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Monsanto's 'Terminator' Seeds Set To Make a Comeback

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the i'll-be-back dept.

Biotech 284

ananyo writes "Monsanto and other biotechnology firms could be looking to bring back 'terminator' seed technology. The seeds are genetically engineered so that crops grown from them produce sterile seed. They prompted such an outcry that, as Slashdot noted, Monsanto's chief executive pledged not to commercialize them. But a case in the U.S. Supreme Court could allow farmers to plant the progeny of GM seeds rather than buying new seeds from Monsanto, making the technology attractive to biotech companies again. Some environmentalists also see 'terminator' seeds as a way of avoiding GM crops contaminating organic/non-GM crops." Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry. From the NY Times: "BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might 'facilitate software piracy on a broad scale' because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file." The case was heard today; here is a transcript (PDF), and a clear explanation of what the case is about.

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284 comments

So you're saying, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949559)

they'll be back

BADIMGAGE (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949603)

I just had this image of a bunch of mini-Arnolds running around. Bad image, DO NOT WANT.

I Can't Believe This (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949567)

Monsanto’s reaction is that Bowman’s use of the commodity seeds plainly violates its patent. From its vantage point, Bowman might have been free to use the seeds he bought from Monsanto (on the theory that Monsanto’s patent rights for those seeds were exhausted by its sale of them), but Monsanto has never sold the seeds that Bowman bought and planted; Monsanto does not, for example, sell seeds to grain elevators. Because Monsanto has never sold those particular seeds, Bowman’s use of them to create new seeds infringes its patent as clearly as if Bowman had made a new light bulb copying Edison’s light-bulb patent.

So it has come to this: they are equivocating planting seeds with reverse engineering a light bulb.

For another thing, Monsanto’s technology agreement (signed by all farmers who purchase Roundup Ready seeds) includes provisions that prohibit Bowman’s activities. Among other things, those agreements prohibit any planting of progeny seed; the only permitted use of soybean seeds grown from Roundup Ready seeds is sale for food and the like. If the Court rules against Monsanto on the basic exhaustion question, it then must confront the controversial question (crucial to, among others, the software industry) of the enforceability of license agreements that govern the rights of users of IP-infused products. On that question, the United States (which firmly supports Monsanto on the central exhaustion question) argues that the conceded sale makes any subsequent licensing restrictions invalid as to those seeds and their progeny; not surprisingly, amici like the Business Software Alliance contest that idea.

Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it. Chase down the guy(s) that put your grain into that elevator and sue the living shit out of them. Then make sure all your current customers know that they're legally culpable for what a grain elevator does with your intellectual property. I'll be sure to remind everyone that Monsanto seed can result in ruination if they find their way back into the soil. Then we'll see how your sales do, mmkay?

Re:I Can't Believe This (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949953)

It doesn't work like that. In most places, if you buy something that was stolen, the good is returned to its owner and you will have to get compensation from whoever sold it to you. What you are saying is that if I somehow get my hands on a cracked copy of of a software and do something with it like use it for myself or share it with everyone on the Internet, nothing should happen to be; the guys who made the cracked software and gave/sold it to me are at fault here, right?

Re:I Can't Believe This (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949961)

Chase down the guy(s) that put your grain into that elevator and sue the living shit out of them. Then make sure all your current customers know that they're legally culpable for what a grain elevator does with your intellectual property.

Except no one in that chain did anything wrong.

1) Farmer A buys seed from Monsanto
2) Farmer A grows crop, harvests and sells the result as feed (which they are allowed to do under their license agreement)
3) Farmer B buys feed from the silo (which is legal for both farmer B and the silo)

All of that is legal, and no one, not even Monsanto argues against it. Where it gets (a tiny bit) murkier is:

4) Farmer B realizes that most of his feed is round up ready, plants it
5) Farmer B sprays the field with round up
6) Farmer B harvests the result, 100% (or near enough) round up ready seed obtained without signing any agreements with Monsanto

Monsanto's argument will be that by spraying the field with round up, farmer B was deliberately selecting for the gene that Monsanto has patented. It's a grey area in the law, which is why it's gone to the supreme court. And the annoying thing is, even after the case is decided there's going to be all kinds of wiggle room for both sides of the argument to continue litigating to their heart's content.

Re:I Can't Believe This (1)

andymadigan (792996) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950007)

Actually, the oddity is he did sign that agreement, the background on the story is that he bought seeds from the grain elevator for a late-season planting. For his first planting, he bought the seeds from Monsanto. I suppose the contract was interpreted to only apply to that purchase.

But aside from that, since the seeds in question were bought from the grain elevator, yes, sue the anyone selling to the grain elevator (which probably includes Bowman).

Re:I Can't Believe This (-1, Troll)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950215)

Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it.

Yes, he did. Spefically, as reported by the Court of Appeals [findlaw.com] (thank Slashdot for the odd character mappings):

Pioneer HiÃ"Bred (ÃoePioneerÃ) is one of Monsanto's licensed seed producers. à In 2002, Pioneer sold Pioneer HiÃ"Bredî brand seeds containing the Roundup Readyî technology to Bowman, a grower in Knox County, Indiana. à In making the sale, Pioneer required Bowman to execute the ÃoePioneer HiÃ"Bred Technology Agreement,à which contains language and restrictions identical to the Technology Agreements discussed above. à See J.A. 673. à Bowman purchased from Pioneer and planted seeds containing the Roundup Readyî technology each year, beginning as early as 1999. à Bowman planted Roundup Readyî seeds as his first-crop in each growing season during the years 1999 through 2007. à Consistent with the terms of the Technology Agreement, Bowman did not save seed from his first-crop during any of those years.

In 1999, Bowman also purchased commodity seed from a local grain elevator, Huey Soil Service, for a late-season planting, or Ãoesecond-crop.à à Because Bowman considered the second-crop to be a riskier planting, he purchased the commodity seed to avoid paying the significantly higher price for Pioneer's Roundup Readyî seed. à That same year, Bowman applied glyphosate-based herbicide to the fields in which he had planted the commodity seeds to control weeds and to determine whether the plants would exhibit glyphosate resistance. à He confirmed that many of the plants were, indeed, resistant. à In each subsequent year, from 2000 through 2007, Bowman treated his second-crop with glyphosate-based herbicide. à Unlike his first-crop, Bowman saved the seed harvested from his second-crop for replanting additional second-crops in later years. à He also supplemented his second-crop planting supply with periodic additional purchases of commodity seed from the grain elevator. à Bowman did not attempt to hide his activities, and he candidly explained his practices with respect to his second-crop soybeans in various correspondence with Monsanto's representatives.

Returning to the parent:

I'll be sure to remind everyone that Monsanto seed can result in ruination if they find their way back into the soil. Then we'll see how your sales do, mmkay?

I'll be sure to remind everyone that you lack credibility, and that Monsanto has only been pursuing people who intentionally violate its patents.

Re:I Can't Believe This (1)

pavon (30274) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950235)

[quote]Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it.[/quote]
Actually, from what I've read he did. He bought and used Monsanto seed for his main crop (signing a contract in doing so), but then used grain elevator seed for his second seasonal planting. Some of that seed he planted may very well have been harvested from his crops as he sold soybeans (grown from Monsanto seed) to that grain elevator.

I worry that the Supreme Court will choose to narrowly rule on contract grounds, and completely ignore the patent exclusion question for another day.

Re:I Can't Believe This (1)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950267)

<quote>

<quote><p>Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it.</quote>

Bowman must have signed it because it said in the story that he bought Roundup Ready from Monsanto. What I'm confused about is: Is the "commodity" grain Bowman bought already infused with Roundup Ready genome or are they worried that the yield of the "commodity" grain will be infused due to cross-pollination? If the former then I'm really confused because how could Bowman know? If the latter then I would have to read the T&Cs of the agreement to see if Monsanto said no other grain can be planted within X distance.

My head hurts...

Re:I Can't Believe This (0)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950413)

Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it.

Yes, he did. Spefically, as reported by the Court of Appeals [findlaw.com] (thank Slashdot for the odd character mappings):

Pioneer HiÃ"Bred (ÃoePioneerÃ) is one of Monsanto's licensed seed producers. à In 2002, Pioneer sold Pioneer HiÃ"Bredî brand seeds containing the Roundup Readyî technology to Bowman, a grower in Knox County, Indiana. à In making the sale, Pioneer required Bowman to execute the ÃoePioneer HiÃ"Bred Technology Agreement,à which contains language and restrictions identical to the Technology Agreements discussed above. à See J.A. 673. à Bowman purchased from Pioneer and planted seeds containing the Roundup Readyî technology each year, beginning as early as 1999. à Bowman planted Roundup Readyî seeds as his first-crop in each growing season during the years 1999 through 2007. à Consistent with the terms of the Technology Agreement, Bowman did not save seed from his first-crop during any of those years.

In 1999, Bowman also purchased commodity seed from a local grain elevator, Huey Soil Service, for a late-season planting, or Ãoesecond-crop.à à Because Bowman considered the second-crop to be a riskier planting, he purchased the commodity seed to avoid paying the significantly higher price for Pioneer's Roundup Readyî seed. à That same year, Bowman applied glyphosate-based herbicide to the fields in which he had planted the commodity seeds to control weeds and to determine whether the plants would exhibit glyphosate resistance. à He confirmed that many of the plants were, indeed, resistant. à In each subsequent year, from 2000 through 2007, Bowman treated his second-crop with glyphosate-based herbicide. à Unlike his first-crop, Bowman saved the seed harvested from his second-crop for replanting additional second-crops in later years. à He also supplemented his second-crop planting supply with periodic additional purchases of commodity seed from the grain elevator. à Bowman did not attempt to hide his activities, and he candidly explained his practices with respect to his second-crop soybeans in various correspondence with Monsanto's representatives.

