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Monsanto Agrees Not to Sell "Terminator" Seeds

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the if-the-farmers-tank,-so-do-we dept.

Science 247

flanksteak writes "Monsanto has bowed to pressure not to sell single-use seeds for their genetically modified crops. These so-called "terminator" seeds work only once. The resulting plants produce sterile seeds that can't be used to grow more food. This forces farmers to keep buying seed to grow additional crops. Monsanto says it's a way to recoup the cost of genetic engineering. Are we going to have to buy "seed" licenses to grow food? Read about it at the USNews Web site." On a planet covered with 6 billion humans, agriculture is our most important concern. Yes, more important than the Internet. We rarely pay attention to food-growing on Slashdot, but nerds need to eat too. (Fun fact of the day: even frozen pizza and Hostess cupcakes are made from farm products!)

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247 comments

Seed Service Pack 1 released (2)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617411)

This sounds like a wonderful opportunity to get lots of people on the upgrade treadmill. Imagine a grower getting something like this:

Dear Seed'98 owner:

We are proud to announce Seed 2000! This novel product is an upgrade/replacement for Seed '98, for which our records show you are a registered customer.

Many people felt that the elimination of all birds eating Seed '98 was an overly ambitious goal. Heh, the insects really liked it anyway! In response to customer demand Seed 2000 is now completely bird friendly, causing at most mild diarrhea.

The gene that caused half the seeds to grow downwards has been fixed.

Plants will no longer expire on Y2K rollover, the death gene now handles negative ages correctly.

In addition Seed 2000 only requires twice the water that Seed '98 did.

We hope you will send us your money soon, so we can ship your new seeds.

Yours truly,

SeedSoft Inc.

P.S. If you have difficulty planting the new seeds due to high levels of insects in your fields, see our new genetically engineered Bird on our avian pages.

Genetic intellectual property (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617412)

It is far from clear that genes should be patentable at all. After all they haven't been developed by the biotechnology companies. It's just a cut and paste job from the creator's original source. What a shame she forgot to GPL it.

Several human genes have been patented also, so in the future it may be wise to consult a lawyer before any unauthorized reproductive activity.

Re:Bad for the small farmer - addendum (1)

Ripp (17047) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617413)

OK, I looked like an idiot there....I'm still half asleep. *snore*

1. Not *all* farmers do this. A lot of 'em do buy seed. A lot of 'em work with seed companies planting new hybrids, etc. etc. But, generally you do set some aside. You can't consistently plant seed from the same crop over and over again as it gets "inbred" as some others have said.

2. This still seems like a move aimed directly toward the big farming companies, though. I'm sure this stuff isn't cheap. The reward vs. cost wouldn't be worth it unless you had thousands of acres of the stuff.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

kevcol (3467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617434)

Huh? How are antibiotics used in making seeds? Breeding animals I can see, but seeds?

terminator gene is a Good Thing ^TM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617435)

As far as I am concerned, the terminator gene would have been a good thing to have on those plants. At least it makes sure that the plants can't hybridize quickly with naturally occuring plants, or get out of control. Can you imagine these plants hybridizing with weeds, and they will be resistant to herbicides? That will be fun...

Technology Review had a good article on this a few months back...

Re:Dire consequences ... (2)

theaphila (56090) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617437)

ok, some useful info on corn that i may not have exactly right, so any farmers (or Iowans) out there feel free to clarify.
corn, as grown for food, is sterile. you can't plant your leftover food corn. in order to be used for "seed corn", it must be painstakingly hand-fertilized (i.e., tie off the tassels with a paper bag then collect the stuff & redistribute, inseminating the poor celibate plants)
this is the result of centuries of genetic engineering the slow way.
the kind of corn we eat could not reproduce in the wild without human intervention, i.e. farmers must buy new seed from people who do corn sex.

Terminator Seeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617438)

We all know Terminator's don't go away. You think you harvested them last year, but.....
[Arnold Voice]
They'll be back


I couldnt resist.

Re:Environmental Problems? (1)

erf (101305) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617439)

The FDA ruled that genetic modification of food was in the same class as food additives. In other words, including genes from other species in your corn is equivalent to Red Dye #2.

There is a serious conflict of interest in the FDA and the agricultural industry (ditto for the USDA & FCC): senior FDA folks go on to six figure jobs at Monsanta, ADM, etc. when they leave public service. You think they're going to bite the hand that feeds them?

Re:Monsanto Really Scares Me (1)

Wiggin (97119) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617440)

This line caught my eye too. This just sounds too much like a line from a bad scifi movie.

So they start slipping in other hidden genes, and then they start adding innocent things to the water (like flouride... ;) ) to turn these genes on and off.

Then what happens when Dr. Evil comes along and discoveres a way to flip a hidden magic *switch* to kill all of the plants with these genes?

Nobody knows if *any* food is safe (1)

briancarnell (94247) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617441)

"Are GM seeds/food/etc even safe? In the US, medicine cannot be sold unless it's approved by the FDA."

There are *no* protocols for testing the safety of genetically modified food either through direct genetic engineering or traditional hybridization techniques. There is simply no analogue to the sort of methods used to screen pharmaceutical compounds (and such protocols are impossible to design from a practical standpoint).

There is no evidence yet that there are any specific problems with genetically modified foods that are any different that the sorts of problems encounter with hybridized foods.

Bad use of a good technology (1)

deno (814) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617442)

"Genetical engineering" is probably the most important thing humans have learned how to do in a long time. Yes, I think it is much more important than internet .-)

Imagine the possibilities in front of us - plants could be made "better" in various ways:

- The rice lacks some vitamines? Let us fix this..
- Beeing vegetarian is bad for you because some proteines are missing in plants - well, not any more!

And what does our dear food-industry produce using this technology?

- plants which cannot reproduce: so you have to buy seeds again and again and... With a good chance that your neighbour will have to do the same, because of the cross-insemination.

- plants with higher resistivity against insect-killing and (other) plants-killing chemicals... Meaning more chemicals can be trown over the fields, killing everything except the plant they sold you. As a side effect, YOU will get more more chemicals in your food, insect become more resistent and all those farmers who do not buy "resistant" seeds get ruined.


I suppose I should not be surprised - after all, the same thing happens every time a new industry is build: the "bad guys" get a grip on it first.

M$ (0)

Wiggins (3161) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617450)

I am sure we won't have to worry about this getting out of hand, because M$ will probably buy all of the fertile land in the Northern Hemisphere.

