GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch UK calls for Syngenta, the new world leader in GM crops, to abandon Terminator and Traitor Technology

Embargoed until 00.01 11th October 2000

Syngenta, the company formed today through the merger of the agrochemical divisions of multinational corporations AstraZeneca and Novartis, will take control of over half the world’s patents that have been identified on Terminator and Traitor Technology. A report published by GeneWatch UK , ActionAid, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Berne Declaration - Syngenta: Switching Off Farmers’ Rights? - reveals that both AstraZeneca and Novartis have been pursuing research with Terminator and Traitor Technologies throughout 1999 and 2000 which Syngenta will now inherit.

‘Terminator Technology’ is used to develop GM plants that produce sterile seeds and need the application of chemicals to be fertile, thus depriving farmers of the right to save seed for sowing in subsequent years. ‘Traitor Technology’ produces GM plants which require chemicals to ‘switch on’ or ‘switch off’ traits such as disease resistance, fertility, flowering, sprouting and ageing. To produce a worthwhile crop, farmers would therefore be forced into buying the appropriate chemicals.

Although AstraZeneca and Novartis have made commitments not to develop Terminator Technology, the new report describes eleven of their patents - published in 1999 and 2000 - which cover GM crops that use the technology. Syngenta is not bound by the statements made by the companies from which it is formed and is now ideally placed to exploit the technology.

"Traitor and Terminator could threaten the rights and livelihoods of millions of poor farmers in developing countries by making them dependent on Syngenta’s chemicals and seed for their survival," said Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK’s Director. "Increasing dependence on the use of chemicals could also have very damaging effects on the environment."

"A UN body has recommended that Traitor Technology should not be developed until all the impacts have been assessed," said Dr Mayer. "Syngenta is now the most powerful GM company in the world and it should honour the public commitments of AstraZeneca and Novartis and abandon work on Traitor until there has been consideration of whether this is an acceptable development in farming."

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Full text of "Syngenta: Switching off Farmers' Rights?"

For more information, please contact GeneWatch UK on:

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Notes to editors:

  1. Merger meetings to approve the creation of the $20billion corporation Syngenta are taking place today (11th October) in London, Basle and Stockholm.
  2. The Fifth Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity held in Nairobi in June 2000 called for a investigation of the socio-economic impacts of Traitor technology before there is further development.

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