Monsanto’s Terminator Making a Comeback? Enter the Zombie!
By Barbara H. Peterson
Monsanto and its cohorts in crime promised us that they would not be using Terminator technology called GURT, or genetic use restricted technology. In fact, the United Nations actually issued a moratorium on the project. So we’re safe, right? Wrong.
As usual, the boys in the little white lab coats have not been idle. In spite of the moratorium, not only are they working heatedly on Terminator technology, but are getting ready to introduce Zombie technology. Terminator, and Traitor or Zombie technologies are just variations of GURT. Whereas Terminator technology produces plants with sterile seeds, Zombie technology carries this a step further by creating plants that could require a chemical application to trigger seed fertility every year. Pay for the chemical or get sterile seed. This is called reversible transgenic sterility. They have been working steadily on perfecting this technology, and are now poised to introduce it to the world as a solution to the current GMO contamination problem. Move over Terminator, here comes the Zombie.
If a field gets contaminated with seeds containing the Terminator gene, the resulting plants will have sterile seeds, so the reproductive cycle ends. If the contamination is from the Zombie gene, the resulting plants will most likely require a certain pesticide or will be sterile.
Plants are engineered with sterility as the default condition, but sterility can be reversed with the application of an external stimulus that restores the plant’s viability. In order to bring the “zombie” seed back from the dead, the farmer or breeder must use an external stimulus (such as a proprietary chemical) to restore the seed’s fertility. (Terminator the Sequel, 2007 PDF doc)
Either way, if you are a small farmer with a contaminated field, your seed-saving venture for the following year will be less than successful. Planting sterile seeds takes the same amount of work as well as monetary outlay that planting good seeds does, but without the return on investment. And, you cannot tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly seeds until it’s too late. That is, if the patent enforcement brigade doesn’t raid your property first and force you to destroy your crops and all of your seeds due to patent infringement. Then you get nothing, and have to pay for the privilege.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that Monsanto announced in 2006, its takeover of Delta Pine & Land?
This would not be of much consequence, but for the fact that Delta Pine & Land is a joint owner along with the USDA of US patent # 5,723,765 - GURT technology.
In March 1998 the US Patent Office granted Patent No. 5,723,765 to Delta Pine & Land for a patent titled, Control of Plant Gene _Expression. The patent is owned jointly, according to Delta Pine’s Security & Exchange Commission 10K filing, ‘by DP&L and the United States of America, as represented by the Secretary of Agriculture.’ (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=3082)
This makes, as of 2006, Monsanto and the United States of America (Corp USA), as represented by the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA), which is currently Tom Vilsack, joint owners of the GURT patent. Kind of gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling all over, doesn’t it?
Barbara H. Peterson
Read the following article from ETC Group and download the full 28 page report here:
Here is another report on GURT technology from Germany:
Terminator: The Sequel
Despite the fact that governments re-affirmed and strengthened the United Nations’ moratorium on Terminator technology (a.k.a. genetic use restriction technology [GURTs]) in March 2006, public and private sector researchers are developing a new generation of suicide seeds - using chemically induced “switches” to turn a genetically modified (GM) plant’s fertility on or off.
Issue: Under the guise of biosafety, the European Union’s 3-year Transcontainer Project is investing millions of euros in strategies that cannot promise fail-safe containment of transgenes from GM crops, but could nonetheless function as Terminator, posing unacceptable threats to farmers, biodiversity and food sovereignty. Terminator technology - genetic seed sterilization - was initially developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the US government to maximize seed industry profits by preventing farmers from re-planting harvested seed. Researchers are also developing new techniques to excise transgenes from GM plants at a specific time in the plant’s development, and methods to kill a plant with “conditionally lethal” genes. This new generation of GURTs will shift the burden of trait control to the farmer. Under some scenarios, farmers will be obliged to pay for the privilege of restoring seed fertility every year - a new form of perpetual monopoly for the seed industry.
Impact: Whether intended or not, new research on molecular containment of transgenes will ultimately allow the multinational seed industry to tighten its grasp on proprietary germplasm and restrict the rights of farmers. Industry and governments are already working to overturn the existing moratorium on Terminator technology at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In the months leading up to the CBD’s 9th Conference of the Parties (Bonn, Germany 19-30 May 2008), industry will argue that global warming requires urgent introduction of transgenic crops and trees for biofuels - and that Terminator-type technologies offer a precautionary, environmental necessity to prevent transgene flow. Ironically, society is being asked to foot the bill for a new techno-fix to mitigate the genetic contamination caused by the biotech industry’s defective GM seeds.
Players: Taxpayer-financed research on biological containment of GM crops subsidizes the corporate agenda. A handful of multinational seed corporations control biotech seeds and the proprietary seed market as a whole has seen unprecedented corporate concentration. In 2006, the world’s top 4 seed companies - Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Groupe Limagrain - accounted for half (49%) of the proprietary seed market.
Policy: Governments keep trying to find ways to make GM seeds safe and acceptable and they keep failing. They should stop trying. There is no such thing as a safe and acceptable form of Terminator. The EU should discontinue funding for research on “reversible transgenic sterility,” and re-assess funding for other research projects undertaken by Transcontainer. Rather than support research on coexistence to bail out the agbiotech industry, the EU should instead fund sustainable agricultural research that benefits farmers and the public. National governments should propose legislation to prohibit field-testing and commercial sale of Terminator technologies. Governments meeting at the 9th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany must strengthen the moratorium on GURTs by recommending a ban on the technology.
To read the 28-page report, Download PDF (1 MB) here: etcomm95_tsequel_11june071