Ecological Implications

Terminating Seeds

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What is Terminator Technology?

Terminator technology is a term that has been coined for a gene jointly produced by the worlds largest cotton-seed company, Monsanto and the U.S. department of Agriculture. The idea is to implant this gene, which switches off a plants ability to reproduce, into crops. The earliest form of this technology was the implantation of the gene into the chloroplasts of crops. Since chloroplasts rarely travel through pollen, the trait would be limited to the first generation. Now, ideas focus more on plants that actually kill their own hybrid seeds during germination. The implantation of a suicide gene is also an option being explored.

What are the Proposed Uses of this Technology?

The goal behind Terminating Seeds is to protect a company's ownership of specific agricultural technology and to allow gene patenting. Companies can sell their technology and still have complete control of its reproduction. Also, if seeds can only be used once, their value and demand increase on the global market. US Department of Agriculture spokesmen, Willard Phelps states, "The goal is to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open new markets in second and third world countries." USDA molecular biologist Melvin J. Oliver adds, "Our mission is to protect American technology and to make us competitive in the face of foreign competition." A second proposed benefit of this technology is that it eliminates a genes ability to escape and cross breed, and thus creating a "super weed."

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