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Monsanto's 'Terminator' Seeds Set To Make a Comeback 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-be-back dept.
ananyo writes "Monsanto and other biotechnology firms could be looking to bring back 'terminator' seed technology. The seeds are genetically engineered so that crops grown from them produce sterile seed. They prompted such an outcry that, as Slashdot noted, Monsanto's chief executive pledged not to commercialize them. But a case in the U.S. Supreme Court could allow farmers to plant the progeny of GM seeds rather than buying new seeds from Monsanto, making the technology attractive to biotech companies again. Some environmentalists also see 'terminator' seeds as a way of avoiding GM crops contaminating organic/non-GM crops." Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry. From the NY Times: "BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might 'facilitate software piracy on a broad scale' because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file." The case was heard today; here is a transcript (PDF), and a clear explanation of what the case is about.
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Monsanto's 'Terminator' Seeds Set To Make a Comeback

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:36PM (#42949559)

    they'll be back

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:37PM (#42952703)

      Well DUH! Whenever some CEO says "We won't do it" as soon as something they planned (read: quietly announced to test the waters) caused a public outcry, it only means "we're waiting for you to be occupied with something else".

      They invested money inventing it, it benefits them, they won't just "forget" about it. They wait for YOU to forget about it.

  • I Can't Believe This (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:37PM (#42949567) Journal

    Monsanto’s reaction is that Bowman’s use of the commodity seeds plainly violates its patent. From its vantage point, Bowman might have been free to use the seeds he bought from Monsanto (on the theory that Monsanto’s patent rights for those seeds were exhausted by its sale of them), but Monsanto has never sold the seeds that Bowman bought and planted; Monsanto does not, for example, sell seeds to grain elevators. Because Monsanto has never sold those particular seeds, Bowman’s use of them to create new seeds infringes its patent as clearly as if Bowman had made a new light bulb copying Edison’s light-bulb patent.

    So it has come to this: they are equivocating planting seeds with reverse engineering a light bulb.

    For another thing, Monsanto’s technology agreement (signed by all farmers who purchase Roundup Ready seeds) includes provisions that prohibit Bowman’s activities. Among other things, those agreements prohibit any planting of progeny seed; the only permitted use of soybean seeds grown from Roundup Ready seeds is sale for food and the like. If the Court rules against Monsanto on the basic exhaustion question, it then must confront the controversial question (crucial to, among others, the software industry) of the enforceability of license agreements that govern the rights of users of IP-infused products. On that question, the United States (which firmly supports Monsanto on the central exhaustion question) argues that the conceded sale makes any subsequent licensing restrictions invalid as to those seeds and their progeny; not surprisingly, amici like the Business Software Alliance contest that idea.

    Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it. Chase down the guy(s) that put your grain into that elevator and sue the living shit out of them. Then make sure all your current customers know that they're legally culpable for what a grain elevator does with your intellectual property. I'll be sure to remind everyone that Monsanto seed can result in ruination if they find their way back into the soil. Then we'll see how your sales do, mmkay?

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:07PM (#42949961)

      Chase down the guy(s) that put your grain into that elevator and sue the living shit out of them. Then make sure all your current customers know that they're legally culpable for what a grain elevator does with your intellectual property.

      Except no one in that chain did anything wrong.

      1) Farmer A buys seed from Monsanto
      2) Farmer A grows crop, harvests and sells the result as feed (which they are allowed to do under their license agreement)
      3) Farmer B buys feed from the silo (which is legal for both farmer B and the silo)

      All of that is legal, and no one, not even Monsanto argues against it. Where it gets (a tiny bit) murkier is:

      4) Farmer B realizes that most of his feed is round up ready, plants it
      5) Farmer B sprays the field with round up
      6) Farmer B harvests the result, 100% (or near enough) round up ready seed obtained without signing any agreements with Monsanto

      Monsanto's argument will be that by spraying the field with round up, farmer B was deliberately selecting for the gene that Monsanto has patented. It's a grey area in the law, which is why it's gone to the supreme court. And the annoying thing is, even after the case is decided there's going to be all kinds of wiggle room for both sides of the argument to continue litigating to their heart's content.

      • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @08:04PM (#42951215)

        That somewhat greyer area is what makes this case stand out. The farmer is claiming that his actions are legal via the first sale doctrine. He says the seeds were sold once, and therefore whatever happens after that is fair game. Monsanto says that, because the seeds in question are not purchased seeds but newly produced seeds, the first sale doctrine does not apply, and because the farmer intentionally selected for what he knew were the transgenic seeds, it is a patent violation. I think the case will go to Monsanto because I can't imagine any other case where knowingly producing something under patent would fly. I suppose you could say that the beans were reproducing themselves, but that ignores the human intervention necessary for this to even be a case, which I feel is the key detail here.

        That said, considering the patent on Monsanto's first GE soybean expires next year (at which point anyone will be able to grow their own transgenic soy free from having to deal with Monsanto), I think they're kind of stupid for making this into a case and, right or wrong, generating even more animosity for themselves, although perhaps they actually want this to go to the Supreme Court in the hopes of setting precedent.

        • I think the case will go to Monsanto

          Perhaps. But then why is the Supreme Court hearing the case? All of the lower courts ruled in Monsanto's favor, so there are no conflicting rulings. If SCOTUS wanted the lower court ruling to stand, they could have just refused to hear the appeal. I would not be surprised by a ruling either way.

      • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @08:10PM (#42951267)

        Monsanto's argument will be that by spraying the field with round up, farmer B was deliberately selecting for the gene that Monsanto has patented.

        Saving the best of a crop for next year's planting is also a time honored farming method. Selecting for some quality that is already present in your crop is perfectly normal. It was how crops were improved over centuries. One could probably get by using round up every other year, then Monsanto would be going after grandchild crops.

        Because Monsanto can tweak this crop annually (on once every 17 years, or never, and just pretend they did), this is a patent that will never expire. There has to be some limits, and now is a good time to set them.

        Lets just imagine this same technique is applied to controlling human genetics. Imagine parents paying for a in vitro genetic treatment that prevents cancer (or something) forever. Then the company come's after the children, demanding payment before the are allowed to procreate. This is a dangerous precedent to set.

        So is terminator seed. Big fire at Monsanto, and the world starves because no seed grows? Stupid.

      • by Demonantis (1340557) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:00PM (#42952113)
        You should also mention that Monsanto makes round up. The round up ready was a way for them to sell more pesticide. They are making money from all farmers.
    • Actually, the oddity is he did sign that agreement, the background on the story is that he bought seeds from the grain elevator for a late-season planting. For his first planting, he bought the seeds from Monsanto. I suppose the contract was interpreted to only apply to that purchase.

      But aside from that, since the seeds in question were bought from the grain elevator, yes, sue the anyone selling to the grain elevator (which probably includes Bowman).
    • by pavon (30274)

      [quote]Great, you're free to have those agreements but Bowman didn't sign it.[/quote]
      Actually, from what I've read he did. He bought and used Monsanto seed for his main crop (signing a contract in doing so), but then used grain elevator seed for his second seasonal planting. Some of that seed he planted may very well have been harvested from his crops as he sold soybeans (grown from Monsanto seed) to that grain elevator.

      I worry that the Supreme Court will choose to narrowly rule on contract grounds, and com

  • Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects, then I don't see a problem with it. This is the same standard I apply to other genetically modified living things.

    • Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects, then I don't see a problem with it. This is the same standard I apply to other genetically modified living things.

      Can you tell me how much testing is done to verify these things are safe? How long and how numerous are the human trials? I mean, I've seen the tobacco industry burn people on this exact same thing before by avoiding rigorous studies. Is this stuff treated just like the FDA treats any sort of medicine that we put into our bodies or does it just get rubber stamped through like a natural food? I would be suspicious that anything developed in the past ten years or less is completely guaranteed to be safe for the duration of a human life. Also, I am rather afraid if we get to a point where symptoms develop but we can't pin down which genetically modified food is doing it because everything's genetically modified and even growing things organically doesn't mean anything because of cross pollination. If you can convince me not to worry about that, I'm all ears! For instance, increases of lead in our body looked safe cosmetically and look at all the studies coming out about that.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:51PM (#42949743)

        I'm all ears!

        So is the corn.

      • by Nrrqshrr (1879148)
        Well, when you eat potatos, you don't end up with potato DNA in your cells. Same goes for GMO food, it's not harmful because it contains external genes. (heck, if it was that easy to integrate external genes, curing all kinds of diseases would become quite easier).

        The problem comes from pesticides. Either the plants get genes that teach them how to make their own insecticides (at which point some testing is needed). Or those plants become tolerant to what you can call a "chemical bath", and thus, agriculto
        • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @08:47PM (#42951581)

          Either the plants get genes that teach them how to make their own insecticides

          Just so you are aware, all plants produce insecticides. Plants can't fight back or run from the things that want to eat them like animal life can, so they evolved other methods of defense, including chemical ones. For example, genetically engineered corn has insecticidal Cry proteins in it, but even the non-GE corn has insecticidal maysin and other compounds in it. I'm not saying we shouldn't test things, just that a plant producing an insecticide internally is only exceptional if you know nothing about plant biology.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Can you tell me how much testing is done to verify these things are safe?

        A lot. [usda.gov]

        How long and how numerous are the human trials?

        Why don't you tell me why they are necessary. Okay, a corn has a cspB gene, or a cotton has a Cry1Ab gene, or a soy has C4 epsps gene, or a papaya has prsv cp gene, or an apple has an antisense PPO gene. Why should that bother me, especially considering all the other mandatory testing?

        I would be suspicious that anything developed in the past ten years or less is completely guaranteed to be safe for the duration of a human life.

        You should be suspicious of things that you have reason to be suspicious of, not things that could potentially have an unknown unknown, which is pretty much everything. You can't prove that something won't be danger

      • by xiando (770382) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:40PM (#42950981) Homepage Journal

        the FDA

        Your FDA is a corrupt joke with a revolving door between it and major players like Monsanto. Monsanto basically work periods "part-time" at the FDA where they rubber-stamp their own products.

    • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:48PM (#42949711)
      First define "unwanted" and then tell me how you determine them without them actually happening? Let's say for instance they cross pollinate with another crop and sterilize that crop as well. Which in turn cross pollinates ad nauseum until there are no fertile seeds. Far fetched perhaps but not unthinkable.
      • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:11PM (#42950005)

        First define "unwanted" and then tell me how you determine them without them actually happening? Let's say for instance they cross pollinate with another crop and sterilize that crop as well. Which in turn cross pollinates ad nauseum until there are no fertile seeds. Far fetched perhaps but not unthinkable.

        As we all can remember from the terrible seedless Watermelon apocalypse that swept the land taking all vegetation with it, this is just too great of a risk to take! We must remember the dangers of producing plants without seeds!

        Never forget!

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Which in turn cross pollinates ad nauseum until there are no fertile seeds. Far fetched perhaps but not unthinkable.

        Imagine that these seeds wake up one night and start pillaging every town within 100 miles of where they were planted, eating the brains of any human they come across. Far fetched perhaps, but not unthinkable. We must ban the seeds!

    • I can think of one potential issue immediately. What happens when the "terminator seed" plants fertilize the regular plants? Spreading genes like that around our food supply is a profoundly stupid idea. Profoundly, incredibly stupid.

    • by msauve (701917)
      "Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects"

      Like that gene becoming dominant, cross-pollinating other plantings, and making corn virtually extinct in a few generations?
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:55PM (#42951143) Journal

      Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side-effects, then I don't see a problem with it. This is the same standard I apply to other genetically modified living things.

      I would go one step further. Assuming that the particular terminator gene doesn't have unwanted side effects, I am of the opinion that it should be mandatory, because it reduces the risk associated with genetically modified plants considerably.

      When it comes to future evolution and survival of the fittest, genetically modified crops, particularly when those modifications involve resistance against weed killer, are likely to be preferentially naturally selected for. In the absence of modifications that prevent those genes from being passed on to future generations, those modified varieties will likely eventually become the dominant variety over all non-modified varieties. If in fifty or a hundred years, we discover that one of those genetic modifications causes harm, it will be an uphill battle to get our agriculture back to safe crops.