Woohoo! (2)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617456)

When I first read this (a couple of weeks ago. d'oh!), I gave a little dance. Fortunately, no-one saw me.
I've a few problems with GM food, and terminator was the main one. Now all we've got to worry about is the ridiculous amount of antibiotics that goes into making the seeds. Once that's dealt with, as far as I'm concerned most of the problems with the production will be over. Legal problems, however...

No way! (1)

egoebel (49853) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617459)

Hostess Cup Cakes are made from farm products? You mean that crap occurs naturally?

What the hell am I going to eat now?

Good thing (2)

Chilles (79797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617461)

This is truly a good thing.

This would mean that the "high-tech" genetically engineered plants are also available to third world farmers who could benefit very much from some properties of those plants such as resistance to certain diseases and insects.
That in turn would benefit the environment because they would need less chemicals.

Everybody happy, including Monsanto, they get a better image

...Infertile Seeds..... (1)

BradyB (52090) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617465)

If the seeds that they had to buy every year produced bigger vegetables, more wheat, larger potatoes, but if those seeds don't do that through genetic engineering what's the point in using those seeds.

And I agree with comment #2 those twho things couldn't be farther away from being food.

When's the next Slashdot Radio coming out?

Open source genetics (2)

Basje (26968) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617467)

With all this genetic modification going on, shouldn't the open source movement adopt it's own project? Start up the FFF, free food foundation?

Maybe hacking (reverse engineer) these new seeds to make them spawn non sterile offspring?

Never mind me. I've had my try at biotechnology, and I like computers better. Lucky for all of us heh?

wow (2)

Suydam (881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617471)

This is truly frightening..but I have to ask: what makes these seeds to great that anyone would be WILLING to buy seeds that can't re-produce? Can't farmers just walk down the street and buy someone else's seeds that DO re-produce? If all the big corp's start making terminator seeds can some small-time organic farmer just start selling his seeds? It seems like even if MonSanto (MS...hmmm) wanted to become the evil empire of farm products, they'd have a losing battle on their hands.

Re:wow - Producing seeds (1)

Sawyer (30226) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617472)

Having fields full of plants with exactly the same genetic makeup decreases biodiversity and if they are suceptable to a certain pest or fungus then the whole crop is wiped out. Every year new strains are needed, and (hopefully) have even better pestilence resistance. I'm not 100% on this - but - the farmers contractually aren't allowed to sell or plant the seeds from last years crop. There is some initiative to sell/trade/plant seeds from last years crops, but the amount of seed needed is large and the scale isn't there. Pretty much buying seed from large producers like Monsanto is usually the most economical solution.

Resowing, GenEng, and farmers (1)

Xamot (924) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617473)

I was just discussing this with my Dad about a two months ago. He has been a farmer most of his life. I did work on the farm, but it has been awhile so this is all IIRC.

The "Terminator" seeds don't really effect US farmers. Why? Because they already buy new seeds every year. Why would they do that if they can re-sow what they have? Because they can't, current seeds have been cross-bread and genetically engineered already to the point where the second-gen seeds are not nearly as good as the original. How are they not as good? They don't produce as much crop as the originals, they aren't as resistant to bugs and weather, they aren't as healthy, etc. The cost of new seeds every year doesn't compare to the equipment costs and amount produced with new seeds. It is economically in their best interest to pay a little extra to get more yield.

So smart-guy who does this affect? Third world countries. Many of these farmers don't have all the equipment that big first world farmers have. They are out there with their ox and hand plow. So for them it does become economically better to re-sow seeds even if they don't produce as well. The cost of the seeds is their highest cost.

I think the US farmer organizations lobbied against it on principle though.

--

RAFI wins again (1)

freq (15128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617474)

i have been following this issue for a while now, and though i believe the "terminator" would not affect the 3rd world farmers who save seeds (3rd world subsistence farmers probably couldnt afford to buy hi-tech seed in the first place) RAFI is still sending an important message to the Mega-Agri corporations of the world.

The real victory here is that RAFI fought a successful info battle with a giant Agri-corporation like Monsanto and got them to bend.

RAFI even suggested that this "terminator" technology could be transferred to other plants and crops growing nearby... realistically this is impossible, but still a great scare tactic! they were effectively sending the message that "these crops will sterilize the world and turn it into a barren wasteland"

It may be worth noting that the vast majority of 1st world farmers dont plant part of their crop for seed, (its just not cost effective for them to save seed) "store bought" seed has some really fabulous insecticides and chemicals on it that helps them germinate and keeps out the bugs...

i hate to be pessimistic, but this little victory is only one small battle in the war against hunger and proprietary technology in general (the atrocities of the ADM's and Monsantos of the world that you DONT hear about are where you should really be concerned) because its really all about maximizing shareholder wealth, not feeding people.


feed the world!
--freq

Duh! (1)

evilj (94895) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617475)

The whole point of terminator seeds is to prevent cross-polination. One of the big problems with GM foods is that once they are out there, you can't get them back (as they will cross-polinate with normal crops), and with pesticide-resistant GM versions of grains you could end up with superweeds. So, terminator seeds are good, as the adult plants won't be able to cross-polinate natural organic produce. That way, people who choose to eat natural, organic, non-Frankenstein foods, can do so safe in the knowledge that their food hasn't been cross-polinated with some untested genetically modified food that may cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

Re:Confused. (1)

Rupes (61616) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617476)

>Actually, this is all much ado about nothing. For
>the last 40 or 50 years almost all crops have
>been grown with hybrid (crossbred) seeds. The
>result is that they don't "breed true" anyway -
>you can't save seeds and replant the next year,
>because the resulting plants will not have the
>same characteristics as the hybrid plant. You
>already can't sell the resulting seeds because
>nobody would want them, as the quality and
>productivity would not be the same as the
>commercial hybrids. The real risk (hopefully
>unlikely) is that if civilization collapsed, and
>hybrid seeds were no longer available, we mostly >don't have the seed stock for self-sustaining
>agriculture anymore. (but see organizations like
>http://www.seedsavers.org/).

This is not entirely correct - it does not apply to certain crops, such as wheat, rice, soybean, and cotton. Since one of Monsanto's best-known products is the Roundup Ready soybeans (which are genetically engineered to be used with a certain pesticide), Monsanto certainly has a commercial interest in actually using this technology.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

wabewalker (42099) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617477)

I think rde means that they make the plants resistant to RoundUp which Monsanto also solls. Then farmers can go out and happily spray more RoundUp on their fields.

Of course, weeds will eventually become resistant to RoundUp, too. Not to mention the many other harmful effects that an increased pesticide use can / will have on the environment.

