A development in the field of transgenic seeds, the "Terminator" technology, is expected to be one of the main targets of protests by international activists in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, in the south of Brazil.
The activists will accompany the 3rd Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosecurity and the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Biological Diversity Convention (COP-8).
The two events will discuss the establishment of international rules linked to the issue of intellectual property rights over genetic resources, such as in the case of transgenic seeds produced by multinational corporations.
The "Terminator" is a type of transgenic technology based on the production of sterile live organisms. According to Maria Rita Reis, legal advisor to the Land of Rights, a civil society organization dedicated to the defense of human rights, in agriculture this technology is used on seeds to prevent their germination.
"Seeds are peoples’ patrimony. They cannot be patented on behalf of multinational corporations," commented Rafael Alegra, of the International Via Campesina during the 2nd International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, which ended on Friday, March 10.
He was one of the participants in a special session between civil society and the governments that sent delegations to the event, referring specifically to the "Terminator" question.
The new technology, produced through genetic engineering, allows the companies that sell the seeds to have more control over farmers. The seeds produced by the plant are sterile and therefore cannot be stored by the farmers to plant the next year, which would be one way to circumvent the payment of royalties to the companies.
In 2000, the Convention on Biological Diversity made a recommendation to governments not to allow field testing and sales of "Terminator" seeds. Brazil’s Biosecurity Law has an article prohibiting the use of "V-Terminator," which produces sterile seeds.
"The problem is that these plants can cross with other ordinary crops, contaminating them and producing other sterile plants, a chain reaction that also affects the environment," explains the Chilean activist, Mario Ahumada, of the Latin American and Caribbean Agroecological Movement (MAELA).
"It is an attack on the genetic patrimony and the development of a cleaner and healthier agriculture."
The MAELA is an international network associated with the Via Campesina, and its ranks include peasant and indigenous movements and scientists and agronomists who defend organic farming.
Ahumada says that another theme that should be discussed in Curitiba is the question of the intellectual rights of traditional communities to local knowledge, especially in the area of biodiversity.
This knowledge is currently used by industries in the pharmaceutical sector, for example, as a basis of research.