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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK

World: South Asia

Farmers welcome halt of 'terminator'

Saving seeds from crops is a practice as old as farming itself

By Habib Beary in Bangalore

Indian farmers have welcomed the decision by the American biotechnology company Monsanto not to develop its so-called "terminator gene" technology for genetically-modified crops.

Food under the microscope
An association of farmers in the southern Indian state of Karnataka launched a campaign against Monsanto last year after reports that it was planning to use the controversial technology in the state's cotton fields.

Similar protests were held in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The farmers argued that terminator gene technology would have sterilised the seeds used by farmers, making them unusable for reproduction.

Fields attacked

[ image: Indian farmers have campaigned against 'terminator' technology]
Indian farmers have campaigned against 'terminator' technology
Terminator genes prevent crops from producing fertile seeds - which means farmers growing them would have to buy new seeds each year, rather than saving part of the harvest to plant next year's crop.

Although the company had denied that it had plans to launch the technology in India, many militant farmers had attacked fields in Karnataka where Monsanto was said to be conducting trials on pest-resistant cotton seeds.

The state's Agriculture Minister, C Byre Gowda, told the BBC that his government was the first in the country to oppose Monsanto's terminator gene.

Mr Gowda described the company's decision to withdraw the gene as "well and good".

The company's announcement is also likely to be welcomed by the Indian Government, which has called for the World Trade Organisation to take action against what they have described as biopiracy.

They are particularly concerned by the efforts of Western food companies to patent different forms of rice.

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