Also scary... (1)

Norman Lorrain (11572) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617478)

Is how Monsanto enforces [producer.com] it's "licenses" to use it's product. Even if your neighbor's field cross-polinates with yours, you can be held liable for growing Roundup-ready canola (a herbicide-resistant crop).

Re:Perfect thing for free market to take care of (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617479)

Except that, being genetically engineered, the Monsanto plants might be more marketable than the normal type. In this situation, the public demands that the farmers produce these exceptional veggies and the farmers, to remain in business, have to plant them. After all, who wants to buy a 5" tomato when you can have a 25" one?

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Single-use seed only a tiny part of the farm issue (1)

uncleFester (29998) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617480)

You should be more curious (or concerned?) about where the market infrastructure of the ag industry. You have food prices going up, production costs shooting sky-high yet raw commodity prices (the $/bushel or whatever unit the farmer gets in return) are the lowest values they have been in 30+ years. A decent tractor costing ~$100k per, harvester costing ~$200k per, yet soybeans averaging $5.00/bushel, corn ~$2.00/bushel. How the hell can you expect to keep alive in this kinda busisness?

I come from a farm; I'm not continuing the tradition and in a way it breaks my heart. But today's market makes it almost impossible to do so. Think about that the next time you buy your $FOO at the grocery.

-fester

ps... some other values for semi-completenes. Say. ~35 bushel/acre bean yield, ~180 bu/ac corn. Beans can be $40-70/acre to produce, corn $30-60. Yields are estimates based on what our farm has done in the recent past, costs are semi-WAG based on schoolwork a number of years ago. And of course this ignores efficiencies, maint. costs, etc... and let's not get into property tax.

Also would be neat if (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617481)

Monsanto made seeds that germinate only when fertilized by other Monsanto GM'd plants - kind of a genetic 'embrace, extend and privitize'. And if they could make some sort of Monsanto logo grow on each leaf, perhaps GM'd so that advertising shows up on each corn stalk like "Use only genuine Monsanto products" or "Best grown with Monsanto!".

Chuck

Re:Bad use of a good technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617502)

I agree that its a bad use of technology but you're wrong about veggie food:

Organic Veggie food is better for you than non-veggie food plan and simple - read macspotlight for a lowdown on how bad meat is for you - essentially Meat does to your digestive system what Cigarettes do to your lungs, in fact meat eating is directly linked to cancer but none of teh cancer research people want to publicise or research this because it would make them unpopular.

Aaron (TheJackal)

Re:Woohoo! (2)

jdigital (84195) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617503)

Two issues :

1) Re: Antibiotics.. As a medical student i beleive the only really agricultural issues involved with antibiotic use is in the large mostly unregulated amounts and varieties of antibiotics which are available to farmers for use on livestock. When it comes to this, farily potent chemicals are used with trace amounts being detectable in the end produce, which is then eaten by man. The problem with this is that basically when humans take unrequired antibiotics, they expose the drugs to whatever microbiological species that may be residing in the host human. The result is darwinian evolution leading to selection of micro-organisms that are resistant to the drug. However the importance of trace amounts of antibiotics prolly is quite insignificant compared to the EXCESSIVE amount prescribed by medical practitioners... from memory the french have the worst prescribing habits, followed by australia...

b) Re: Terminator gene. Although monsanto has canned the terminator gene project, they are now funding for switchable enhancement genes. For example they may design a gene that enables rice to surivive wider ranges of temperatures, but this enhancement would only be active in the presence of a secondary substance that would be added to soil etc... and in the absence of this substance, the rice would revert to being plain old rice..
The socio-economic ramifications of this are obviously not as sharp as those of the terminator gene (which limited the reproductive capabilities of the grain, effectively forcing farmers to purchase grain each season), however from a argo-biochemical perspective i would be VERY interested in the techniques involved in embedding such a regulation mechanism.. and then see if u can get it to factor large polynomials :)

josh

Re:reminds me of the Open Source vs Closed Source (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617504)

It's not that you don't have a point (because you do), but I'd bet that us /.ers could probably make a correlation between just about anything and Open/Closed Source.

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Re:...Infertile Seeds..... (1)

YellowBook (58311) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617505)

If the seeds that they had to buy every year produced bigger vegetables, more wheat, larger potatoes, but if those seeds don't do that through genetic engineering what's the point in using those seeds.

The main feature that's genetically engineered into Monsanto's GM crops is resistance to particular herbicides. This lets farmers using Monsanto crops drench their fields in Monsanto herbicides to kill off weeds without killing off the crops. Deciding whether that's actually such a bright idea is left as an exercize to the reader.

My opinion: I'm not against genetically modified food in general; all agricultural products are genetically modified, that's what defines a domesticated plant or animal. It doesn't make that much of a difference that traditional crops are genetically modified by breeding as opposed to transgenic methods. I think some GM crops, like Flavor Saver tomatoes, are a Good Thing. But when GM techniques are used 1) to create artificial monopolies, as with terminator seeds, or 2) to allow agricultural intensification (higher energy inputs per calorie returned) in cash crops, I'm not so happy.


--
The scalloped tatters of the King in Yellow must cover
Yhtill forever. (R. W. Chambers, the King in Yellow)

Re:using DNA/Gene technology to X-breed instead of (1)

BenH (4366) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617506)

This is an interesting point. Actually, European countries are trying to block hormon meat, and European population appears to be strongly against GM modified food.

On another hand, it appears that USA Gov. is trying to force european countries to accept those products via mondial commerce organisation. (we already have to pay huge penalities for refusing meat with hormones).

Re:Confused. (1)

justin_saunders (99661) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617507)

--------------------------------------------------

And wouldn't Monsanto just hike the price of buying seeds to cover the fact that every customer is going to buy the seeds only once?
--------------------------------------------------
Monsanto should raise prices because people don't trust the new seed, and want to do things the way they've always been done? perhaps i'm misunderstanding you here.
What I'm saying is: Monsanto obviously expected to make lots of money buy re-selling seeds each season to the same customers. Now, they can't, so they might have to meet those budget expectations by raising the price of the seeds, seeing as now people will only buy them once.

Cheers,
Justin.

Re:Perfect thing for free market to take care of (1)

Xamot (924) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617508)

Actually I don't think the free market would solve this one. Big farmers(all US farmers even the small ones are big compared to many third world farmers) would still buy the ones with the "Terminator" genes, because they buy new seeds every year. The seeds have advantages that these farmers are willing to pay for.

In fact, unless Monsanto patented it and inforces the patent, I would think other seed companies would try to copy the idea. They would all still happily make enough money off the larger farmers, while 3rd world farmers would find life much more difficult.

