[permaculture] [Fwd: [SANET-MG] terminators galore]

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Mon Jun 13 18:13:36 EDT 2005

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	[SANET-MG] terminators galore
Date: 	Mon, 13 Jun 2005 18:02:01 -0400
From: 	jcummins <jcummins at UWO.CA>
Reply-To: 	Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group 

Science for Peace
May 2005
Volume 25, Issue 2
Terminators Galore!
Joe Cummins

The author is Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario.

In Canada, the Seed Sector Review advisory committee issued a report 
calling for changes to legislation to (A) collect royalties on 
farm-saved seeds, (B) compel farmers to buy officially certified seed, 
and (C) terminate the right of farmers to sell common seed. The report 
was financed by the Agriculture Ministry at a cost of nearly a million 
dollars to the Canadian taxpayers but essentially rubber-stamped the 
demands of multinational agricultural corporations (1). The onerous 
licensing requirements of the biotechnology industry are to be extended 
to all seeds, imposing a form of serfdom on any remaining independent 
farmers. In the future it is likely that even home gardeners will face 
the loony corporate payments for those willing to spy on neighbors and 
report covert seed activity. We may be entering a time when the Royal 
Canadian Mounted Police are required to raid grow operations such as a 
row of radishes in a backyard garden.
The development of "terminator" technology goes hand in hand with the 
corporate move to control production and use of seeds. Terminator 
technology is the use of genetic engineering to produce seeds that can 
be used only once. The progeny of such seeds would either produce no 
flowers or produce seeds that provide grain or oil but cannot germinate 
to produce as new plants. In other words, terminator blocks viable seed 
production, production of pollen or ovule or the production of flowers. 
The first terminators were developed by the United Sates Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) and corporate interests, and that technology was 
patented jointly by the corporation and USDA. As in Canada, the 
regulator of genetically modified (GM) crops also acts as an advocate 
and commercial developer of such crops (a clear conflict of interest).
The first terminator patent was granted to USDA and The Delta and 
Pineland Corporation (later joined to Monsanto Corporation) in 1999. 
That patent provoked a flurry of opposition both on the basis of the 
fundamental right of farmers to save seed and on the scientific ground 
that the genetic changes might harm those consuming the crops. In 
response to those concerns Monsanto Corporation backed off from 
immediate production of terminator seeds. But in spite of that action a 
great deal of government sponsored research in the U.S. has focused on 
development of terminator technology to provide financial benefits for 
Beginning in 1999, the Institute of Science in Society in London, 
England has distributed a number of reports by Dr. MaeWan Ho and myself. 
In those reports we described the genetic technology of the original and 
later biotechnology inventions (2,3,4,5,6,7). The basic design of the 
constructions has been to prevent reproductive tissue from developing in 
a way that allows the seed producer to maintain fertile lines that can 
be maintained but also trigger the production of commercial seed lines 
that cannot produce pollen or eggs, or produce lines that lack flowers. 
The genes used to produce such lines usually involve reproductive cello 
ablation (cell suicide genes) using toxins such as barnase ribonuclease 
that digests cellular RNA, diptheria toxin or excess phytohormone 
production in the reproductive tissue. In some cases anti-sense genes 
have been used to block reproductive cells from maturing. Anti-sense 
genes are complementary copies of the RNA gene messages governing 
reproductive cell maturation forming double stranded RNA that is 
recognized as an invading virus by the plant cell and destroyed.
During the 1990s a startling new discovery in plant molecular genetics 
led to the identification of homeotic genes that govern the pathways 
leading to cell differentiation. These specify proteins produced by 
short stretches of DNA called MADS-boxes. These are the regions 
controlling transcription of the genes involved in formation of 
reproductive tissue, leaves, roots and branches that govern plant 
development (8). That discovery has led to a flood of inventions 
employing the MADS-boxes transcription factors to control flowering and 
gamete production as terminators in trees and in crops. Steven Strauss 
of the US Forest Service in Oregon has been field testing poplar trees 
modified with cell suicide genes to eliminate flowering and plans to 
extend that system to shade trees. Finnish researchers at Sopanen 
University are developing this for sterile silver birch (9). Along with 
concerns about the cell suicide toxins and their impact on animal life, 
the sterile trees must be propagated asexually and thus lack genetic 
diversity. This renders them sensitive to attack by emerging pathogens 
and without a reservoir of diversity to mitigate the attack of the novel 
pathogen. A flood of patent applications has begun to appear for control 
of flowering or sexual development in both evergreen trees and crop 
plants (10).
A flood of terminator trees and crops has been developed using 
government funding and in some cases by government researchers. The main 
scientific objection to such terminators has been the introduction of 
untested and hazardous toxins such as cell suicide toxins. As well the 
technology would result in genetic uniformity in forest expanses and in 
crop lands rendering the trees and crops likely susceptible to plagues 
resulting from the spread of emerging pathogens because the forests and 
crops lack the reservoir of genetic diversity needed to counter novel 
pathogens. The inventions will drive farmers and foresters into serfdom 
at the behest of corporations and their lackeys in the government 
Is it too late to terminate the terminators? It is not too late, but 
once they begin to crowd out natural trees and crops it will be too 
late. What can be done? We will soon have to have an international 
convention to limit use of terminators. In the meantime it is wise to 
alert the public to the extensive public funding of technologies that 
threaten the farm community and public alike and benefit corporations 
and their stockholders exclusively.


1. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, "The report of the seed sector 
advisory committee 2004." http://www.seedsectorreview.com/reports-e.html
2. Ho, MW and Cummins J. "Chronicle of an Ecological Disaster Foretold." 
ISIS Report, 20 February 2003; also Science in Society 2003, Spring, 18, 
3. Ho, MW. "Terminator technologies in new guises." ISIS News 3, 
December 1999.
4. Cummins J. "Terminator gene product alert." ISIS News 6, September 2000.
5. Ho, MW, Cummins J and Bartlett J. "Killing fields near you: 
Terminator crops at large." ISIS News 7/8, February 2001.
6 Ho, MW and Cummins J. "Terminator patents decoded." ISIS News 11/12, 
October 2001.
7. Cummins, J. and Ho, MW, "New terminator crops coming." 
8. Cummins, J. "View from MADS house." http://www.i-sis.org.uk/
9. Cummins, J. and Ho, MW. "Terminator Trees." http://www.i-sis.org.uk/
10. Cummins, J. "Lurking terminators." (in preparation).

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