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 -
Mashambas Skyscraper Farm Design Wins
'...a towering eighty-story structure like the office In-and Out baskets stacked up to the sky.' - Poh and Kornbluth, 1952.
Self-Driving Tractors From China Plan Ahead
'Machines that seemingly with full consciousness walked out into the fields to do their daily work.' - Otfrid von Hanstein
John Deere Self-Driving Tractor
'The huge plow... seemed to shake itself - and began to move back southward.' - Otfrid von Hanstein, 1935.
SWEEPER Robot Peter Piper Picking Peppers
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant, apparently on caterpillar tracks, cutting off the ripe fruit.' Otfrid von Hanstein, 1935.
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.
I Want My 1928 Telestereo Hologram Now
'Instantly there appeared standing upon the disk, the image of a man...'
Memes Now Come From Neural Nets
'Your order said for him to be able to be able to work out twists on the gags in the file...'
Robot Dog Learns To Be Doggy From Real Dogs
'So we took pictures of Guzub making a Three Planets, and I could construct this one to do it exactly right down to the thousandth of a second.'
Unwanted Cruise Ships Huddle Together Out At Sea
'On the screen they passed in an endless, boundaryless flood of green specks...'
Sono Sion Electric Car Charges As You Drive
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
News Mood Filter Web Extension
'He adjusted the n, the r and b knobs, and hopefully anticipated a turn for the better...'
Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...'
MIT Wants To Catch Interstellar Visitors
'INVESTIGATE MYSTERIOUS OBJECT ENTERING NEW CALEDONIA SYSTEM FROM NORMAL SPACE'
AutoX Sets Up Asia's Largest Robotaxi Center
'The robot cab seemed to know where it was going and, no doubt, the master machine from which it received its signals knew.'
E - Ink's Automatic Self Styling Color-Changing Dress
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'
Soft Robots Use Kirigami Piezoelectric Sensor Skin
'A worthy opponent was the golem.'
Bosch Smartglasses Laser Paints AR Image On Your Retina
'Soon we'll be testing a system that projects directly on the retina of the eye.'
Maybe We Could Hibernate Until The Covid-19 Pandemic's End
'Cold-rest was a common last resort therapy for functional psychoses.'
Workplace Monitoring Hell, I Mean, Tool For Safe Distancing
'And here is the weirdest part -- I never see another employee the entire day.'
Patent Office Says AIs Cannot Be Inventors
'The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let 'em get.'
Starlink Orbital Network Like Coruscant Traffic Jam
Vermin of the Sky? Or Internet access for all?
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories