List members may also be interested in the following commentary:
End of the Germ Line New Scientist Mar 28 98
TERMINATOR technology: that's what farmers are calling a breakthrough in
genetic engineering designed to prevent the seeds of agricultural crops from
germinating. They fear it could spell the end of the tradition in poorer
countries of saving seed from one seasoii's crop to replailt the next.
Earlier tliis niontli, tile US Departlileilt of Agriculture (USDA) and a
Mississippi seed firm, the Delta and Pine Land Company, were granted a
patent for a technique that can sterilise the seeds produced by most
agricultural crops. They expect the technique to be adopted within the next
five years by all the major seed companies, which liave been looking for
ways to prevent farmers from recycling seeds from their crops for many
years. "It's terribly dangerous," says Hope Shand of the Rural Advancement
Foundation International, a pressure group based in Canada. "Half the
world's farmers are poor and can't afford to buy seed every growing season.
Yet they grow 15 to 20 per cent of the world's food." The technology depends
on a promoter sequence from a gene called late embryogenesis abundant (LEA)
that activates the gene to which it is attached only when the plant's seeds
are maturing. The researchers attached the LEA promoter to a gene that
produces a protein which prevents gerrmination. They inserted this into
seeds. At the end of hie growing season, the promoter switches on this geile
Melvin Oliver of the USDA's labs in Lubbock, Texas, who invented the
technique, claims that seeds manipulated in this way will grow into healthy
plants that produce sterile seeds. He anticipates that it will be welcomed
by seed companies, who regard the replanting of seeds as theft of their
intellectual property. "Our system is a way of self-policing the
unauthorised use of American technology," says Oliver. "It's similar to
copyright protection." Willard Phelps, a spokesman for the USDA, predicts
that the new technique will soon be so widely adopted that farmers will only
be able to buy seeds that cannot be re-germinated. The US government's aim
is merely to ensure the profits that are made from its introduction are not
excessive, he says.
But Camila Montecinos of the Centre for Education and Technology in
Santiago, Chile, which works with local farmers, is calling on governments
to outlaw the new technology. "This is an immoral technique that robs
farming communities of their ageold right to save seed," she says. "It
should be banned." Rob Edwards
From: jill davies <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, June 22, 1998 2:14 PM
> Speaking of government-run-amok:
> I have seen several postings on sanet-mg referring to the "terminator
>gene" and that the USDA and Delta and Pine Land Co, a Miss. cotten seed
>company, have jointly patented this gene. What is this federal govn't
>agency doing here? This does not fit my paradigm for a government agency.
> Anybody have a clue?
> ~~~~~ Jill Davies ~~~ River Care ~~~~
> "You can do whatever you don't know you can't do."
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