“The seed, the source of life, the embodiment of our biological and cultural diversity, the link between the past and the future of evolution, the common property of past, present and future generations of farming communities who have been seed breeders, is today being stolen from the farmers and being sold back to us as ‘propriety seed’ owned by corporations like the US-headquartered Monsanto.” – Vandana Shiva, ‘Great Seed Robbery’
Brazil is the second largest producer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the world, behind only the United States. Brazil has about 37 million hectares (92 million acres) of land planted with GM crops. And the country looks set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified “terminator”seeds, which might threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers worldwide.
Major seed and chemical companies, like Monsanto, which together own well over 60% of the global seed market, each have patents on terminator seed technologies. However, in the 1990′s they agreed not to employ the technique after a global outcry by small farmers, indigenous groups and civil society groups. The terminator or “suicide” seeds are produced by means of genetic restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. It means the seeds are sterile, and as a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.
The sale of GMOs was banned previously in 1998 due to a lawsuit by the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense. In 2003, the Brazilian government again permitted the marketing of genetically modified products with regulations. They also issued the Labeling Decree (4680/2003), which requires producersand sellers to identify on food packaging products which contain more than 1 percent genetically modified raw materials. The Bio-Safety Act (11.105/05) went into effect in March of 2005, it allows for the use of transgenic organisms without studies on their environmental impact.

In Brazil, the national agricultural research and development institute has been working on a project to bring to market a bean species genetically modified to fight off the golden mosaic virus, responsible for destroying much of the annual bean crop. They are also working on varieties of genetically modified sugarcane. Surprisingly, the nation intends on increasing its GMO use, contrasted with other nations like Mexico who have recently banned the seeds and GMO crops. A protest letter signed by over 34,000 people has been organized in a last effort to thwart the attempt at moving the proposed legislation forward in Brazil. Harsh criticism over genetically modified crops, and biotech companies, continues to grow, fueling numerous protests around the world.

Whether for or against genetic modification, only the seed companies benefit from the production of terminator seeds. This shouldn’ come as any surprise, since most existing GM consumer products were designed with profit in mind, and carry many hidden costs both for the consumer and the land. Therefor, it is a bad sign that what was ethically and to some extent legally unacceptable 10 years ago is now being considered for widespread application today.

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