Terminator Seeds

Throughout the history of agriculture, farmers would plant crops, and the crops would grow, flower, and then go to seed as the vegetables matured. The farmers would take some of the seeds at the end of the growing season and save them for the next year. Hence, farmers could keep the seeds of the plants that produced the most yield, or were healthiest, or whatever qualities farmers preferred, and gradually improve their stock. It also meant that they did not have to go hunting for seed in the spring.

This certainly makes sense if you are farmer. The less inputs you need to buy on the open market, the more you can keep of the money you make taking your produce to market. However, if you're a company that sells seeds, then such an arrangement is unconscionable. In that case, you would want to do whatever is necessary to keep your customers coming back to you for more seeds year after year.

Hence, the drive to produce "terminator seeds."

Plants grown from terminator seeds produce infertile seeds, so that they can't be saved over the winter and re-planted the following spring. Instead, farmers have to come crawling back to the biotech companies on bended knee to buy more seeds. This is how the good people at companies like Monsanto intend to provide "Abundant Food and a Healthy Environment," as their mission statement hypocritically attests. It's a disgusting, shameless move and its sole purpose is to position the biotech company as the gatekeeper to the seed supply, thus usurping countless thousands of years of farmer self-sufficiency.

It's the same mentality that goes into all "value add" food products, from fast food to prepared dinners to snack foods. Take fruits and vegetables, which are boring, hard to brand, and have a low profit margin; spend a little bit of money processing those boring ingredients, making sure to add a lot of salt, sugar, fat, and flavour enhancers, and then mark it up drastically with a fancy box and a hip ad campaign. Voila big profits! (As an aside, I have seen apples and oranges with tiny stickers on them advertising movies and other unrelated products. Anything to foist a commercial message on a reluctant audience!) Well, the biotech companies have found a way to brand the other side of the plants' life: the seeds. Now a branded seed is sold and grown into a branded plant, which is then used to make a branded foodstuff.

It's the holy grail for the agribusiness industry, and something of a disaster for everyone else; but especially the farmers, who are already on razor thin margin and cannot afford more expensive inputs, and for the poor in the third world, who already cannot afford to eat. The sick irony of all biotech - roundup ready soybeans, rBGH milk, terminator seeds, etc. - is that there's already more than enough food in the world. Enough food is produced every year to feed 9 billion people, but it doesn't get to the people who need it most. All these biotech "advances" do, setting aside for a moment the dangers of GE, is further glut the market with a product that is less affordable to the poor people in the third world who need help the most.

So much for "Abundant food and a Healthy Environment."

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