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.
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.
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:
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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
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.
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.
AI Identifies Suicidal Behavior With 93 Percent Accuracy
'...He padded into the living room, and seated himself by the suitcase; he opened it, clicked switches, and turned on Dr. Smile.'
Razer Project Valerie Laptop Unfurls
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled silently...'
Can Virtual Reality help People Cope With Pain?
Research is promising.
Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.'
Largest Micro-Drone Swarm Release Successful
'... Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.'
Robot Motion Planning 10K Times Faster
'The robot crab... fired a burst of light, then froze...'
Reconfigured Graphene 10X Strong, 5 Percent Dense, As Steel
'...It was made of Alohydrolium, which is the lightest of all metals.'
Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.'
DataTraveler Ultimate Generation 2 Terabyte Flashdrive
'A man or woman could carry AIs or complete planetary data spheres...'
HyperFace Aims To Foil Facial Recognition
'...A million and a half physiognomic fraction-representations of various people.'
MIT's aeroMorph Technology
'... It falls into that structure like a rubber figure returning to shape.'
Woolim DPRK Surveillance Tablet And Doctorow's 'Schoolbook'
'...cracking my SchoolBook had been easy.' Take heed, North Koreans!
Google Home Continues Implementation Of Pohl's Joymaker
'It is a transponder connecting you with the central computing facilities of the city in which you reside on a shared-time, self-programming basis.'
The Sheep Look Up In Beijing
'The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed...'
Festo's eMotionButterfly, AirJelly And AirPenguin Robots
... Bright beings darted through the hot light.'
Griff 300 Octocopter Carries You And Friend
'The cab came floating down out of the sky...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories