HTML _ RL30278 - The 'Terminator Gene' and Other Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) in Crops
21-Oct-1999; Alejandro E. Segarre and Jean M. Rawson; 9 p.

Abstract: Plant Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) are a group of complex genetic transformations that insert a genetic ¨on-offswitch¨ in plants to prevent the unauthorized use of genetic traits contained within, i.e., GURTs ensure that farmers cannot replant genetically modified crops by simply saving seed. One view is that the use of GURTs provides biotechnology companies with a reliable ¨turn-key¨ mechanism to ensure against the illegal use of intellectual property through a biological lock. However, another set of views looks at GURTs as potential threats to the environment and to farmers in developing countries. Since 1997, over 30 GURT patents have been issued in the United States and Europe; however, the technology is not expected to appear in the commercial seed market for at least 5 years. In March 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Delta and Pine Land Co. (D&PL), a major developer and seller of cotton seed, received U.S. Patent 5,723,765 entitled ¨Control of Plant Gene Expression.¨ This patent gives the holders rights for the use of three new gene sequences that block the production of fertile seeds in genetically engineered plants. According to the patent holders, this so-called ¨Technology Protection System¨ (TPS) would ensure intellectual property protection for investments in genetic engineering and help create incentives to develop new plant varieties that satisfy changing market demands. Shortly after the patent's issuance, the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), an organization headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada and Pittsboro, N.C., that is concerned about issues of crop genetic diversity and the impact of intellectual property rights on agriculture, began to organize opposition to the patent. RAFI coined the term 'Terminator Gene¨ to label the technology as a negative one for farmers. Issues highlighted by RAFI were: the accelerating effect of these technologies on seed industry consolidation; the potential adverse effects of TPS on food security in the developing world; and the potential for worldwide losses in crop biodiversity. These issues have received wide press coverage, and other groups have joined RAFI in accusing ARS and the seed biotechnology industry of developing TPS with the intent of hastening monopoly control over global agricultural production. [read report]

Topics: Agriculture, Science & Technology, Biodiversity

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