Returning to the parent:

I'll be sure to remind everyone that Monsanto seed can result in ruination if they find their way back into the soil. Then we'll see how your sales do, mmkay?

I'll be sure to remind everyone that you lack credibility, and that Monsanto appears to only be pursuing people who intentionally violate its patents.

Why... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949575)

Why aren't all of those Monsanto people not in prison yet ?

Why should they be? (5, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949637)

What laws have they, as individuals (vs. as a corporation) broken, specifically? Exclude laws that typically do not result in prison time.

If the answer is something other than "none," then you need to ask the relevant prosecutors, not Slashdot. If the answer is "none" then there's your answer.

Re:Why should they be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949815)

Nuisance software patents are already too easy to file, as both Apple and Microsoft have so frequently and recently demonstrated.

Re:Why should they be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949853)

Shelly is that you?

Re:Why should they be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949975)

Not breaking any laws the way Wall Street guys don't break it already deserves a bullet in the head in my humble opinion.

Re:Why should they be? (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949977)

A better question would be: "Why haven't all the people who wrote the laws that make this possible (and legal) been thrown out of office yet?"

Re:Why should they be? (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950549)

I don't know about specific laws, but it seems like they're verging on classic super-villainy. "Our Terminator Seed pollen is spreading the recessive trait into the normal crops. Soon there will be a 40% reduction in available supply! Mass starvation and excessively high food prices. Muhuhahaha!"

Sounds like a good idea to me (2)

davidwr (791652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949591)

Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects, then I don't see a problem with it. This is the same standard I apply to other genetically modified living things.

Been Raped By Companies Too Many Times to Count (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949663)

Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects, then I don't see a problem with it. This is the same standard I apply to other genetically modified living things.

Can you tell me how much testing is done to verify these things are safe? How long and how numerous are the human trials? I mean, I've seen the tobacco industry burn people on this exact same thing before by avoiding rigorous studies. Is this stuff treated just like the FDA treats any sort of medicine that we put into our bodies or does it just get rubber stamped through like a natural food? I would be suspicious that anything developed in the past ten years or less is completely guaranteed to be safe for the duration of a human life. Also, I am rather afraid if we get to a point where symptoms develop but we can't pin down which genetically modified food is doing it because everything's genetically modified and even growing things organically doesn't mean anything because of cross pollination. If you can convince me not to worry about that, I'm all ears! For instance, increases of lead in our body looked safe cosmetically and look at all the studies coming out about that.

Re:Been Raped By Companies Too Many Times to Count (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949743)

I'm all ears!

So is the corn.

Re:Been Raped By Companies Too Many Times to Count (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949767)

Testing? Who needs testing when you have "substantial equivalence"?

Re:Been Raped By Companies Too Many Times to Count (2)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950079)

Well, when you eat potatos, you don't end up with potato DNA in your cells. Same goes for GMO food, it's not harmful because it contains external genes. (heck, if it was that easy to integrate external genes, curing all kinds of diseases would become quite easier).

The problem comes from pesticides. Either the plants get genes that teach them how to make their own insecticides (at which point some testing is needed). Or those plants become tolerant to what you can call a "chemical bath", and thus, agricultors go berserk on the chemicals they use to keep their plants "safe".

Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949669)

please do not procreate

Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (5, Interesting)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949711)

First define "unwanted" and then tell me how you determine them without them actually happening? Let's say for instance they cross pollinate with another crop and sterilize that crop as well. Which in turn cross pollinates ad nauseum until there are no fertile seeds. Far fetched perhaps but not unthinkable.

Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (3, Funny)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950005)

First define "unwanted" and then tell me how you determine them without them actually happening? Let's say for instance they cross pollinate with another crop and sterilize that crop as well. Which in turn cross pollinates ad nauseum until there are no fertile seeds. Far fetched perhaps but not unthinkable.

As we all can remember from the terrible seedless Watermelon apocalypse that swept the land taking all vegetation with it, this is just too great of a risk to take! We must remember the dangers of producing plants without seeds!

Never forget!

Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950037)

Which in turn cross pollinates ad nauseum until there are no fertile seeds. Far fetched perhaps but not unthinkable.

Imagine that these seeds wake up one night and start pillaging every town within 100 miles of where they were planted, eating the brains of any human they come across. Far fetched perhaps, but not unthinkable. We must ban the seeds!

Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950023)

I can think of one potential issue immediately. What happens when the "terminator seed" plants fertilize the regular plants? Spreading genes like that around our food supply is a profoundly stupid idea. Profoundly, incredibly stupid.

Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (2)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950487)

"Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects"

Like that gene becoming dominant, cross-pollinating other plantings, and making corn virtually extinct in a few generations?

Luddites. (1)

The Shootist (324679) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949625)

Hybridization can also produce sterile seeds, or a germ line that doesn't breed true.

What's the fucking problem? Generally, the idiot public.

Re:Luddites. (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949969)

Except for the problem that the pollen of these plants is not contained to the field that they are planted. That pollen will blow on the wind and can travel hundreds of miles on trucks, cars, birds and other animals and could then find its way onto other soybean plants which did not have the terminator gene. What happens then?

Is that pollen never produced on the plants with these seeds (but from my understanding of how these things work, especially when the food substance is the seed itself), you still need to pollinate the plants. I guess you could do it such that you genetically modify the plant to not produce pollen, and then also sell pollen that can be used to pollinate the genetically modified plants, but that is not what is being done here.

Now back to what happens when the pollen from the GM plant with the terminator gene pollinates a plant without that gene? Is it sterile? If so, what stops the owner of that plant from suing the company that made the other plant that now ruined his future livelihood by sterilizing his plants?

Good only for Monsanto. (5, Insightful)

holmstar (1388267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949681)

If this works:
Positive: Monsanto would no longer be able to sue farmers claiming that they are using Monsanto seed to produce a seed crop to use for planting the next year.
Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949763)

That sounds like destructive virality to me.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (5, Insightful)

crath (80215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949877)

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

This is exactly what will happen, and so Monsanto will put and end to many farmers' current practice of saving part of this years crop as next year's seed--since their seed yield will be reduced they negatively impact their future yield due to a percentage of the seed being sterile.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (4, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950333)

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

This is exactly what will happen, and so Monsanto will put and end to many farmers' current practice of saving part of this years crop as next year's seed--since their seed yield will be reduced they negatively impact their future yield due to a percentage of the seed being sterile.

Doesn't this seem like it's a single plot twist away from eliminating the ability to grow any major crop and causing the collapse of civilization as famine sweeps the globe?

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950603)

This doesn't stop until all food is proprietary. I think this fact is where the discussion should start. The corporate holy grail is for all life to be covered by "intellectual" property. Where not a breath is taken that doesn't put money in the pockets of a certain segment of the population.

Parents are going to have to sign license agreements before they can take their baby home from the hospital soon.

You know the joke about how you don't buy beer, you only rent it? We're going to live to see the day where you don't buy beer, you only license it.

Maybe I'm just cynical... (1)

SIGBUS (8236) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949897)

...but I can't help but think that such an effect would be intentional. But they have the money, er, "protected speech," to push this through.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949979)

If this works:

Positive: Monsanto would no longer be able to sue farmers claiming that they are using Monsanto seed to produce a seed crop to use for planting the next year.

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

Wouldn't that give the farmers cause to engage in class-action style legal recourse against Monsanto?

I guess what I'm saying is, where's the negative?

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950039)

Positive: Monsanto would no longer be able to sue farmers claiming that they are using Monsanto seed to produce a seed crop to use for planting the next year.

I've been beating that drum for years now, with few following along. Congratulations, though!

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

That's true, but at least it will still be possible to produce seed in greenhouses with filters. Granted, that's the environment to which I believe we should be limiting GM crops at this stage...

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950187)

I wonder if there would be grounds to sue your neighbor or Monsanto if your neighbor's Monsanto crop caused your non-Monsanto crop to become infertile.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950243)

The solution for monsanto is easy.

Sell a "seed mix".

Seed mix contains an unaltered heirloom seed, and a terminator carrying seed that makes a mature plant that produces no pollen.

The unaltered heirloom seed in the mix provides the field with pollen. Resulting seed from the vastly more productive GM corn is sterile. All seeds that grow are unprotected heirloom only. Neighboring fields are not contaminated with GM pollen.

All problems solved!

(Unless of course, your GOAL is to be the only supplier of seeds worldwide, of course. Then being negligent and prducing pollenating GM crops is directly involved in the business strategy!)

[Repost. Slashdot seems to have eaten the previous one.]

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950477)

I'd say only aloow it, if Monsanto take ALL liability with regard to ANY mutation, natural or not, for any 'Terminator' seeds that they sell.

If they can't control their product in its intended environment, meaning: if they can't keep natural spreading factors like wind, insects, etc... from interacting w/ their sold seed to produce an interative secondary seed, then they have no business marketing it as stated, much less being allowed to sue individuals for patent infringement.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950493)

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

Technically, if you're grown heirloom seeds, you'd want the contaminated ones to be sterile. You don't want Monsanto's genes. You're certainly not going to spray them with Round-up and replant seeds from the ones that survive like Percy Schmeiser testified to doing in court.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (1)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950599)

If ever there was a horrible doomsday scenario, this is it.

