USDA Biotech Committee to Look at Terminator Seed
(31 March - Cropchoice News) -- Bowing to pressure from growers and activists, Ag Secretary Dan Glickman has agreed that a USDA committee should take another look terminator seeds. Glickman made the announcement Wednesday (29 March) at the first meeting of USDA's Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee, a new group appointed in late January.
Glickman's possible turnaround on terminator came after days of harsh new criticism of USDA from farm and activist groups. On Monday, when activists reported on new terminator patents paid for by USDA research dollars, American Corn Growers Association CEO Gary Goldberg said corn growers "felt duped and betrayed". Quoted by RAFI, a Winnipeg-based farm advocacy group, Goldberg said "We demand to know why the USDA continues to invest taxpayer dollars on anti-farmer research that, if commercialized, will hold farmers hostage to giant agribusiness corporations."
Called 'gene protection' or 'technology protection system' by industry, terminator technology is a controversial genetic enhancement technique that lets companies build seed that is sterile in the second generation. Called 'suicide seed' by critics, terminator prevents farmers from using farm-saved seed and according to many is a threat to grower's independence.
The biggest industry promoter of terminator technology is Mississippi-based DeltaPine, the #1 cotton seed company in the US. Deltapine also sells the "Paymaster" and "Sure-Grow" brands and produces soybean seeds. Deltapine almost merged with Monsanto last year; but the St. Louis-based Roundup maker dumped Deltapine when Sweden's Pharmacia made a merger offer.
A bill has been introduced this year in Maryland that would ban terminator seeds. Under heavy pressure from industry lobbyists, last year the Vermont legislature narrowly rejected a bill to ban terminator seeds, instead approving a study of their consequences.
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SOURCE: RAFI, USDA