Terminator Technology

Wayne Parrott wparrott at uga.cc.uga.edu
Wed Feb 17 08:46:45 EST 1999

"Michael R. Thompson" wrote:

> Not so, even in jest. Check out Martha Crouch's web page at
> http://www.bio.indiana.edu/people/terminator.html  It explains what
> terminator technology is and how it works. In brief it is a genetic
> manipulation of target crop plant species which prevents farmers from saving
> seed for future planting. As such this technology has raised a hue and cry
> from many quarters, especially areas where subsistence-level farming is
> predominant and farmers rely on saving seed from one year's crop for the
> next years planting.

A couple of  points:

1) No one is forcing farmers anywhere to buy seeds from Monsanto, and
fortunately, there are plenty of other sources of seeds, both traditional and

2) In addition, for those concerned about so-called Terminator technology
[Technology Protection System], I propose a simple experiment.

First some background.  Thus far, this technology was shown to work in hybrid
seed.  However, hybrid seed is protected anyway, as seed segregate and the
progeny are nothing like the parents.  Hence, there is no incentive to save

Saving seeds becomes a viable option for self-pollinated crops, whose seeds
breed true-- for example, cotton, beans, soybean, wheat, barley, rice, etc.  In
its current incarnation, Terminator technology does not work adquately for these
crops.  The reason is seeds must be exposed to tetracycline to activate the
system *before* they are sold to a farmer.

Here is where the experiment comes into play.  Seeds are exposed to tetracycline
by soaking them overnight in an antibiotic solution.  For the purposes of this
experiment, an overnight soak in water is enough to show the point.  Take a
given number of dry beans, say 10, and soak them overnight in water.  This
duplicates the part about activating the system.

The following morning, remove the water, and allow the beans to dry.  This part
stands in for getting the beans ready for market.  Farmers buy dry seed in
bags.  Wet seed that must be planted within a few hours are going to be tough to
get to market anywhere, especially in areas where "subsistence-level farming is

A week later, plant the seeds. This would mimic the minimum time it would
realistically take to get a seed to a farmer's field for planting.   Plant an
equal number of seeds that were never soaked overnight.  Then compare the
germination between the two.

Bottom line, in my opinion, -- for the short term, there will not be a way to
activate the technology for self-pollinated crops that will not damage the
quality of the seeds to an unacceptable point.  Add to this that the
seed-inactivating proteins must be proven safe before regulatory approval is
granted, not to mention that no one knows if dead seed will ship, store, and
process like live seed does, and you have a product that is not about to appear
on the market place in the near future.

Perhaps additional research will yield a friendlier product, perhaps it will

> Regards, Mike
> Dr. Michael R. Thompson
> 110 Gymnasium Pl.
> Saskatoon, Sk S7N 0W9
> Canada
> Roger Whitehead wrote in message ...
> >In article <36C8DC9D.606C7EE8 at yesic.com>, Paul&Teresa wrote:
> >> There are mass postings about terminator technology going around.  Does
> >> anyone have info on this horrible thing
> >
> >Try the National Rifle Association.
> >
> >Regards,
> >
> >Roger
> >
> >- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> >
> >Roger Whitehead,
> >14 Amy Road, Oxted, Surrey RH8 0PX, England
> >(Tel +44 (0)1883 713074; fax +44 (0)1883 716793)
> >

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