India Blockades Terminator Seeds

Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2183
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2183c

In what for now is a symbolic gesture, India has prohibited the import of seeds altered to produce sterile plants. Following widespread farmer protests, the government this month ordered its agricultural border guards to turn back seeds carrying “terminator” genes— booby traps, still being developed, that would prevent improved crop plants from producing viable seeds.

Terminator technology is designed to make farmers help pay for costly advances by preventing them from developing their own seed supplies. Many people oppose the technology, saying it would harm poor farmers (Science, 30 October, p. 850). Agbiotech giant Monsanto Co., which is acquiring a company involved in terminator research, denied a press report that it may delay marketing the technology. “Some people tend to think we have plants in the ground,” says Monsanto's Jeff Burgau. “Not only don't we own [the technology], but it doesn't even exist yet.”

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