--

Re:Monsanto Really Scares Me (1)

mircea (28953) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617509)

>Is there anything these guys can't genetically engineer:
> Now Monsanto is considering technologies that turn engineered genes on and off in plants after they are sprayed with a chemical.

This isn't big news. It's even a basic technique in molecular biology. Hell, I'm only a student, but I do it in the lab every day.
However, this might hint into the way they do the fertility thing. Did you think of how they grow the fertility-impaired seeds in the first place? Yes, crossing of two different parental strains might be an answer - but it's a long shot and would lead to many complications. Since the Microsoft analogy has already been used, they might have used a "back door" into their "terminator" seeds, by placing a essential gene for reproduction under control of a promoter that's off unless a special chemical is present, then grow their production crops in presence of the chemical. It's simple enough to do, and wouldn't need as much time/money for R&D as any other approach.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617510)

I can see one good thing about the terminator gene: it would have been one further limit to gene- modified crops establishing themselves in the wild.

Re:Duh! (1)

Rupes (61616) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617511)

>The whole point of terminator seeds is to prevent cross-polination. One of the big problems with GM foods is that once they are out there,
>you can't get them back (as they will cross-polinate with normal crops), and with pesticide-resistant GM versions of grains you could end up >with superweeds. So, terminator seeds are good, as the adult plants won't be able to cross-polinate natural organic produce. That way,
>people who choose to eat natural, organic, non-Frankenstein foods, can do so safe in the knowledge that their food hasn't been
>cross-polinated with some untested genetically modified food that may cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

However, the Terminator patent allows for the gene that prevents live seeds from being 'blocked' until the seeds are chemically treated - at that point, the next generation's seeds are supposed to be nonviable. (This approach makes it much easier for Monsanto to grow seeds to sell). However, if a few seeds out of the bunch are not correctly treated, then these plants which have been genetically modified to survive better AND have a death-gene hidden away could cross-pollinate with natural organic produce - spreading the terminator gene much wider than just the Monsanto crops. If the gene were somehow triggered by the environment at this point, the result would be famine - the doomsday scenario.

Re:Dire consequences ... (2)

jwy (73876) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617532)

Can you imagine the results of accidental cross-pollinization with 'Terminator' crops and regular???

It could've resulted in the accidental genocide of, say, corn.

This shows a complete and utter ignorance of natural selection. Think about what you just said. Organisms that win out in natural selection do so according to their darwinian fitness. For those of you who don't know what this is, darwinian fitness is defined as an organism's ability to pass on its genes.

Any plant that crossed with a terminator and inherited the terminator genes would be unable to reporduce. Period. That means that its darwinian fitness would be zero. Such a plant cannot pass on its genes, and therefore cannot compete against a plant that isn't sterile. For that matter, it can't compete at all.

The truly sad thing isn't that this guy doesn't understand ecology, it's that so many otherwise intelligent environmental organizations have put forth this same absurd argument.

Don't Play With Your Food (1)

Bazman (4849) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617533)

I guess this gives me a chance to plug my band, Monkey Bucket, and their latest song, "Dont Play With Your Food".

The corn used to ripen under the sun,
and the fruit used to follow the flower,
now its more like a man in a white coat saying
"Igor, turn up the power",

I dont want tomatoes that keep for a year,
or potatoes the size of my head,
when I'm eating a meal I want something that's real
and I remember what my mama said

Dont play with your food, dont play with your food
How many times must I tell you dont play with your food.

there's a couple more verses, but you'll have to buy the album for that!

http://www.lancs.ac.uk/~rowlings/Band for a website in severe need of an update!

Re:not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617534)

I don't believe that this is entirely true: my 18 year old geek-wannabe daughter wouldn't eat it if it were real food, and she -likes- Hostess stuff. :(

Re:Woohoo! (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617535)

As a French that lived a few month in north America, I must say that US and Canadian doctors are far worse than French ones when it comes to antibiotics. They just look at your 5 minutes (after 3 hours of wait), give you a truckload of antibiotics and "good bye". Then when you come back 2 weeks later they start again with another antibiotics. The third time you come back with still the same problem they start digging and find that it has nothing to do with bacteria in the first place.... heck, I could be a US doctors too, prescribing antibiotics to every problem that shows up is well within my competence.

Direct action campaign to ban Terminator Technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617536)

This site has the lowdown on everything Terminator... http://www.rafi.org/misc/terminator.html

Re:wow (1)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617537)

If it cross-pollinates, you get a hybrid that produces sterile seeds, same as many other hybrids--just make sure the can't-make-seeds gene is dominant and put it in both strands. End of problem.

The more I think about it, the more Terminator seeds seem like a bad thing economically, but from an environmental standpoint, aren't they a good thing? I mean, if you're concerned about GM plants contaminating the "real" environment, then GM plants that don't reproduce would take care of that problem by never accidentally propagating. I mean, I like corn, but if some GM corn gets loose and becomes the only edible plant on Earth, I'm gonna get mighty sick of corn.

Here's a hypothetical question that makes the Libertarian in me cringe: what if a country's purchases a site-license and takes care of seed distribution itself?

--

Where this rated in the UK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617538)

What is interesting to note was the BBC had this as the top story all day long, whereas NPR had a short mention. And this happened over a week ago, so note how 'quick' the US has picked up on this.

And, for the USA reader consider:
The use of bacteria genes (bacillis Tsomething (BT))in corn, soybeans has resulted in products that the UK, Japan and others won't import. So many US farmers won't use it, even though the plants are supposed to kill the pest worms when the eat them.
(BT is the only effective organic killer of the pest worms. So, if the worms develop a resistance, the only product organic growers have for killing worms will be gone.)
The Canadians have banned BGH (the milk enhancing chemical) because it harms the cows.
Rice growing countries found the high yeild rice was not insect resistant.
Etc la.

The rest of the world is not adopting wholesale the chemical/genetic methods embraced by the US ag industry.

Not ALL GMO (Geneticly Modified Organisms) are 'bad' however. An example: Monsanto is working on growing plastic. Yup. Dirt+sun+water+plant=plastic. As opposed to using oil.

Re:6 Billion People is TOO MANY (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617539)

Ask the christians... they are the one who says "grow and populate the earth" (and I won't speak about their no-abortion, no-birth control policy)

Re:not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617540)

Technically, the assertion was that they are made from "farm products". And your idea of "food" depends critically on what species of critter you are.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617541)

I think rde means that they make the plants resistant to RoundUp
Not just Roundup. When new genes are spliced into plants, the most effective way to do so is to make the new genes antibiotic resistant, and then use antibiotics to filter out stuff that isn't wanted. They're also used to trace the genes once they've been inserted.
For an example of some of the problems that can ensue, check out this article [newscientist.com] from New Scientist.

