A little conundrum. One of the worries of campaigners against genetic engineering of crops is that genes stuck into plants will escape and create, for example, superweeds. You don't need genetic engineering to achieve this, of course, but it helps. Along comes a technology that promises to neutralize this threat. Dubbed Terminator and Suicide Seeds (by the opponents, who always get to frame this kind of debate) it is relatively simple. An inserted gene makes any seed it ends up in sterile.

It is obvious why the big companies like Monsanto want Terminator Technology. It gives yet another layer of protection to their work. Farm-saved seed will not germinate. So the farmer has to come back to The Man for another hit. Or buy a spray from The Man that terminates Terminator and allows the seed to grow.

Here's the hard part. If Terminator stops seeds it is in from germinating, and if one is worried about genetic contamination, wouldn't one welcome Terminator with open arms? After all, it means that any ovule that accidentally gets a dose of engineered pollen takes its secret morganitic pollution to the grave with it. No impact on the noble subsistence farmer's livelihood. No further spread of the evil genes.

Why, then, are opponents of GM for all those other fine reasons also opponents of Terminator? I've never seen that explained. Or even attempted.

The original fuss focused on the possibility of farmers losing all their seeds -- which would require a genetic pollution catastrophe considerably bigger than Bhopal -- and caused Monsanto to declare that it would not "commercialize sterile seed technologies".

The issue is topical again because at a meeting in Spain last week governments decided to re-open the question at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, Brazil, later this month.

Frankly, I see no point in quoting at length the protesters' wooly-headed "arguments". You can read them yourself all ~over~ ~the place~.1

All I want is for one person to tell me why having seeds that commit suicide is a bad thing if you also want to prevent the spread of engineered genes. Please.

Naturally, these are my personal views, representative only of my personal views, personally.

  1. 2020-02-22: Two dead links out of three; par for the course. Kudos, of a kind, to Scoop.nz 

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