Sunday, October 08, 2006

Terminator Technology

I've kept seeds from some of my crops to grow next year. I have plenty of packets of seeds, but I thought it would be fun to save a few as well. Ed saved some sunflower seeds last year but they must have been F1 hybrids because when they grew they had tiny little flower heads on top of very tall stalks, unlike the parent plants which had tall stalks and large heads.

That was pretty funny, but it wouldn't be so funny if you were a small farmer. Agriculture has always been based on selecting, saving, sharing and replanting seeds. Genetic modification is a threat to that, especially terminator technology which is the modification of plants to produce sterile seeds. You can see why the biotechnology industry likes this idea - it forces the farmers to keep buying seeds every year. But it undermines sustainable farming.
Don't panic - the technology doesn't even exist yet. But the agribuisiness industry is developing it, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity has placed a moratorium on field-testing until it can be proved that the technology is no risk to people or the environment.
I mention it because it is an issue I was only vaguely aware of before. But now that I am involved in growing some of my own food, and saving my own seeds, I can understand much better what a threat this is.

7 comments:

Nerd in the Country said...

I sincerely hope that terminator technology doesn't come into common use. It's possible, but I doubt if it will become cheap enough for the seed companies to put it into more than a few types of seeds.

It is actually very useful for trans-genetic plants that you don't want to escape into the wild. Plants tend to cross-breed more than we ever suspected. This has caused things like resistance to herbicides to get into the wild populations, resulting in 'superweeds'. (Of course, I don't like herbicides anyhow, so it's a moot point to me).

No matter what the seed companies do with terminator technology, you will always be able to get heritage seeds. In fact, as the big companies get more aggressive in their attempts to protect their intellectual property, the distributors of heritage seeds will flourish all the more.

Steph in Roker said...

I don't know about the USA, but in the UK it seems to be getting fasionable to go greener. The supermarkets are stocking organic stuff & promoting the use of smaller producers (however real of fake that is) and highlight shelves of FairTrade stuff, and there's more & more stuff in the media about recycling etc. Hopefully it'll go the same was as cosmetic manufacturers 20 years ago. There was an outcry against animal testing, Body Shop came out, and the other companies jumped on the bandwagon. I know the gig co's will always persue profits, but hopefully it'll become consumer driven and make some clean up their acts.

Elfie said...

I believe the EU a few years ago made it technically illegal to plant seeds from e.g. tomatoes bought at the supermarket.
Not that that one is particularly enforceable - you can't legislate against seeds sprouting where they happen to land on the ground...

Melanie Rimmer said...

Quite, Elfie. And I've heard it said (though I haven't seen it myself) that there are often lush growths of tomato plants in sewage outflow areas.

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