How long before we have that dystopian apocalypse future that all those movies were warning me about?

Tank Girl, Mad Max, 1984, Brazil, Max Headroom (I know, TV, not movie, but work with me here), Johnny Mnemonic, Buckaroo Banzai, Logan's Run, Planet of the Apes, A Boy and His Dog, etc...

I've always loved those future dystopia movies, but the idea of actually seeing that kind of shit happen for real? Damn greedy bastards.

Re:Good only for Monsanto. (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950725)

Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

This is not an "if" but a "when". It is as near to a certainty as anything can be.

If anyone other than a large, politically generous American corporation were proposing to do this it would be considered at act of bioterrorism to release terminator seeds into the wild, because cross-pollination with wild-type seeds is a certainty and therefore everyone not buying new seed every year will suffer from yield reductions due to Monsanto's seeds.

Uhmmm.... (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949685)

Wouldn't it be even better if they just didn't produce seeds at all?

Because if they produce seeds, even sterile ones, there's still the possibility of accidental contamination. While this might not pose any great threat to Monsanto, because of the seeds' strerility, the outcome could well be a potentially highly *reduced* crop count for places that were not ever intending to use Monsanto's seeds, spelling disaster on a global scale that could well result in the deaths of thousands, if not millions.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949751)

Er; the seeds are the product.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949813)

I was referring to the byproduct seeds produced by growing the product, not the seeds that Monsanto sells themselves.

Re:Uhmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949847)

Again, the seeds are the product.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949901)

Right... sorry, I was thinking of something else. Still, the worldwide consequences if cross contamination should occur could be HUGE... this is almost like an independent company offering to build and sell nuclear weapons to anybody... regardless of where they are from. It's just a colossally stupid idea that can't possibly end well.

Re:Uhmmm.... (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949797)

yes, it would be. And actually, it'd be even MORE better to engineer the plant so that the it automatically detects illegal activity by a poaching farmer and report him directly to Monsanto police via a 4G LTE connection. However in the real world, we must deal with what's feasible vs. what we would really like. And I'm guessing it was easier to engineer the plant to produce sterile seeds (which happens in nature all the time) vs. removing seeds completely.

And also btw, most grains ARE seeds, so if you have a grain with no seed, you have no grain.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949855)

Hmmm... true, that. I'd still be very worried about what cross-contamination could do to world food supplies, however.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950137)

The solution for monsanto is easy.

Sell a "seed mix".

Seed mix contains an unaltered heirloom seed, and a terminator carrying seed that makes a mature plant that produces no pollen.

The unaltered heirloom seed in the mix provides the field with pollen. Resulting seed from the vastly more productive GM corn is sterile. All seeds that grow are unprotected heirloom only. Neighboring fields are not contaminated with GM pollen.

All problems solved!

(Unless of course, your GOAL is to be the only supplier of seeds worldwide, of course. Then being negligent and prducing pollenating GM crops is directly involved in the business strategy!)

Re:Uhmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949871)

Do you think Monsanto fucking cares? Everything they do is about reducing fertility, making sure no living thing can reproduce on its own without their permission and stamp of approval. Playing God, if you will. And if you think I'm trolling or not serious: link [huffingtonpost.com]

another [cbslocal.com] .

But I'm sure you know how to use Google, you can find a lot more for yourself.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949973)

The situation that Monsanto is in a position to institute is absolutely nothing short of an unconscionable crime against the human race. That they don't even care should be grounds for immediate dissolution of the organization and summary execution of the people who would ever advocate it, The number of people that this sort of choice could kill is *STAGGERING*. It's like if some independent company found a way to cheaply make biological weapons and was selling them to whoever wanted to buy them.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950057)

I don't give a crap whether or not Monsanto cares.... they are taking an action that will, when, and not if, contamination occurs, compromise world food supplies in a extremely negative way.

It is, in my opinion, tantamount to biological weaponry, and should be penalized accordingly.

Re:Uhmmm.... (2)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950033)

Wouldn't it be even better if they just didn't produce seeds at all?

That works great with watermelons. But if you are growing... I don't know... wheat. Or corn. It's a little problematic if your lush green fields don't actually produce any product to sell.

Seedless wheat defeats the whole point.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950713)

Yeah, I know. For some reason I was thinking of fruit when I started talking about not producing seeds.

Re:Uhmmm.... (1)

c++0xFF (1758032) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950633)

As others point out, you're not making sense. But here's an alternative...

A gene that would prevent pollen production would be helpful. Then, the modified genes won't be able to spread to neighboring crops at all. Even a reduction in pollen would potentially make a difference.

Of course, now I'm the one talking nonsense. Without pollination, the crop won't produce anything at all.

So, here's a more viable option, looking at wheat for an example. Maybe engineer the pollen with some sort of defect so it can't spread as easily in the wind. Wheat self-pollinates, often before the flowers have a chance to even open, so hopefully this defect would allow self-pollination but not cross-pollination.

How do you prevent pollen from spreading? I have no idea (make the pollen heavier?). Again, I'm probably talking nonsense. IANAF (I am not a farmer), IANAGE (I am not a genetic engineer). IANAL, too, if that makes a difference.

ABCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949687)

Time to Roundup(tm) these guys
lock em up end starve em to death

Time to start some serious seed banks (5, Insightful)

twistofsin (718250) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949757)

To repopulate all the crops after their doomsday crops pollinate every other farmers fields and causes famine.

Good. (2)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949771)

It's a useful technology. It can be used to prevent volunteer glyphosate-resistant corn from infesting a following glyphosate-resistant soybean crop. It can also be used to prevent the spread of "engineered" genes to wild plants and crops in nearby fields, and it can eliminate many plant-patent lawsuits.

It will have no negative impact on most farmers because most of those who plant commercial seed understand that bin-run seed does not reproduce itself well, has poor germination, and often contains weeds. There are many vendors of traditional/open-pollinating/heritage seeds out there. Buy from them if you like that sort of thing. You will then be able to replant your own seed to your heart's content.

Re:Good. (4, Interesting)

crath (80215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949925)

It can also be used to prevent the spread of "engineered" genes to wild plants and crops in nearby fields, and it can eliminate many plant-patent lawsuits.

This assertion flies in the face of common sense; pollen from this seed will float through the air and contaminate non-engineered fields and now those farmers will also have a percentage of their crop that produces sterile seed. This time, lawsuits will flow in the opposite direction: farmers who replant seed will sue Monsanto due to reduced germination rates and reduced yields in future years.

Re:Good. (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950105)

What are you talking about. Those farmers obviously stole Monsanto's patented terminator genetics and will be sued by Monsanto.

Re:Good. (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950165)

This assertion flies in the face of common sense; pollen from this seed will float through the air and contaminate non-engineered fields and now those farmers will also have a percentage of their crop that produces sterile seed. This time, lawsuits will flow in the opposite direction: farmers who replant seed will sue Monsanto due to reduced germination rates and reduced yields in future years.

From what little I understand of Monsanto contracts... responsibility for all the side effects are hoisted upon the farmers. It will more likely be farmers suing other farmers than anyone suing Monsanto.

Re:Good. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950085)

Except that it does not actually prevent contamination. You still have cross pollination, cross pollination which no one can predict what it will produce.

Yes, the exact species that they plant will not be released into the wild as it dies out in one generation (in theory at least, but then you are talking about billions of billions of lifeforms many with errors in there genetics). But what will the pollen from a terminator variety do to a neighbors field or the other plants in the area?

Is it conceivable that it will create seeds that will not grow? Or 10000 times worse, is it possibly it will create seeds in other species that will grow into plants and sprout seeds and pollen but these second generation seeds are sterile? Creating a spreadable effect that could spread like a virus anywhere and everywhere?

Microsoft, Monsanto, Apple (0, Offtopic)

drankr (2796221) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949783)

And people ask me why I run Linux.
Well I actually run it because it's secure, plays well with my hardware and has all the software I need to do my work, but next time I'll tell them about this little gem as well..

Re:Microsoft, Monsanto, Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949955)

Microsoft, Monsanto, Apple
...but next time I'll tell them about this little gem as well..

So, where's Farmville in your books?

(ducks)

Tinfoil hat (1)

CrackP0t (2518624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949799)

Ok, I admit this qualifies as a little bit paranoid. Why do I want to have, in the wild, the ability of a species to self-terminate: a purposeful genetic dead end. Our understanding of the genome is so complete and its interactions with other species that we have zero risk of this showing up elsewhere and rendering the entire ecosystem null and void? Call me paranoid, but I can't see how the benefits out weight the risks.

Re:Tinfoil hat (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949879)

Yeah, too bad there no, like, network you could log into and find a huge array of arguments for and against.

Re:Tinfoil hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949937)

I can see mutated humans in the future. I call it the "Babies Born Dead Apocalypse".

Re:Tinfoil hat (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950001)

Ok, I admit this qualifies as a little bit paranoid.

Why do I want to have, in the wild, the ability of a species to self-terminate: a purposeful genetic dead end. Our understanding of the genome is so complete and its interactions with other species that we have zero risk of this showing up elsewhere and rendering the entire ecosystem null and void?

Call me paranoid, but I can't see how the benefits out weight the risks.

You are, obviously, not a successful Capitalist.

FYI, that's not a bad thing.

predict (1)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949873)

Monsanto is a big corporation and a well represented special interest.

Therefore, they will win.

