University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Genetically Modified Crops

Differences between conventional plant breeding and GM

Terminator Technology

A topic that has sparked considerable controversy is “terminator technology” or Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). This is a genetic means to make a GM plant sterile, so that any seeds it produces are infertile. Since GM crops created with GURT cannot reproduce, the farmer can't keep a portion of the seeds grown to plant again next year.

The concept of GURT has proved so controversial that the biotech industry has pledged not to deploy the technology.

Arguments given in favour of GURT

  • Supporters say that GURT is there to protect the biotech companies' investment in research. If farmers could replant the seed, there would be no profit in it for private companies, who would then have little incentive to invest in more research.
  • In developed countries buying new seed each year is common, as many of the high yielding hybrid varieties planted do not produce “true” seed. The second generation of plants lose some of the traits that made them advantageous.
  • Supporters also claim that making GM crops sterile is a strategy to prevent GM genes from cross breeding with non-GM varieties.

Potential problems

  • In less developed countries, keeping back seed from one year to replant the next is a vital farming practice. Poor farmers simply don't have the money to buy new seed each year.
  • Opponents of GURT say that, at best, preventing seed saving means that poor farmers would not be able to benefit from GM technology. At worst, such farmers could become locked into a cycle of dependence on the biotech companies for their basic food supply.

At the time of writing this page, GURT is not currently being used commercially and international charitable agencies will not support reseach on its use in crops for less developed countries.


 The next generation of GM - Pharma Crops


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