      By contrast, if the genetically modified varieties contain terminator genes that make them sterile, the issue of contaminating future generations of plants ceases to be a problem. When farmers stop planting the dangerous variety, it stops growing. This, of course, assumes a completely effective terminator gene, which probably isn't likely, but even an imperfect terminator gene would help balance the odds somewhat.

  • by holmstar (1388267) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:45PM (#42949681)
    If this works:
    Positive: Monsanto would no longer be able to sue farmers claiming that they are using Monsanto seed to produce a seed crop to use for planting the next year.
    Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.
    • by crath (80215) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:00PM (#42949877) Homepage

      Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

      This is exactly what will happen, and so Monsanto will put and end to many farmers' current practice of saving part of this years crop as next year's seed--since their seed yield will be reduced they negatively impact their future yield due to a percentage of the seed being sterile.

      • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:37PM (#42950333)

        Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

        This is exactly what will happen, and so Monsanto will put and end to many farmers' current practice of saving part of this years crop as next year's seed--since their seed yield will be reduced they negatively impact their future yield due to a percentage of the seed being sterile.

        Doesn't this seem like it's a single plot twist away from eliminating the ability to grow any major crop and causing the collapse of civilization as famine sweeps the globe?

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:02PM (#42950603) Homepage Journal

        This doesn't stop until all food is proprietary. I think this fact is where the discussion should start. The corporate holy grail is for all life to be covered by "intellectual" property. Where not a breath is taken that doesn't put money in the pockets of a certain segment of the population.

        Parents are going to have to sign license agreements before they can take their baby home from the hospital soon.

        You know the joke about how you don't buy beer, you only rent it? We're going to live to see the day where you don't buy beer, you only license it.

        • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @08:38PM (#42951499)

          This doesn't stop until all food is proprietary. I think this fact is where the discussion should start.

          Agreed.

          This is a dangerous road to go down, and there is really no need to go down it.

          We need the courts or congress to just tell Monsanto that their rights to the seed extinguished upon the bag of seed leaving their factory. As far as terminator seed goes, I suspect the market will take care of that. Farmers just won't buy it.

      • will put and end to many farmers' current practice of saving part of this years crop as next year's seed

        Most farms don't save seed anymore and haven't since the rise of hybrid seed in the 1930's.

    • ...but I can't help but think that such an effect would be intentional. But they have the money, er, "protected speech," to push this through.

    • If this works:

      Positive: Monsanto would no longer be able to sue farmers claiming that they are using Monsanto seed to produce a seed crop to use for planting the next year.

      Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

      Wouldn't that give the farmers cause to engage in class-action style legal recourse against Monsanto?

      I guess what I'm saying is, where's the negative?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Positive: Monsanto would no longer be able to sue farmers claiming that they are using Monsanto seed to produce a seed crop to use for planting the next year.

      I've been beating that drum for years now, with few following along. Congratulations, though!

      Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

      That's true, but at least it will still be possible to produce seed in greenhouses with filters. Granted, that's the environment to which I believe we should be limiting GM crops at this stage...

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      The solution for monsanto is easy.

      Sell a "seed mix".

      Seed mix contains an unaltered heirloom seed, and a terminator carrying seed that makes a mature plant that produces no pollen.

      The unaltered heirloom seed in the mix provides the field with pollen. Resulting seed from the vastly more productive GM corn is sterile. All seeds that grow are unprotected heirloom only. Neighboring fields are not contaminated with GM pollen.

      All problems solved!

      (Unless of course, your GOAL is to be the only supplier of seeds worl

    • If ever there was a horrible doomsday scenario, this is it.

      How long before we have that dystopian apocalypse future that all those movies were warning me about?

      Tank Girl, Mad Max, 1984, Brazil, Max Headroom (I know, TV, not movie, but work with me here), Johnny Mnemonic, Buckaroo Banzai, Logan's Run, Planet of the Apes, A Boy and His Dog, etc...

      I've always loved those future dystopia movies, but the idea of actually seeing that kind of shit happen for real? Damn greedy bastards.

    • by radtea (464814) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @07:15PM (#42950725)

      Negative: If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

      This is not an "if" but a "when". It is as near to a certainty as anything can be.

      If anyone other than a large, politically generous American corporation were proposing to do this it would be considered at act of bioterrorism to release terminator seeds into the wild, because cross-pollination with wild-type seeds is a certainty and therefore everyone not buying new seed every year will suffer from yield reductions due to Monsanto's seeds.

    • If the gene causing infertility is transmitted via pollen, then farmers that try to produce an heirloom seed crop near a field planted with a Monsanto variety would be screwed since their seed crop could end up infertile.

      This is exactly why GM seeds are illegal here in Europe (Except Spain who allow them for some reason): Fields near fields with GM crops get polluted. Sometimes people buy seeds they think are not GM but turn out to be GM and farmers are in those cases ordered to destroy their entire fields (and sometimes nearby fields) just to make sure we keep GM-genes away. Look to Europe, we have a very simple solution to this mess: Just outlaw GM and you're done.

      I suspect that the US will be forced to import natural se

    • by Grayhand (2610049)
      And in the third world where many can't aford Monsanto seeds they get to starve when the next years seeds fail to germinate. On the plus side Monstano will increase profits.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@l y n x . b c .ca> on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:46PM (#42949685) Journal

    Wouldn't it be even better if they just didn't produce seeds at all?

    Because if they produce seeds, even sterile ones, there's still the possibility of accidental contamination. While this might not pose any great threat to Monsanto, because of the seeds' strerility, the outcome could well be a potentially highly *reduced* crop count for places that were not ever intending to use Monsanto's seeds, spelling disaster on a global scale that could well result in the deaths of thousands, if not millions.

    • yes, it would be. And actually, it'd be even MORE better to engineer the plant so that the it automatically detects illegal activity by a poaching farmer and report him directly to Monsanto police via a 4G LTE connection. However in the real world, we must deal with what's feasible vs. what we would really like. And I'm guessing it was easier to engineer the plant to produce sterile seeds (which happens in nature all the time) vs. removing seeds completely.

      And also btw, most grains ARE seeds, so if you have

      • by mark-t (151149)
        Hmmm... true, that. I'd still be very worried about what cross-contamination could do to world food supplies, however.
      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        The solution for monsanto is easy.

        Sell a "seed mix".

        Seed mix contains an unaltered heirloom seed, and a terminator carrying seed that makes a mature plant that produces no pollen.

        The unaltered heirloom seed in the mix provides the field with pollen. Resulting seed from the vastly more productive GM corn is sterile. All seeds that grow are unprotected heirloom only. Neighboring fields are not contaminated with GM pollen.

        All problems solved!

        (Unless of course, your GOAL is to be the only supplier of seeds worl

    • Wouldn't it be even better if they just didn't produce seeds at all?

      That works great with watermelons. But if you are growing... I don't know... wheat. Or corn. It's a little problematic if your lush green fields don't actually produce any product to sell.

      Seedless wheat defeats the whole point.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        Yeah, I know. For some reason I was thinking of fruit when I started talking about not producing seeds.
    • by c++0xFF (1758032)

      As others point out, you're not making sense. But here's an alternative...

      A gene that would prevent pollen production would be helpful. Then, the modified genes won't be able to spread to neighboring crops at all. Even a reduction in pollen would potentially make a difference.

      Of course, now I'm the one talking nonsense. Without pollination, the crop won't produce anything at all.

      So, here's a more viable option, looking at wheat for an example. Maybe engineer the pollen with some sort of defect so it ca

  • by twistofsin (718250) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:52PM (#42949757)
    To repopulate all the crops after their doomsday crops pollinate every other farmers fields and causes famine.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:53PM (#42949771) Homepage

    It's a useful technology. It can be used to prevent volunteer glyphosate-resistant corn from infesting a following glyphosate-resistant soybean crop. It can also be used to prevent the spread of "engineered" genes to wild plants and crops in nearby fields, and it can eliminate many plant-patent lawsuits.

