of achieving this goal.


Dr. Harry B. Collins, Vice President of Technology Transfer, leads the TPS effort for D&PL and is glad to discuss the TPS with media, seed and technology companies, as well as individuals. He can be reached at D&PL's headquarters in Scott, Mississippi by calling 601-742-4533 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST), faxing 601-742-3795 or e- mailing

Advantages of TPS(!)

Advantages of the TPS include:

1. TPS will provide a more level playing field for North American farmers as farmers in other countries will also have to pay for varietal and transgenic traits. a. varieties historically have been pirated out of North America b. transgenic traits can and have been pirated out of North America

2. Biosafety Prevents the remote possibility of transgenic genes from escaping into the environment a. volunteer seeds of TPS plants which drop to the ground will be nonviable b. TPS pollen which could possibly fertilize flowers of a related wild species near a TPS crop field will produce nonviable seed

3. Increased Returns to Farmers Because of the possibility of a return on investment in breeding research, many more improved varieties, in a broader range of crop species, should be available. a. in crops which have not been given optimum breeding attention (ex. wheat, rice, soybeans) b. in countries in which breeding research has not been at a level proportionate to their agricultural importance c. transgenic traits should be more available to farmers in crops and in countries in which they have not been d. farmers should be the direct beneficiaries with more improved varieties carrying higher yields, improved quality traits and more and better pest resistance

4. TPS will assist in maintaining the integrity of refugia systems in transgenic fields.

5. Prevention of seed sprouting in the head prior to harvest

6. Genetic diversity may be increased with the increase in breeding efforts among many companies and institutions


Country Guide Magazine Article

A Plant Breeding Boost For Cereals and Soybeans

By Maggie Van Camp, Country Guide Magazine, Seed and Biotech, November 1998

Entangled in corporate takeover bids, press misinformation and activists' fear-mongering, the terminator gene has become a focus of worldwide controversy. In North America, it has garnered more negative reaction than any other biotech innovation. Few understand how this technology works, or have a handle on its economic implications. But that hasn't stopped the terminator gene from inspiring visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger-like seeds planning military maneuvers with corporate conglomerates.

In reality, however, it is a benign and potentially highly beneficial crop breeding tool. In 1995, the USDA and a Mississippi cotton and soybean seed company, Delta and Pine Land (D&PL), filed for a patent for this method of controlling plant gene expression. In 1998, the inventors were awarded a U.S. patent under some controversy from farm groups and activists. Currently the patent is pending in 70 to 80 other countries, including Canada. Two months after the patent was awarded, Monsanto signed an agreement to buy D&PL for $1.8 U.S. billion. The takeover deal will likely close before the new year, after both companies get government and shareholder approval. Until then, Monsanto doesn't have commercial access to terminator technology.

D&PL is currently in closed negotiations with USDA to finalize control of the terminator technology. The plan is to sell the process to other seed companies. -This technology will be broadly available,- says Harry Collins, vice president of technology for D&PL. D&PL calls its package the Technology Protection System (TPS) because seeds can be sterilized, stopping the use of bin-run seed and forcing purchase of new seed.

Their method essentially activates a -terminator- gene to produce a toxin that prevents seed germination. But that's an oversimplification. The system is actually quite complex. Besides the terminator gene, it includes components with the intimidating names of recombinase gene, blocking sequence, and transiently active promoter. All these links are essential if the terminator chain is to work. Just prior to bagging, seed with the necessary genetic components of the terminator team is treated with a chemical stimulant.

After germination a series of actions, like dominoes, trigger the sterility process which culminates in the terminator gene and transiently active promoter coming together to produce the toxin. The promoter is active only during the later part of seed embryo development. So the toxin is produced after the seed has developed normally, even though the chemical stimulant was applied many months earlier. The seed is normal in every way except that it won't germinate if planted. It will germinate, however, if the chemical stimulant was not applied before planting.

The expression of other genes could potentially be controlled with this concept although sterilization is the only area D&PL and USDA are working on. Sterilizing self- pollinating crops is certainly the most lucrative trait for a seed company to develop. Seed companies are currently securing their biotechnology with hybridization and technology use agreements (TUAs). Otherwise, they would invest millions in new varieties only to have the seed collected in the fall and used the next spring. -We need a way for us to be rewarded for our technology while farmers gain the benefits of better, more diverse products through biotechnology,- says Larry Taylor, director of new product development for Monsanto Canada.

