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Biotech The Courts Science

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

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 ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @09:47PM (#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.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:53PM (#42952063)

    But these seeds were never stolen.

    Monsanto does not claim that Mr. Bowman or anybody else stole the seeds. They claim that Mr. Bowman violated their intellectual property rights by planting their patented seeds without their permission.

    Farmers bought seeds from Monsanto, and agreed not to plant them or sell them for seed. They sold them to a grain wholesaler that they assumed would sell them for food. The vast majority of them were sold for food. The grain wholesaler, who did not sign an agreement with Monsanto (why should they?) bought the seed, tossed it in the elevator with all their other soybeans. No violation of the law so far. Mr. Bowman bought the seed. The grain wholesaler did not break any patent law nor break any contractual agreement by selling the seeds to Mr. Bowman. Mr. Bowman, who had not signed any agreement with Monsanto, planted the seeds.

    At what point was the law broken, if any? Monsanto claims that Mr. Bowman broke the law by planting seeds. Appeals courts agreed. It appears that somebody on the SCOTUS either disagrees or wants to clarify or underscore the patent law regarding patents on living organisms.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @12:57AM (#42952777)

    Engineering food to not reproduce just seems like a poor idea to me.

    Too late. We have already been doing it for centuries. Visit any grocery store and you will see seedless grapes, seedless watermelons, navel oranges, seedless banana, etc. I doubt if many American or Europeans have ever seen a banana with seeds.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @01:17AM (#42952871)
    The industrial revolution started in Europe. Don't kid yourself.
  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @05:29AM (#42953937) Homepage Journal

    well the banana apocalypse is actually real.. for clones of particular banana.

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