Biodiversity Science ›› 1999, Vol. 07 ›› Issue (2): 151-155.doi: 10.17520/biods.1999023

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Terminator technology and biosafety

QIAN Ying-Qian, MA Ke-Ping, SANG Wei-Guo, WEI Wei   

  1. Institute of Botany , The Chinese Academy of Sciences , China 100093
  • Received:1999-02-09 Revised:1999-03-15 Online:1999-05-20

In March 1998 , the Delta and Pine Land seed company and the U. S. Department of Agriculture announced that they had received a patent on the“Terminator Technology”. The technology involves three following steps :genetic engineers transfer terminator genes to a crop ; the seed company initiates the terminator process by adding an inducer before selling the seeds ; farmers then plant seeds , and harvest mature ,but sterile , seeds. At a late stage of seed development , under the control of the inducer ,one gene in the terminator becomes active and produces toxin. The toxin kills the embryo , resulting in the sterile seed. Enormous international responses were induced by this patent . The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) pointed out that the terminator technology must be banned in order to defend the world food security. The CGIAR cited the following reasons : This technology will stop farmers from producing fertile seeds from their own crops , consequently , the genetic diversity of crops and sustainabity of agriculture will be adversely affected. It will probably induce the risk of the sale or exchange of sterile seeds , and risk of biosafety through pollen spread. Some third world countries warmed that this technique is“seeds of disaster”, and“the neutron bomb of agriculture”. Sterile seeds produced by genetically modified crops with terminator genes may solve the ecological risk brought about from transgene escape , but the accompanied risk on biosafety and expense of global food security is no solution. From another point of view , this technology itself may be the another kind of risk of biosafety derived from genetic engineering.

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