    It will have no negative impact on most farmers because most of those who plant commercial seed understand that bin-run seed does not reproduce itself well, has poor germination, and often contains weeds. There are many vendors of traditional/open-pollinating/heritage seeds out there. Buy from them if you like that sort of thing. You will then be able to replant your own seed to your heart's content.

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by crath (80215) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:05PM (#42949925) Homepage

      It can also be used to prevent the spread of "engineered" genes to wild plants and crops in nearby fields, and it can eliminate many plant-patent lawsuits.

      This assertion flies in the face of common sense; pollen from this seed will float through the air and contaminate non-engineered fields and now those farmers will also have a percentage of their crop that produces sterile seed. This time, lawsuits will flow in the opposite direction: farmers who replant seed will sue Monsanto due to reduced germination rates and reduced yields in future years.

      • What are you talking about. Those farmers obviously stole Monsanto's patented terminator genetics and will be sued by Monsanto.

      • This assertion flies in the face of common sense; pollen from this seed will float through the air and contaminate non-engineered fields and now those farmers will also have a percentage of their crop that produces sterile seed. This time, lawsuits will flow in the opposite direction: farmers who replant seed will sue Monsanto due to reduced germination rates and reduced yields in future years.

        From what little I understand of Monsanto contracts... responsibility for all the side effects are hoisted upon the farmers. It will more likely be farmers suing other farmers than anyone suing Monsanto.

      • by smchris (464899)

        Yeah, lawsuits are the American way. And farmers are so rich they can hire lawyers to easily match Monsanto's legal team.

    • Except that it does not actually prevent contamination. You still have cross pollination, cross pollination which no one can predict what it will produce.

      Yes, the exact species that they plant will not be released into the wild as it dies out in one generation (in theory at least, but then you are talking about billions of billions of lifeforms many with errors in there genetics). But what will the pollen from a terminator variety do to a neighbors field or the other plants in the area?

      Is it conceivable tha

  • Monsanto is a big corporation and a well represented special interest.

    Therefore, they will win.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:03PM (#42949911)

    Many crops, like corn, commonly use hybrid varieties. These varieties exhibit 'hybrid vigor', which is a result of being heterozygous - they have one set of chromosomes from parent A and the other from parent B, so for all traits they have both an A and a B gene (AB). Replanting hybrid seeds would result in plants of three types (AA, AB, BB), unfortunately the AA and BB plants are usually very inbred and have low crop yields. You can do even better yields with a double-cross, which further decreases the effectiveness of replanting.

    So conventional corn farmers haven't been saving seeds to replant since the the 1930's. 'Terminator' corn therefore wouldn't be much of a change.

  • that the terminator genes won't spread over to other crops as the roundup-ready goodies did. That would be real fun to watch...
  • Is that Bill Gates owns a large amount of Montesanto shares. If they go up he becomes richer so of course he is promoting them through BSA.

  • BSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:15PM (#42950047)

    I don't see how they can equate biological replication with software:

    BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might “facilitate software piracy on a broad scale” because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file.

    Software isn't self replicating, a human you have to explicitly make a copy of it to get it to replicate. That's completely different than seeds that naturally replicate themselves and that replication is why you plant them in the first place. Someone could take one copy of software and install it on multiple computers, but it's not the software that's doing the replicating, it's the human.

    And even if they stretch and claim that installing a program multiple times is the same as a growing plant self-replicating the seed it grew from, then there's no reason a decision against Monsanto couldn't be made narrow enough to apply only to living plants.

    • by xiando (770382)

      Software isn't self replicating

      What about The Computer Virus? It's true that they usually need some kind of human interaction, but they do replicate without humans doing something to intentionally make it happen

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        Software isn't self replicating

        What about The Computer Virus? It's true that they usually need some kind of human interaction, but they do replicate without humans doing something to intentionally make it happen

        I don't think anyone is claiming that malicious computer viruses should be protected by patents.