Hybrid seeds already aren't good for replanting (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949911)

Many crops, like corn, commonly use hybrid varieties. These varieties exhibit 'hybrid vigor', which is a result of being heterozygous - they have one set of chromosomes from parent A and the other from parent B, so for all traits they have both an A and a B gene (AB). Replanting hybrid seeds would result in plants of three types (AA, AB, BB), unfortunately the AA and BB plants are usually very inbred and have low crop yields. You can do even better yields with a double-cross, which further decreases the effectiveness of replanting.

So conventional corn farmers haven't been saving seeds to replant since the the 1930's. 'Terminator' corn therefore wouldn't be much of a change.

Confusing Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949919)

I think mine is better:

Monsanto is considering commercializing terminator seeds, because they are in danger of losing a case at the Supreme Court which would allow farmers to plant second-hand Monsanto due to the concept of "basic exhaustion" of patent rights. This concept was affirmed in a recent court case of LG vs Intel in 2008; i.e. LG sold Intel chips which Intel used in an extra-patent manner, and LG was not happy. LG sued and lost because Intel was allowed to use the chips anyway they pleased because they legally purchased said those chips which gave them the "patent" rights. Because these Round-Up ready seeds happened to be in the grain elevator through legal means, any patent enforcement was gone. So Monsanto plans on selling terminator seeds so second-hand seeds won't exist. If the Supreme Court finds against Monsanto this would potentially cause patent protection to be lost for copies of software. So you could perhaps expect Microsoft to release a version of Word which is compiled for 1 computer, and if it finds itself running on a different computer, it promptly deletes itself.

The long and short of it is: If Monsanto wins, extreme economic uncertainty is averted, but common sense is suspended, and if they lose, we will slowly lose the right to read.

Re:Confusing Summary (1)

void* (20133) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949999)

Based on the links in the article, there's an easy way to make sure it doesn't apply to most software. The critical point is 'self-replicating'. Most software is not self-replicating.

Re:Confusing Summary (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950141)

So you could perhaps expect Microsoft to release a version of Word which is compiled for 1 computer, and if it finds itself running on a different computer, it promptly deletes itself.

Doesn't MS already do that? If you install Word on another computer without a valid license key, it will either refuse to start or start a limited number of times with a nag screen warning you that it's not registered and will quit working.

U$A (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949923)

you're pathetic...

black market business idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42949959)

create business to resell seeds from farmers to farmers. buy seed as sale for food. run it thru some reseller agents. sell back to farmer at significantly less than monsanto prices. GM seed laundering as it were.

gotta watch (1)

no-body (127863) | about a year and a half ago | (#42949997)

that the terminator genes won't spread over to other crops as the roundup-ready goodies did. That would be real fun to watch...

There is no good way to handle this (1)

subanark (937286) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950015)

So, Monsanto, who spends lots of money on research of GMO, wants to benefit from its research.
They can try too:
1. patent their product and take measures against anyone who uses it and doesn't pay.
-- Accidental use is far too easy. Plants don't label themselves
2. Use BRM (bio rights management) like terminator gene, or one that requires a chemical activation.
-- Like DRM you reduce the quality of the product to protect it. Also requires extra research time to do this.

So what would be an ideal solution to this problem, assuming that Monsanto can't afford to simply let farmers buy it once and propagate it as much as they like?
1. GMO is evil, and everything they do is bad. Their research should not be allowed to exist.
2. Create legislation where the government pays Monsanto for their work based on how much of their product is adopted. Then anyone can use the seeds.
3. Some other solution??

seeds and pollen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950019)

I wonder if they've solved the problem of the seeds being sterile, slowing unlicensed use, but the pollen still virile, allowing genetic contamination with neighboring crops?

BSA connection (1)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950025)

Is that Bill Gates owns a large amount of Montesanto shares. If they go up he becomes richer so of course he is promoting them through BSA.

BSA (3, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950047)

I don't see how they can equate biological replication with software:

BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might “facilitate software piracy on a broad scale” because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file.

Software isn't self replicating, a human you have to explicitly make a copy of it to get it to replicate. That's completely different than seeds that naturally replicate themselves and that replication is why you plant them in the first place. Someone could take one copy of software and install it on multiple computers, but it's not the software that's doing the replicating, it's the human.

And even if they stretch and claim that installing a program multiple times is the same as a growing plant self-replicating the seed it grew from, then there's no reason a decision against Monsanto couldn't be made narrow enough to apply only to living plants.

Whos side should I be on? (3, Interesting)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950075)

"that allowed Bowman to use Roundup indiscriminately to kill weeds without any risk of harming the soybean crop. "

Oh great.. what about the risk to humans who eat this shit? Are people round-up ready?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=weed-whacking-herbicide-p [scientificamerican.com]

I keep thinking the answer to this is not biotech but robotech...how hard can it be to create an army of roombas that kill weeds? Some hyperspectral cameras, pattern recognition and burners or pullers. It has got to be possible to engineer something workable and cost effective.

Anyway here is my delimma... if Monsanto wins they will be happy which will mean I will be sad.

If the farmers win they will be happy which means we all get to eat even more shit "indiscriminately" laced with roundup.

It seems I loose either way.

Does Microsoft & Apple Understand Basic Biolog (1)

IonOtter (629215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950083)

If you drop a CD into the soil, it won't do anything except break down over a few million years. If you drop a CD into a computer, it still won't do anything without user intervention. It might start an auto-run routine, but it won't fully install. (Unless it's a virus or trojan, but that's another kettle of fish.)

However, if you drop a seed...well...pretty much anywhere that doesn't immediately kill it, and it gets wet? It's going to self-replicate. It will complete it's life-cycle and produce more seeds, no human intervention required.

So from a software company, this case has already been decided?

Nature has prior art. The BDS's arguments are invalid.

Re:Does Microsoft & Apple Understand Basic Bio (1)

IonOtter (629215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950101)

Arrggh. BDS = BSA/The Software Alliance

BSA's position doesn't make sense (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950099)

I don't see how they can equate biological replication with software:

BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might “facilitate software piracy on a broad scale” because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file.

Software isn't self replicating, you have to explicitly make a copy of it to get it to replicate itself. That's completely different from seeds that naturally replicate themselves and which is why you plant them in the first place. You could take one copy of a program and install it on multiple computers, but the human is doing the replicating, not the software itself.

Terminate Monstano's corporate charter instead? (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950103)

And those of every other rent-extracting legacy megacorp along with them?

Does Microsoft or Apple Understand Basic Biology? (2)

IonOtter (629215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950155)

If you drop a CD into the soil, it won't do anything except break down over a few million years. If you drop a CD into a computer, it still won't do anything without user intervention. It might start an auto-run routine, but it won't fully install. (Unless it's a virus or trojan, but that's another kettle of fish.)

However, if you drop a seed...well...pretty much anywhere that doesn't immediately kill it, and it gets wet? It's going to self-replicate. It will complete it's life-cycle and produce more seeds, no human intervention required.

So from a software company, this case has already been decided?

Nature has prior art. The BSA's arguments are invalid.

BSA is NOT in the software industry (3)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950247)

BSA is in the legal assault industry.

"Oddly". You keep using that word. (1)

idontgno (624372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950297)

Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry.

It's not odd at all.

Monsanto's "innovation" is protected under US Patent law. Traditionally, patents were protected by suing the infriging party. However, the "terminator gene" is a technological self-help measure: Monsanto can enforce their patent on their own, without intervention of the law, by simply making it literally impossible to grow a second generation of crops by planting the first. It's genetic DRM.

That's the BSA's angle. They're arguing to protect DRM. For the purposes of protecting proprietary rights, patent (genetic behaviors) and copyright (copying software) are close enough that a precedent against Monsanto would make software pigopolists nervous about their own out-of-court self-help measures.

GET A BRAIN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950431)

i support this, because it doesn't contaminate regular crops..
go get a fucking a brain!!!

Sometimes even greed leads to a good result (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950485)

While I understand that this removes the ability of a farmer to further breed the crop they've bought, I still prefer sterile GMOs to crosspollenation.

Cuttings? (1)

Dwedit (232252) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950489)

Many plants don't exclusively reproduce from seeds, they can also reproduce from cuttings.

Monsanto's track record (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950509)

Scientists in Canada confirmed Posilac (the growth hormone they give many dairy cows in the USA) causes cancer, which makes sense considering what cancer is. What would seeds that don't reproduce naturally do to us? (SEEDS! that grow plants that don't reproduce?!) Is anyone else concerned?

Monopoly (1)

AndyCanfield (700565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42950705)

Patent, and Copyright, is basically a government-issued monopoly on making copies.

I'm going to do like Monsanto. I'll write a computer virus, copyright it, spread it, and sue the ass off of anyone who gets infected.

A patent on a life form makes no sense. Life forms, by their very nature, make copies of themselves. How can Monsanto claim an exclusive right to make Widget Seeds when the Widget seeds themselves are dedicated to making widget seeds?

What will happen when Monsanto makes a human gene that cures epilepsy? Will the law prohibit cured epileptics from having children?

Perhaps ONLY 'terminator' seeds should be patentable.

Corpiragation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950715)

I don't know wtf that word means just like I don't see the point in GM seeds other than to line some corporate wallets.

Is there something wrong with the seeds evolution has provided?

Author rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42950723)

I'm pretty sure Monsanto didn't obtain modification rights and commercial exclusivity of gene code from the original author. What of software, binary or source, with no identified author or license rights?

- Armando

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