COP8 Latest Updates - English

Past Midnight We End COP8 - And Ban Terminator has the last word

Staying past midnight to the very end of the COP8 meeting, the Ban Terminator Campaign spoke with the last statement in the plenary to thank all governments for coming to the common understanding of the importance of the CBD moratorium on Terminator.

As the Minister of Environment for Brazil and the Governor of Parana were both present, it was important to thank them both for their instrumental support for the moratorium. The people and Government of Brazil and Parana have supported the moratorium and this has been critical.

Since discussions on Terminator were actually quite limited, most delegations who would have spoken up for a ban on Terminator never had this chance. Instead they applauded the last statement of the Ban Terminator Campaign.

Finally its Final!

At 9:30 pm in Brazil, the 8th Conference of the Parties confirmed its decision on Terminator. It is now official.

We see a moratorium on Terminator that is now strengthened.

There is caution, however, as we celebrate since we know that corporations are still developing Terminator, that industry will not stop pursuing Terminator until national governments legislate bans on Terminator, that Canada, Australia and New Zealand will still support industry efforts to end the moratorium and find new ways to try and undermine it, and that the moratorium is not a ban.

The worst of the language that would have undermined the moratorium is gone – and there is an addition that strengthens the recommendation to governments that they not conduct field trials.

The final language from COP8 still holds remnants of continuing efforts to undermine the moratorium but for now these can serve as warnings to us to watch closely and work hard for an outright ban Terminator.

Click here for a little summary of the outcome and how it happened

6000 farmers protest outside: greet buses

March 31, 2006

The protests of Via Campesina and Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra - MST) have been critical to the outcomes of this meeting. The protests continue this morning as 6000 peasant farmers are outside greeting buses of delegates as they come in. The protests have been so important in maintaining momentum and reminding delegates what was said last week against Terminator, reminding them how interventions from peasant farmers and Indigenous peoples made them understand the real impacts Terminator would have.

This morning buses were forced to drive through a long corridor of protestors waving red MST flags - or cut across the road - either way the protest was visible and audible.

Many delegates have been affected by the protests, especially those who do not often interact or get so close to street demonstrations. In particular, for some sheltered bureaucrats in the North the demonstrations have had a powerful emotional impact and have communicated the real stakes for people.

On the final day of the meeting this is a critical message and one that government delegates should now take home.

Only Tomorrow's Approval Left!

Today Terminator was discussed again at COP8 - and the moratorium still holds! No country dared to challenge the consensus of last week.

Some governments made slight changes to a specific part of the text but this did not relate to the moratorium – it was just enough to make us nervous!

Tomorrow the final plenary of COP8 is expected to approve the text of the moratorium on Terminator. Tonight negotiations will continue on other issues and tomorrow morning all final decisions will be reviewed; it is a last chance for governments to raise issues, though discussion is generally discouraged. Tomorrow afternoon everyone will say long, polite goodbyes - hopefully some governments will say how happy they are that the Terminator moratorium has been strenghtened.

Government delegates are coming up to us now and asking us how we feel. We are all very identifiable with our "Sucide Seeds are Homicide Seeds" t-shirts. They are happy with the outcome and since we so often spend time asking them to take a position and expressing our concerns, I am sure they are hoping we will share some of our happiness with them.

After this morning's session, a group of us approached Chair Matthew Jebb on the stage to give him a T-shirt since he has been so helpful - even instrumental - to the decision-making. Our gesture made him very happy and he kissed each one of us on the cheek - that was 7 of us at least. Everyone loves a good moratorium - and a ban even more...!

Meanwhile - friends and colleagues are still trying to stop genetically engineered trees here and are in the thick of intense negotiations...

Moratorium Upheld!

The debate over Terminator came and went in a flash. Well, sort of. The flash followed a week of intensive protest and lobbying – after 8 years of consistent pressure and the most recent pressure of the Ban Terminator Campaign.

However, there is another week left to the UN meeting and there could still be trouble ahead. Ministers of the Environment from across the world will now also gather in Brazil (though many Ministers will be missing) and government delegations may look for ways out of what was agreed to on Friday.

It was clear to the Chair of the UN meeting that there were two entrenched positions on the issue of “case by case risk assessment” and the future of Terminator. Rather than subject everyone to prolonged statements on either side and unproductive “negotiations,” the Chair asked those governments who supported case by case to identify themselves and to either abandon their position or come up with an alternative that everyone could agree to.

The alternative that was proposed on Friday morning was to give up the entire text from the January meeting of Working Group on Article 8j, including “case by case risk assessment”. This was accepted without contest.

The Working Group on Article 8j is mandated to protect traditional knowledge and practices and the January meeting was supposed to assess the impacts of Terminator. But the meeting achieved very little for Indigenous peoples – and so we see the passing of language that added nothing to the moratorium and did not do justice to the submissions by Indigenous peoples and farmers on the impacts of Terminator. (Click here to see the submissions.)

Surprise strengthening of the moratorium:

Malaysia, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, announced additional language that strengthens the de facto moratorium and is, if approved at the end of next week, the contribution of COP8 to the moratorium. If all goes well, Decision V/5 will now be supplemented by a clarification that further research and studies on Terminator will be done “within the mandate of Decision V/5” – meaning this research will not involve field trials.

The Agenda of Field Trials had been exposed:

A paper from the New Zealand government confirmed what earlier internal documents had revealed – that New Zealand was pushing “case by case” as a means to move to field trials of Terminator.

Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were isolated in their support for “case by case risk assessment” and this was increasingly understood by other governments as a strategy to undermine the moratorium. With pressure on all three governments from home as well as protests at their embassies abroad, publicly supporting “case by case” was becoming difficult.

Ministers Now Meet in Brazil – A Watchful Eye is Needed:

While the Ministerial meeting cannot directly affect the outcome of COP8, there is a risk that Ministers could make broad statements that challenge the moratorium or put pressure on government delegations. Ministers will need to be briefed property on what happened last week including the protests that happened here.

What it all means:

At the Ban Terminator Campaign press conference on Friday, Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina said: “We will not stop until Terminator disappears from the face of the earth. We feel it is necessary for all people to join us in validating this action for all of us. We have tenderness and pride in being one more step forward in our struggle. We will be here until they change their root and think of people above profit.”

Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo Indigenous community in Argentina, speaking on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, stated, “We feel the presence of our brothers and sisters of Via Campesina - in Granada at the UN we struggled but we did not succeed. We will not surrender because we will have to survive - not just for ourselves but for our children. We won one battle this morning. However in this conference they are other issues also that are serious for Indigenous peoples.”

High Stakes are Clear as Terminator "Negotiations" Begin

Discussions on Terminator at the UN COP started this afternoon - actually they started this morning as governments kept intervening to make statements on Terminator, even though the discussions were on another agenda item.

With a Chair who demonstrated great understanding and facilitation skills yesterday when he recognized and thanked the Via Campesina for thier protest in the negotiation hall, Indigenous Peoples were given time to fully express their stance on Terminator.

The high stakes of Terminator and the true meaning of the "case by case risk assessment" of Terminator should now be clear to all delegates. The mood in the room is serious and concentrated on the Terminator issue.

Delegates came in this morning and took stickers saying "case by case = coffin by coffin" - and many wore them! The negotiations room includes a large screen where speakers faces are beamed to everyone in the room - so the stickers on suit jackets and shirts are clear to everyone in the room.

It is unusual to hear applause in the negotiation room, certainly consistent applause after multiple interventions - but the threat of Terminator has allowed for 'unusual' behavior. Applause followed the interventions first heard from the G77 Group and China. Click here to read the intervention. Argentina and Norway also spoke strongly against "case by case risk assessment' of Terminator, believing it would lead to field trials.

We have barely had any time to talk about Terminator as the issue is so clear: most governments are opposed; Indigenous peoples, NGOs, local communites are opposed; and some governments refuse to do anything but agree with Industry. The Chair has recognized that there is an impasse asked those governments who want to see the language of "case by case risk assessment" stay to speak up and identify themselves. Now they are huddled for an hour to either agree to reject the language or come up with an alternative proposal. New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland (!!!!!) spoke in support of "case by case risk assessment" but only briefly as requested by the Chair. Canada did not raise its hand as part of this group.

Canadian NGOs and the Ban Terminator Campaign met with the Canadian delegation over lunch and are interested to see now what the Canadian government will say - as they refused to disclose thier position. Are they meeting with New Zealand and Australia to come up with more bad language? Is Switzerland now playing an active role in opposing Indigenous rights and the pleas from around the world?

The translators are staying until 9pm tonight - and we may need them!

Women of Via Campesina protest terminator inside the COP8 meeting

A group of approximately 40 women from the Via Campesina movement - mostly from across the Americas - staged a dignified protest against Terminator on the floor of the negotiations at COP 8 today. They received applause from delegates and the Chair of the meeting recognized their protest and remarked that it was "a heartfelt protest that many of us feel sympathy with.. This reminds us that we are citizens of the world not just of countries". He said the protest will help the discussion on GURTS later in the day. The women stayed for about ten minutes and then left the plenary room singing traditional songs to further applause.

Day 3 22nd March 2006 - Terminator Item looms..

So today is the day that Terminator is expected to come up in the Working Group and expectation and rumour is running high. Over 150 people are wandering around the conference room wearing distinctive white T-shirts which declare that suicide seeds are homicide seeds , there are posters and stickers, flags and placards - the front page of the Eco - the daily new service here - reminds Canada, New Zealand and Australia that 'The world is watching'. Governments are firming up their positions, issuing advance statements. We too are giving press conferences and interviews

This morning Ban Terminator released a new report that indicated the real cost of Terminator in financial terms. For example here in Brazil, soybean farmers who currently save seed every harvest would have to pay a further 407 million dollars per year if terminator became the dominant seed platform and they were forced back to seed market year on year.

One man who would oppose that is Governor Roberto Requiao who today signed into law a decree that made the labelling of GM food and animal feed mandatory in the state of Parana. the signing ceremony was held at COP8 with the National Environment Minister in attendance as well as hundreds of activist farmers from La Via Campesina.

Meanwhile hundreds more Via Campesina farmers are occupying a GM field trial about six hours away planted by Syngenta. Incredibly it turns out to be an illegal trial because it is planted close a protected reserve and last night the brazillian authorities fined Syngenta one million brazillian reals for planting illegally. Of course Syngenta are here at the CBD too..

We don't know how the different countries are going to line up on the Terminator (GURTS) item this afternoon. Brazil has issued a press statement saying that it wanst to maintain the moratorium, is opposed to field trials and drawing attention to the 'case by case' clause of the pro-terminator nations. New Zealand meanwhile has put out a press statement defending its 'case by case' argument and revealing that it is interested in putting Terminator in wild animals (possums). New Zealand Environment Minister David benson Pope said " If there were some technology that ensured sterility in our possum population, would the New Zealand public not expect us to at least consider such a possibility? Some delegates here are aghast at how out of touch New Zealand appears to be. It was bad enough to support terminator crops and terminator trees but to start arguing for terminator animals is raising eyebrows. What next? terminator humans?!

Image from Terminator Protest in Curitiba

Day 2 -Tuesday 21st March - the World says No to Terminator..

As buses of delegates arrived this morning for day 2 of COP8 they were met by hundreds of protesting (and dancing) farmers, peasants, Indigenous People's and NGO's twirling flags, giving speeches, chanting and rallying against Terminator Technology - many of them organised through Via Campesina - the global movement of peasants. Banners with images of coffins proclaimed that "Case by Case = Coffin by Coffin' and that 'Suicide Seeds are Homicide Seeds" . Up until now the farmers and peasants have been kept out of the conference centre and relegated to a tent hidden around the back of the expotrade. By bringing their resistance so colourfully to the gates they ensured that every delegate arriving this morning could see and hear the strength of opposition to Terminator Technology.

and its not just in Curitiba...

Yesterday, In Hyderabad India, half a million signatures were handed to the Indian Government on a Petition against Terminator organised by SAGE 'South Against Genetic Engineering. India has a Ban on Terminator but there are whispers that they may not defend it strongly here at the COP and would thereby allow the 'case by case' clause that would undermine the Terminator moratorium.

Meanwhile in Ottawa (Canada) last night over a thousand people gathered to put Terminator on Trial and voted overwhelmingly that the technology should be banned. they heard speeches from Indian Activist Vandana Shiva and Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser. Canadian government speakers pulled out at the last moment but farmers and indigenous people were able to join the event by live link from Curitiba.

We also learned yesterday of another overwhelming vote on Terminator - this time in the European Parliament who have passed a resolution calling on the EU negotiators not to support the case by case risk assesment proposed by Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The resolution (P6_TA-PROV(2006)0098) ,which was passed by 419 MEPs of all parties with only 5 opposing, urges the European commission and member states to "reject any proposals to undermine the moratorium on the field-testing and marketing of so-called terminator technologies set by CBD Decision V/5 through a 'case-by-case' assessment or approval of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies" and to "defend robustly an EU policy to require that no open-air growing of crops involving Genetic Use Restriction Technologies can be permitted until thorough research on ecological and socio-economic impacts and on any adverse effects for biodiversity, food security and human health has been carried out in a transparent manner;"

Then this morning, as negotiations were just getting underway we learned that petitions and protests had occurred at the Canadian Embassies in UK and Germany - asking that the Canadian delegation to CBD come to their senses on Terminator. As for the canadian delegation themselves? well they seem to have gone to ground - not answering emails and suddenly hard to find. Instead CropLife (the pesticide and seed industry lobby group) and the Canadian Seed Trade have taken to the press to defend terminator instead. We had heard there was a CropLife representative on the Canadian Delegation this past week so maybe the Canadian government is using industry lobby groups to handle its press relations?? That might explain a few things...