Terminator Seed Ban Proposed In Canada

Terminator seeds, which have already been outlawed by India and Brazil, face similar treatment in Canada. Agriculture critic Alex Atamanenko introduced a private member's bill Thursday to ban field-testing and commercialization of terminator seeds, which allow the seed maker to control future generations of the plant.

These seeds make use of what is generally called "terminator technology," which is one form of Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). The simplest form of GURT merely ensures that the second generation of seeds cannot be used for planting. An activating gene introduced into the plant triggers a toxin gene during germination. The second generation seed fails to germinate, forcing the farmer to buy new seeds for each season.

A sneakier version allows biotech companies to control whether or not particular traits express in the second generation of plants. The second generation of seeds will sprout - but you won't get those wonderful traits you wanted, like resistance to disease or large yield, unless you pay the biotech company for a special chemical to spray on the plants, activating those genes.


(Terminator Seeds)

You don't need to be a science fiction fan to start thinking about ways that this could go wrong. For example, what if these plants begin to cross-breed with other varieties - and pass on their terminator technology? I don't want to be forced to make a deal with a biotech company to make sure I have plants. (There have been a variety of cases in which hybrid crops have been planted next to fields of normal plants, and then cross-bred - or replaced - the normal plants.)

"Terminator technology" applied to plants is bad enough, but what if you go to your doctor for a cure that involves a useful genetic modification - and are then told that this trait can be passed on to your children for a price?

This sounds to me like DRM (Digital Rights Management) for plants. DRM schemes for music, for instance, are intended to prevent owners from creating a "second generation" (that is, copies) of the original recording.

Update 20-Oct-2013: The notion of sterile seeds is covered perfectly in Paolo Bacigalupi's excellent 2005 short story The Calorie Man; see the entry for sterile seeds. End update.

Jack Vance wrote about an entire planetary culture obsessed with protection of its biological intellectual property rights in his 1954 story The Houses of Iszm. The Iszic used their knowledge of plants to create enormous house trees that grew large pods for living space. The Iszic developed intensive security and surveillance systems to make sure no one stole a female plant, which would break their monopoly.

The sphincter expanded and Farr stepped dubiously into the chamber…the pod was thirty feet long, opening on a balcony with a waist-high balustrade. The walls and domed ceiling were tufted with trefoils of a silky green fibre; the floor was heavy with plum-coloured moss; quaint lamps grew out of the wall. There were four magenta pod-chairs against one wall...
(Read more about the house trees of Iszm)

Take a look at more plant-related stories with a science-fictional twist:

Via CBC.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/5/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Agriculture ")

Once A Jolly Swagbot Camped By A Billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree.

Rowbot Small Autonomous Farm Robot
'...The tiny red glints of self-guided tractors.' - Larry Niven, 1966.

Vertical Farms? Still Waiting, But Concepts Abound
'Stacked up to the sky...' - Pohl and Kornbluth, 1951.

Ladybird Agricultural Robot Is Solar-Powered
'A robot gardener worked over the same patch of grass again and again...'- Philip K Dick, 1955.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'

NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'

ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'

Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'

Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'

Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'

Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.

NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'

Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.

Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'

MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'

WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'

Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.