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Monsanto Should Renounce the
biotechnology to agriculture, St. Louis' Monsanto, is in the process of acquiring
a little-known cotton seed company, Delta & Pine Land, and with it U.S.
patent 5,723,765. This patent covers an ingenious "technology protection
system" that can be used to ensure that genetically modified plants produce sterile seeds. The commercial
importance of this development to Monsanto cannot be overstated. It will
keep farmers who grow soy beans, wheat, rice, and cotton coming back for
The repressor gene.
fresh seeds year after year. Once these transplanted gene makes a repressor farmers grow accustomed to the benefits
of genes that fend off assaults from preventing it from producing its insect pests, herbicides, and bad recombinase. Thus when this repressor weather, they will become regular and gene is active, the scissors gene is not,
dependable customers, safeguarding and so no toxin can be made. Monsanto's considerable investment in
A clever chemical modification of the repressor is the key to the new
A storm of protest has arisen over the technology: the repressor protein has possibility that Monsanto might utilize been designed by the gene engineers so
this technology protection system, called
the "terminator technology" by its chemical, in this instance the antibiotic critics. Monsanto is quick to point out tetracycline. When tetracycline is
that they don't even own the patent yet,
and say they are gathering information "terminator" seeds, the tetracycline ties
from an array of sources. They pledge up the repressor proteins within the not to commercialize the technology seeds, so no repressors are available to
the company has responded to any down. When these sprayed seeds are
concerns raised. However, Monsanto planted, the scissors within them are free rather pointedly has not renounced its to do their job, and, when they do, the potential use of terminator technology.
sterilizing toxin gene is primed to kick in months later when the mature plant makes its own seeds. Any seeds made by
long history of being friendly to The terminator technology is one
biotechnology, publicly asked that example of a powerful new wave of
Monsanto do just that, arguing that the biotechnology research that uses
possible consequences to Third World chemicals as switches to turn specific
protecting innovation. Subsistence times. Potential uses for such switches
farmers are too poor to buy new seed, abound. For example, instead of planting
and thus depend on saving and trading GM crops that produce insect-killing
with neighbors. "What the terminator
gene does is basically kill the process cotton do now), the new technology
that lets farmers sow their own seeds," would allow farmers to prevent plants
from making the toxin unless a crop is actually threatened with serious insect
Wether or not Monsanto heeds damage. This is important, because Conway's advice and renounces lower everyday levels of toxin in a crop
terminator seed protection technology is
a decision that I suspect will have more
far-reaching implications for the future
of biotechnology in agriculture than any
other decision the beleaguered undoubtedly have a major impact on
biotechnology, as it provides the gene engineer with a very powerful tool, one
Just how does terminator technology with many potential uses. It would be work? It involves a very clever
unfortunate if the first use was to switch
interaction between three genes that are
public censure. Monsanto should heed Conway's advice, and get on with
The toxin gene.
The first of these developing other more beneficial
transplanted genes encodes a toxin that applications of this exciting technology.
kills seeds in their final stage of development. To shut this sterilizing
gene off, gene engineers have inserted a DNA security wall between it and the
controlling region that activates the gene's use. The gene cannot generate its toxin as long as the wall is in place.
The scissors gene.
transplanted gene is a scissors gene that
which can cut out the DNA security wall, thus turning on the toxin gene.
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