WCC Head Urges Against 'Terminator Technology'

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Dr Samuel Kobia, has called for churches and ecumenical partners to help bring an end to ''terminator technology.''

A month ago at the 8th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP8) for the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Brazil, governments upheld the international de facto moratorium on "Terminator technology," which refers to plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds.

“Applying technology to design sterile seeds turns life, which is a gift from God, into a commodity,” the Rev. Kobia said. “Preventing farmers from re-planting saved seed will increase economic injustice all over the world and add to the burdens of those already living in hardship.

“Terminator technology locates food sovereignty, once the very backbone of community, in the hands of technologists and large corporations,” he continued. “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people depend on farmer-saved seed as their primary seed source. All Christians pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matt 6:11). That this profoundly material request appears in this profoundly spiritual prayer, signals for us the centrality of food in our lives, as well as the indivisibility of the material and spiritual in the eyes of God. It is of great concern to me that life itself is now often thought of and used as a commodity.”

The U.N. conference in Brazil was held only weeks after the WCC's 9th General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where delegates urged the WCC to respond to the challenges posed by science and technology.

Thousands of peasant farmers, including those from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem Terra), protested daily outside the conference center to demand a ban. The women of the international peasant farmers' organization Via Campesina staged a silent protest inside the plenary hall on Mar. 23, holding hand-painted signs with the words "Terminar Terminator con la Vida" ("Terminate Terminator with Life").

They finally gave in to strong pressure by social movements and civil society groups and a number of governmental delegations supporting their claims for sterile-seed technology to be banned.

Brazil and India have already passed national laws to ban Terminator, and other campaigns to prevent commercialization of seed sterilization technologies will follow in various countries around the world.

Protestant churches in Germany are lobbying for a national law and European Union legislation to ban terminator seeds. They also argue against the patenting of terminator technologies.

The Rev. Kobia is confident of receiving backing from Christian churches as well as people of other faiths that care for smaller farms and God’s creation.

He said, “Though the international moratorium on Terminator was upheld at COP8, the battle to block the technology is now moving to the national level. This requires us to alert our member churches and ecumenical partners to be vigilant in their respective countries.”