Hostess cupcakes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617543)

Are you SURE??? I always thought they were some hybrid edible plastic or foam...

Re:reminds me of the Open Source vs Closed Source (1)

Duckie01 (10586) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617545)

There's one big difference though. Anyone with an old 486 and the required knowledge can write Open Source Software and become a hacker. With Open Source, everyone benefits. The original author gets a better product due to bug fixes and patches done by others, the users also get a better product and for free.

I don't see a billion of people worldwide do their genetic manipulation experiments on the kitchen table though. (I mean with seeds, mind ya! Duh! *CROP* seeds! Leave the women out of it for once ;) *snicker*)

So in this case, what would be the advantage for the corporation if the farmer could distribute the seeds for free?

I'm glad the market had the power in this case

Re:Nobody knows if *any* food is safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617562)

There is no evidence because it hasn't been tested! Duh! Ten years ago these companies convinced congress that gene research was *so different* that it required patents. Now, they are saying it is no different and does not require testing. This *IS NOT* hybradization! They are doing things like inserting animal genes into plants, etc, things that CANNOT be done by mere hybradization alone and you tell me that it isn't any different than hybradization. Not only that, but many farmers who buy GM seeds have to sign exclusivity licenses that force them to buy fertilizer/pesticide from the same company that sold the GM seeds. Hmmm.... sounds kinda like an evil company we are all familiar with ...

Re:Nobody knows if *any* food is safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617563)

There is no evidence because it hasn't been tested! Duh!
Ten years ago these companies convinced congress that gene research was *so different* that it required patents. Now, they are saying it is no different and does not require testing.
This *IS NOT* hybradization! They are doing things like inserting animal genes into plants, etc, things that CANNOT be done by mere hybradization alone and you tell me that it isn't any different than hybradization.
Not only that, but many farmers who buy GM seeds have to sign exclusivity licenses that force them to buy fertilizer/pesticide from the same company that sold the GM seeds.
Hmmm.... sounds kinda like an evil company we are all familiar with ...

A couple of points (1)

Alex Reynolds (102024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617564)

One, with a little more background reading, the reader will notice that there is nothing stopping Monsanto from *licensing* the 'terminator' gene technology to other agribusinesses. Monsanto has only agreed to not distribute this genetically modified seed under its own setup. This is an important point, because it allows Monsanto an out to make profits from the technology while preserving the corporate image in the public eye.

Two, the argument that Monsanto deserves to make profits from its technology is valid.

However...

By distributing fertile seed, they in effect kill any future profits and their own business.

...this reasoning is reductio ad absurdum.

Assuming that all farmers are forced by this 'terminator' gene business model to use seed of the same genetic constitution, any natural predator that adapts to consume modified seed will be very successful.

Assume further that 50% of world farmers buy this seed and then redistribute new seed to the remaining half. This should provide enough profits for Monsanto to develop a more robust, higher-yield seed, and provide enough incentive for the first half to buy the second generation of modified seed, and so on.

The percentages are hypothetical but the point remains. In the short term, Monsanto would gain from distributing the 'terminator' gene technology. In the long run it would not be such a hot idea.

Re:Nobody knows if *any* food is safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617565)

There is no evidence because it hasn't been tested! Duh!

Ten years ago these companies convinced congress that gene research was *so different* that it required patents. Now, they are saying it is no different and does not require testing.

This *IS NOT* hybradization! They are doing things like inserting animal genes into plants, etc, things that CANNOT be done by mere hybradization alone and you tell me that it isn't any different than hybradization.

Not only that, but many farmers who buy GM seeds have to sign exclusivity licenses that force them to buy fertilizer/pesticide from the same company that sold the GM seeds.

Hmmm.... sounds kinda like an evil company we are all familiar with ...

Good News If True ... (1)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617566)

... but I find it a little hard to believe that nobody's seemed to think to ask Monsanto how long they will refrain from marketing this technology.

What's to stop them from going ahead with their original plans after things have quieted down? It's not like they handed the patents over to the Rural Advancement Foundation or the UN or whoever.

Almost funny... (1)

The Creator (4611) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617567)

>Open source genetics?
You mean like... evolution(keep in mind all the parallels with OSS an ev.)?

>Maybe hacking (reverse engineer) these new seeds to make them spawn non sterile offspring?
Isn't that like cracking the copy-protection on software? I41 whould like to see the copyright-trial in a case like that! OJ.. drop dead!






LINUX stands for: Linux Inux Nux Ux X

Visit RAFI (1)

freq (15128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617568)

i forgot to post a link to their site... it wasn't posted in the article.

http://www.rafi.org
Rural Advancement Foundation International

Re:wow (4)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617570)

The really scary issue with the Terminator gene is that of cross-pollination. No one knows how likely GM products are to cross fertilise with nearby crops, nor do they know how close they have to be to be "nearby". This is a huge question over GM in general, and the doubt is sufficient to justify a halt on the entire commercial usage of GM crops, until more is known.

If Terminator crops cross-pollinate with non-GM, then the seed from that plant will also be substantial sterile (I'm assuming Terminator is dominant, else how do they produce it commercially). This means that not only will the crop of seed purchased from Monsanto fail to deliver seed for next year, but so may the neighbour's crops. Why should any farmer or agri-business have the right to destroy another farmer's crop like this ?

(UK poster - we're scared and angry on this side of the pond, not just the duck squeezers)

Terminator Genes (4)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617573)

I just don't understand the ruckus about this. Conventional hydridized crops don't breed true; if you want to replant the same hybrid you must buy new seeds anyway.

Re:Perfect thing for free market to take care of (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617575)

That's one way to look at it. Another is that Monsanto has a point -- without this gene, many of their research costs end up going for nothing.

IOW, the "free market" is producing pressure to reduce R&D. Hardly a new occurence, but definitely a downside in this case.

Kythe
(Remove "x"'s from

Confused. (1)

justin_saunders (99661) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617582)

If you can grow your own seeds after buying an initial crop whats stopping you from selling your seeds at a discount?

And wouldn't Monsanto just hike the price of buying seeds to cover the fact that every customer is going to buy the seeds only once?

Cheers,
Justin.