Murray McLaughlin, president of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT), says there is no market for the terminator gene by itself, so it must accompany an increase in yield or another benefit. -The companies are just trying to protect their return on investment,- he says. -Essentially, hybrid systems have been doing this all along.-

McLaughlin believes terminator technology will first be incorporated into self-pollinating crops that do not easily hybridize. This genetic system is already being incorporated into tobacco. Biotechnology is often first tested on tobacco because it tends to be an easy plant to work with. According to D&PL, no plants with an entire TPS system have been field tested yet. D&PL is bringing all the components together in cotton. It is such a complex system, however, that terminator cotton seed will probably not be ready for commercial use until 2004. -We are close, but we haven't got all the components working in cotton,- says Collins. -I can guarantee it will be 5 years minimum before any varieties (with the terminator gene) are even tested in Canada,- says Taylor, who worked on the list of varieties being tested by Monsanto. Add several years of data collection for the registration process and it could be 8 to 10 years before terminator varieties are sold commercially in Canada.

Canola is not a likely candidate for early incorporation of terminator technology. Most canola growers in Canada are not willing to bin-run their seed, notes Taylor. Wheat, barley and soybean growers often use bin-run seed, however. D&PL does produce some soybean varieties for the southern states. -No TPS research is being conducted on soybeans yet but it is a target crop,- says Collins. Sometimes Ontario growers plant soybeans a little later in the spring, as a last resort. By using saved seed, they have less out-of-pocket expense for a crop that might not return much anyway.

Susan Iler, research and technology manager with the Ontario Soybean Growers' Board, says almost half the Ontario soybean acreage is planted with farmer-retained or bin-run seed. If seed companies control supply, she worries that in years when growers need to reseed, there will not be enough seed. -Currently, when there's a wreck, growers have the option to go to the bin and use last year's seed. I don't think companies will overproduce enough seed for widespread reseeding.- The board is also concerned that all improved varieties will contain the terminator gene mechanism. -I would like to see some superior varieties free from these genes,- says Iler.

Today, about 75% of wheat grown in Canada is from farm-saved or non-certified seed. Mark Jordan, a wheat biotechnologist at the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, knows of no work currently being done to transform the terminator gene into wheat. Beyond the direct benefit to seed companies, terminator technology has some production advantages. Sterilized wheat, for example, won't sprout in the head. Nor will it produce volunteer plants next year. Sterilizing seed also eliminates any possible outcrossing with wild species. Sterile, genetically modified seed can't contaminate a gene pool.

In the unlikely event of terminator genetics cross-pollinating with a plant of a related species, the seed produced wouldn't germinate. So the lethal trait would be gone in one generation. With the potential of biotech cross-pollinating eliminated, international biosafety should not be a concern. Internationally, terminator technology has taken a public relations beating.

In India, the press falsely tied Monsanto to an outbreak of fatalities caused by contaminated mustard oil this summer. The implication was that Monsanto had conspired to scare people off domestic mustard oil in efforts to build markets for oil from terminator-gene soybeans. The truth, however, was that an Indian crusher had blended in a cheaper mustard-like weed seed, causing the mustard oil to be toxic.

Some biodiversity and farm groups worry seed companies will place this technology in all seed. Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) has launched an international campaign to stop negotiations between the USDA and D& PL. RAFI says terminator technology may be detrimental to underdeveloped countries where farm-saved seed produces most of the food. But D& PL insists their technology protection systems will be incorporated only into improved varieties with enough worthwhile new features for farmers to buy them every year. Farmers could still choose to save older varieties of wheat, soybean and rice to produce food. For Canadian farmers, this technology should give seed companies more resources to develop improved varieties.

Most important, it gives the seed biotechnology industry a reason to put more effort into improving self-pollinating crops. This could be especially significant for Canada's biggest crop, wheat, as it comes under growing acreage pressure from fast-moving competitors like canola. CG

November 1998
Country Guide Magazine, Seed and Biotech
P.O. Box 6600, Winnipeg,, Manitoba R36 3A7 CANADA