        But let's say someone writes a benevolent computer virus (maybe one that automatically cleans up a malicious virus infection). The writer of the software shouldn't be able to sue me for compensation if his program inadvertently ends up on my computer. Not even if I plugged my computer into a university network (that had paid for the software) and the software ended up installing itself on my computer automaticall

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:17PM (#42950075)

    "that allowed Bowman to use Roundup indiscriminately to kill weeds without any risk of harming the soybean crop. "

    Oh great.. what about the risk to humans who eat this shit? Are people round-up ready?
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=weed-whacking-herbicide-p [scientificamerican.com]

    I keep thinking the answer to this is not biotech but robotech...how hard can it be to create an army of roombas that kill weeds? Some hyperspectral cameras, pattern recognition and burners or pullers. It has got to be possible to engineer something workable and cost effective.

    Anyway here is my delimma... if Monsanto wins they will be happy which will mean I will be sad.

    If the farmers win they will be happy which means we all get to eat even more shit "indiscriminately" laced with roundup.

    It seems I loose either way.

    • You do realize that the article you cited refers to an in-vitro test of isolated cells exposed to a wetting agent (common terminology: soap) used in conjunction with Round-Up. right? And that almost ANY soap would show similar toxicity?

      It is one of the most PREPOSTEROUS attacks on a chemical I've ever seen.

  • If you drop a CD into the soil, it won't do anything except break down over a few million years. If you drop a CD into a computer, it still won't do anything without user intervention. It might start an auto-run routine, but it won't fully install. (Unless it's a virus or trojan, but that's another kettle of fish.)

    However, if you drop a seed...well...pretty much anywhere that doesn't immediately kill it, and it gets wet? It's going to self-replicate. It will complete it's life-cycle and produce more se

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:19PM (#42950099)

    I don't see how they can equate biological replication with software:

    BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might “facilitate software piracy on a broad scale” because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file.

    Software isn't self replicating, you have to explicitly make a copy of it to get it to replicate itself. That's completely different from seeds that naturally replicate themselves and which is why you plant them in the first place. You could take one copy of a program and install it on multiple computers, but the human is doing the replicating, not the software itself.

  • And those of every other rent-extracting legacy megacorp along with them?

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:23PM (#42950155) Homepage

    If you drop a CD into the soil, it won't do anything except break down over a few million years. If you drop a CD into a computer, it still won't do anything without user intervention. It might start an auto-run routine, but it won't fully install. (Unless it's a virus or trojan, but that's another kettle of fish.)

    However, if you drop a seed...well...pretty much anywhere that doesn't immediately kill it, and it gets wet? It's going to self-replicate. It will complete it's life-cycle and produce more seeds, no human intervention required.

    So from a software company, this case has already been decided?

    Nature has prior art. The BSA's arguments are invalid.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @06:30PM (#42950247) Homepage

    BSA is in the legal assault industry.

  • Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry.

    It's not odd at all.

    Monsanto's "innovation" is protected under US Patent law. Traditionally, patents were protected by suing the infriging party. However, the "terminator gene" is a technological self-help measure: Monsanto can enforce their patent on their own, without intervention of the law, by simply making it literally impossible to grow a second generation of crops by planting the first. It's genetic DR

  • While I understand that this removes the ability of a farmer to further breed the crop they've bought, I still prefer sterile GMOs to crosspollenation.

    • by xiando (770382)

      While I understand that this removes the ability of a farmer to further breed the crop they've bought, I still prefer sterile GMOs to crosspollenation.

      There is a third choice: Outlaw GMOs. GMO crops are illegal here in Sweden and I'm glad they are. We don't have to choose between two evils, we just reject both.

  • Many plants don't exclusively reproduce from seeds, they can also reproduce from cuttings.

  • Scientists in Canada confirmed Posilac (the growth hormone they give many dairy cows in the USA) causes cancer, which makes sense considering what cancer is. What would seeds that don't reproduce naturally do to us? (SEEDS! that grow plants that don't reproduce?!) Is anyone else concerned?
  • There is no evidence that Monsanto would resort to terminator genes when other techniques like careful hybridization would get the same results.

    Not to mention it's pretty unlikely the Supreme Court is going to rule against Monsanto in the first place.

    Really the article is pretty much a ridiculously transparent troll.

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