An interesting situation... (2)

palp (90815) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617583)

This is an interesting situation - at one end, if Monsanto were to limit these plants, it would have a negative impact on farming. On the other hand, I have to agree that they deserve to make money off of it, and if they do not have a method of limiting the seeds, what is to stop a farmer from selling off his seeds cheaper? And once everyone has Monsanto seeds, Monsanto has no more buisness, and they lose out. Doesn't seem very fair for them.

But if they were to use some method of limiting seeds/distribution/whatever, then the world would not benefit nearly as much, and we would still have a large food shortage.

As much as I agree that this should be in widespread use, Monsanto should definitly get what they deserve for it, as well.

Dire consequences ... (2)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617584)

Can you imagine the results of accidental cross-pollinization with 'Terminator' crops and regular??? (It's been proven to happen)
It could've resulted in the accidental genocide of, say, corn.
Good riddance. That's probably why Mosanto has ditched the plan.
---

Re:wow (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617585)

The problem is that the seeds don't just contain the terminator gene; the original plan was to incorporate that gene into all seeds sold by Monsanto. If you wanted to remain competitive, you'd have to use GM seeds, which would have the terminator gene.

Re:An interesting situation... (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617587)

And once everyone has Monsanto seeds, Monsanto has no more buisness, and they lose out. Doesn't seem very fair for them.
That'd be true if Monsanto designed one seed and sat back waiting for the money to come in. Competition from Novartis et al, though, means that they're constantly looking for new stuff to sell. Think of the next generation as BugAway 2.0 or something.

Re:Confused. (1)

stitch (1429) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617589)

Intellectual property on the seed. Remember the modified genes are patented. Any farmer (and this has already happened) who sells/gives away the seed will have a hefty lawsuit thrown at them. The farmer only has a license to the IP in the seed. Aaaargh!!!!!!!! It really makes me want to vomit that the fundamentals of life are being treated this way.

reminds me of the Open Source vs Closed Source (1)

GC (19160) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617591)

This certainly has a lot of parallels to Open Source vs Closed Source software.

The parallel where you obtain the source and cannot distribute it to others (source license) and not being able to copy the seeds via natural reproduction draws on all the reasons why open source is preferable.

Just on another note is there any reason why the seeds could not be modified to remove the "terminnator" gene (or bug) from seeds that their customers purchase (If this is indeed possible?) or were they intending to only authorise licensed use of their seeds.

I can see the seed packet instructions:

Instructions for use:

Just add water

Reverse Engineering this product will invalidate your warranty and does not constitute it's intended use by the manufacturer.

Re:not true (1)

JordanH (75307) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617592)

Hostess cupcakes and frozen pizza really couldn't be much farther away from food...

Yes, but they are made up of atoms actually found in nature. Although I'm not entirely sure of this with regard to the creamy filling.

The molecules, well, most of those are chemical engineering.

When? (4)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617595)

When corporations willingly restrain themselves, I have to ask "For how long?" What's stopping them from threatening to introduce this again in 5 years. And 5 years after that. How long before the media and people in general will ignore them doing this, because they've heard about happening so many times?

(Keep in mind what Nestle did in China - giving formula to new mothers for a few months for free - until they dried up, and then they started charging them for it. The UN pointed out to them they were violating human rights and made them stop. They started again 5 years later. What can the UN do? You can't continually work people into a frenzy every 5 years over the exact same thing.)

I have no doubts that these seeds will be back.

-- Your friendly neighbourhood cynic.

Monsanto, the genetics industry's Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617597)

The more I read about Monsanto, the more I'm certain that the government should step in RIGHT NOW and put a stop to this company. They've already gone too far....BST for cows, and now seeds that 'terminate' after usage, solely to give them profit.

When will it stop? Monsanto laughs at consumer groups and environmentalists...they KNOW that nothing short of a full government intervention can stop them.

And really..WHO asked them to do this? Who is asking them to tinker with genetics like this? Is there a real NEED for this stuff? Seems to me that they just cook it up, hoping for a market to appear, consequences be damned.


Seedless watermellons, grapes? (1)

Chorizo (83470) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617602)

Don't they work in a similar manner? I'm not sure, but I'd suspect it would be hard to collect seeds from your harvest of seedless grapes to replant.

But.. Terminator was there to stop a GM spreading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617603)

Well.. what 'victory' is this ? Important part
of the terminator is to stop these GM species
to spread in the wild. And would cause environmental havoc.

So it is now 0:1 in the environment vs myrights
movements ? Or does sanity come in here somehwere ?

Dw

Problem. (2)

Matt2000 (29624) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617604)

The only problem with this announcement is that those terminator genes, although designed to be a profit saving device, may have been the only mechanism to save us from widespread ecological damage due to a runaway genetically modified plant.

With the terminator gene in place the harmful spread would have been limited to one generation, now they're free to expand indefinately.


Hotnutz.com [hotnutz.com]

Silent Spring (1)

dolphineus (31447) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617605)

Genetically engineered farm products give me the screaming willies for several reasons. I recently read Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" about chemical/pesticide misuse/poisoning in our environment. While not exactly relevent to the genetic engineering of crops, it raises several points to consider, especially concerning the delicate balance of nature.

In our rush to "improve" our food production, we have continually rushed into solutions which are not fully understood. In the realms of pesticides, we have time and again sprayed pesticides, or even herbicides, as a solution to a problem without taking into consideration the effect it will have in the environment as a whole. Throughout the past 50 years, pesticides have been widely sprayed to control a perceived insect infestation. The sprayings have had disastrous effects on the bird and fish populations in the areas sprayed. In our attempt to eliminate one problem, we have created another.

Genetically engineering crops to resist an insect or disease sounds like such a good idea. But what happens when the insects that normally feed on this crop turn their attention to another crop? What happens when the disease that the crop was created to be resistant to mutates? Do we have to spend billions of dollars to re-engineer the crop to be resistant to the new strains? Man is the only creature on the planet that seeks to subdue rather than trying to acheive a natural balance with nature. These forays into engineered crops will not be, I fear, the panacea we believe, but will be a short term solution to a problem we have brought upon ourselves.

Nature adapts. Man overcomes natures adaptation. Nature will adapt again. Whether it is a disease that is resistant to the antibiotics we throw against it, or an insect that is resistant to every chemical we can create. Man does not have the ability to adapt to its environment as quickly as a disease or insect population, so we seek to override the laws of nature. While this works in the short term, mother nature will continue to adapt.

Monsanto sues Cdn farmers (1)

gonzocanuck (44989) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617606)

It gets worse. Monsanto is pretty vigilant. When a farmer buys their seed, they have to sign this agreement that says their crops may be inspected by Monsanto to make sure they're using the same thing. You also can't give away your seed either, which is a tradition among farmers. Now Monsanto is suing farmers in Saskatchewan who didn't buy the seed, but have the herbicide resistant plants in their field. I mean, how far can you go to control nature? Seeds have been moving for eons by animal poop, wind, sand and people.


Further, let's not forget that the pollen from their GM corn kills Monarch butterflies. C'mon, the stuff is toxic and just plain scary!


And let's not forget that Monsanto, back in the 70s, manufactured flame-retardent baby clothing treated with TRIS and tris - known gene mutagens!


GM food is just a plain bad idea. No one knows what these plants are going to do in the long run. Why aren't are governments not more involved? Why not the public? Nuclear power was a undemocratic decision - is this to be the same with GM foods?

I thought Monsanto had a compromise (1)

jtseng (4054) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617607)

I heard about this on NPR and I thought they decided to make the genes in such a way that the resulting seeds from a genetically altered plant will be viable but without the Monsanto gene turned on. This way a farmer can get Monsanto seeds the first year; if he/she decides not to buy from them afterwards, the resulting seeds could still be planted.

"Microsoft is the epitome of innovation and product quality."

Bit of trivia from a farmboy (1)

Daeslin (95666) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617609)

I grew up in Nebraska on a corn/cattle farm and all professional (i.e. not hobby) farmers plant commercial seed. The only people that harvest seed for use as seed are those that sell the seed to the commercial concerns. And that is a fairly complex setup as they have to plant various varieties intermingeled to get the proper offspring. I.e. They often plant 4 rows of "female" corn which is detassled by high school kids and migrant workers as they go through the fields in the summer cutting the tassles off to prevent pollination. After each 4 female rows, comes two male rows (of a different species) that are allowed to keep their tassles, but aren't harvested in the fall. This situation is used to keep the genetic lines from decomposing over time by reinventing the variety every generation.

Re:6 Billion People is TOO MANY (1)

Chilles (79797) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617611)

6 Billion is way too many, true.
But that's no reason to go around bleeding the last money from poor third-worlders.
I'm thinking of something like:
-Thirdworlder buys expensive but quality seeds.
-Thirdworlder grows good crops and gets to eat good and sell some of his crops
-Thirdworlder saves some money and therfore:
-Thirdworlder does not need a gazilion kids to support him in old age, two will do just fine.

then we have two people making two new people and the population stabilizes.

Now to get all religious people to support the notion that true celibacy is the only true way (and I mean true celibacy, not the "celibacy when not making kids" kind) And the world might actually become a little less crowded.

Re:Perfect thing for free market to take care of (1)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617613)

> being genetically engineered, the Monsanto plants might be more marketable than the normal type.

This is simply untrue (especially in Europe). Our supermarkets are falling over themselves in their hurry to declare their own products free of GMO. GM products are not a selling point to the consumer.

The GMOs on offer from Monsanto are not a bigger, shinier tomato, nor a solution to 3rd world hunger. They are simply either the Roundup ® glyphosate weedkiller resistant gene that allows farmers to buy and use more Monsanto Roundup ® weedkiller, or the Terminator gene (whose demise was recently announced) that would allow Monsanto to sell more seed.

Monsanto are not altruistic philanthropists.

true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617615)

I won't touch hostess cupcakes and don't care to guess what's in them. Pizza though is tied directly to agriculture. You need wheat and other grain crops for the dough. Tomatoes for the sauce. Dairy for the cheese. That is just for a plain pizza. When you start getting into toppings you're talking about pork, other veggies, ground beef, stuff that comes right from the farm. On a slightly different topic, it is an interesting trend that a lot of techies now are moving out to the sticks and getting involved in small scale agriculture to feed their families. I'm one such geek. Check out http://yonderway.com/rural to see what one sysadmin does in his spare time. Next weekend I'm butchering some goats and lambs for their meat.

What's new here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617622)

Modern hybrid seeds (produced by "traditional" breeding techniques) *are* already unsuitable for resowing if serious yields are what you are after (like mules, they are crossbreds. While you usually can resow them, yield and characteristics are typically rather different from the parents). While I find it distasteful to use genetical engineering (which, after all, is a manipulation with little known consequences) solely for the purpose of ruining potential future crops, the principles have been used for years as well. Other "terminator" techniques involve the combination of crops/pesticides/fertilizer that will render the soil useless for years if you try switching the poisoned soil to other produce. Yes, it's distasteful (sort of Microsoft-like techniques), but no, it's not unheard-of-yet. In fact, agricultural mass industry and corresponding chemical industry does things like that all the time.

Farm products (2)

BobandMax (95054) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617623)

I agree that frozen pizza is made from farm products, but Hostess cupcakes are made from petroleum by-products, as any consumer knows.

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

Perfect thing for free market to take care of (1)

Zigg (64962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617624)

It would seem to me that provided there are always other vendors of seed, then the free market would see the seed business moving to the vendors who didn't sell sterile seed. Monsanto would then have two choices: stop selling the sterile, or get out of the business.

It looks like the free market took care of this very well -- although the article's details are a bit sketchy, it appears that pressure from buyers led to the decision not to sell this seed.

Re:An interesting situation... (1)

pvente (89848) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617625)

What these companies do is put genetic markers in their seeds so the 'offspring' exhibit the same marker. In this way, a company such as Monsanto can determine that the seeds were indeed sold/bought illegally.

The drug companies are in the same boat here as well. They spend alot of money in developing a superior product that will benefit man, and then get blasted by the public for either charging too much or selling 'terminator' seeds. These companies are in the business to make money, not save the world, and certainly have the right to try and earn a profit. If they didn't have that right, they would stop trying to develop these products, which would be far worse. This is where the government needs to step in (OK, start flaming me now ...) and provide monetary support so these companies can continue to (1) develop the products that help mankind, and (2) recuperate the cost. Some checks and balances need to be in place (i.e. regulating the prices to the consumer), but if done correctly, the cost savings should be passed on to the farmers, patients, etc.

Bad for the small farmer (1)

Ripp (17047) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617626)

Very bad.
Most (if not all) small farmers set aside a certain portion of their harvest specifically for next year's planting. The rest gets sold off, or used for feed for their stock (if they've got any.) Combine-->dryer-->bin-->wait til spring-->planter....

Now, the big "agri-corporations" don't have any stock to feed. *They* would probably come out ahead if they didn't have to make special arrangements to separate,dry,and store next years seed (if they even do now, I don't know....)
Just order a couple of trucks of new seed each spring and voila! They produce even more, driving the price/bushel down, so Bob & Sons has to mortgage the ranch again.



Monsanto Really Scares Me (1)

SimJockey (13967) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617627)

Is there anything these guys can't genetically engineer:

Now Monsanto is considering technologies that turn engineered genes on and off in plants after they are sprayed with a chemical.

So they bow to pressure on the terminator seed issue, but they already seem to have an end run planned. Is it just me or is it somewhat chilling that their bag of genetically modified tricks is seemingly bottomless?

...of not having the terminator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617628)

Monsanto is bowing to public pressure on this one. This is scary because the Terminator was not the only modification in the seed, it was just an add-on.

I feel way better with pesticide-proof plants that can't reproduce (and MUTATE!) than ones that will.

I prefer the economic ramifications without Terminators, but biology will always kick you in the butt.

using DNA/Gene technology to X-breed instead of GM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1617629)

I heard that Monsanto were so pessimistic about the GM foods market in Europe (particularly UK) that they thinking of stopping GM crop production for the market and instead using DNA/Gene info for hi-tech cross-breeding.

That would be something i would certainly support although at the moment (and for teh forseable future) GM is purely about profit for manufacturer and their larger customers.

GM won't feed the starving millions it will only mean greater over-production and profit in rich western countries along with more pollution and a badly poisoned eco-system - in the third world farmers won't be able to afford the seeds and will be unable to compete with those who can who will then be dependant on the vendor.

Fortunately Europe is kicking up a fuss about GM foods and the pesticides and otehr chemicals used on them - as well as the anti-biotics and hormones and GM injections given to US cattle.

This is still just a token gesture by Monsanto - it can afford to give up the terminator, it makes it look good while making the danger of GM cross-contamination worse - its a no-win situation for the environment and the consumer.

I'm glad we have Greenpeace and plenty of socialist european governments who aren't afraid of these conglomorates.

Hows Organic food in the US? Can you get Organic Vegetarian own-brand supermarket food in WAL-mart yet?

I have to say Sainsburies and Tesco in the UK have worked well to provide a full choice and pretty reasonably priced (would be cheaper if there was higer availability - demand outstrips supply for Organic foods in UK) selection.

More organic less chemical!!!!!

Aaron - TheJackal

Re:Confused. (1)

twcook (53172) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617630)

Actually, this is all much ado about nothing. For the last 40 or 50 years almost all crops have been grown with hybrid (crossbred) seeds. The result is that they don't "breed true" anyway - you can't save seeds and replant the next year, because the resulting plants will not have the same characteristics as the hybrid plant. You already can't sell the resulting seeds because nobody would want them, as the quality and productivity would not be the same as the commercial hybrids. The real risk (hopefully unlikely) is that if civilization collapsed, and hybrid seeds were no longer available, we mostly don't have the seed stock for self-sustaining agriculture anymore. (but see organizations like http://www.seedsavers.org/ [seedsavers.org]).

Environmental Problems? (1)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617651)

Are GM seeds/food/etc even safe? In the US, medicine cannot be sold unless it's approved by the FDA. But it seems that the GM food makers are selling GM seeds without knowing if it's possibly unsafe for the environment or for human consumption.

If they are unsafe, wouldn't they be forced to cease and desist selling the GM seeds? Or worse, the government might consider them safe and ignore the other consequences, such as the environment.

Anyway, what ever did happen to 100% pure food?

How the terminator terminates (3)

ai731 (36146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617652)

The system has three key components:
  1. A gene for a toxin that will kill the seed late in development, but that will not kill any other part of the plant.
  2. A method for allowing a plant breeder to grow several generations of cotton plants, already genetically-engineered to contain the seed-specific toxin gene, without any seeds dying. This is required to produce enough seeds to sell for farmers to plant.
  3. A method for activating the engineered seed-specific toxin gene after the farmer plants the seeds, so that the farmer's second generation will be killed.
Full technical description on the Edmonds Institute Website [edmonds-institute.org]

ai731

--

Re:Confused. (1)

revnight (8980) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617653)

-------------------------------------------------
If you can grow your own seeds after buying an initial crop whats stopping you from selling your seeds at a discount?
------------------------------------------------ --

nothing, and this does happen during years of bumper crops.

there are a few crimps in this, though. first, you've got to have something to plant next year, your livestock has to eat, and you need product to sell at market.

harvesting seeds tends to destroy the vegetable/fruit you're growing (the individual fruit, not the entire field,) so if you're only going to harvest corn for seed, you're not going to have any corn to sell for food.

the general practice is to set out a portion of the crop for animal feed/seed, and sell the rest for food. it's not uncommon in the u.s. for farmers to contract with seed companies, though...i'm not privy to what all such contracts entail, so i can't tell you whether those farmers buy new seed from those companies every year, or just seed for a portion of their crop, or...? i do know that there are a fair number of farmers who test new seeds though...plant a test crop, that sort of thing.

------------------------------------------------ --
And wouldn't Monsanto just hike the price of buying seeds to cover the fact that every customer is going to buy the seeds only once?
------------------------------------------------ --

Monsanto should raise prices because people don't trust the new seed, and want to do things the way they've always been done? perhaps i'm misunderstanding you here.

Terminator is here! (1)

Flicka (97136) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617655)

Monsanto could push all the sterile seeds it wanted all they would have to do is buy out the seed companies. Then over time they would just to a microsoft and sneak it in so every farmer was paying them each year for some thing that is normaly free. This terminator gene sort of all ready exzits its called hybridasation. I dont know how many people out here in net land have ever tryed to plant the seeds that have come from a hybrid tomato plant. Let me tell you, the tomatoes grown are full of imperfections. So each year the back year we have to go back to the plant farm and fork out more cash for tomatoes. "theres no such thing as a free meal."

How? Re:Dire consequences ... (1)

Lars Arvestad (5049) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617656)


Can you imagine the results of accidental cross-pollinization with 'Terminator' crops and regular??? (It's been proven to happen) It could've resulted in the accidental genocide of, say, corn.

I can't see how this would happen. If there would be a cross polination, and the terminator gene was transferred, well, then the product would not survive and the gene would not spread. To me it sounds like a terminator gene is much safer than any other kind of gene manipulation.

Lars
Lars

--

Monsanto mispractice (1)

Yarn (75) | more than 14 years ago | (#1617657)

They make GE plants to lock you into their own products
like the oilseed rape that resists their 'roundup' weedkiller, encouraging farmers to use more of the chemical.
Compare with other GE developments, such as rice which extracts vital minerals more effectively, and a birch tree which can be changed into paper without as much causitic chemical.
I've retyped this about 3 times because mozilla keeps crashing, and NS is bus erroring. GRR.
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