January 26, 1999

Seed Sterilization is Biotech Holy Grail

New Patents for "Suicide Seeds" Threaten Farmers and Food Security Warns RAFI

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), a Canadian-based rural advocacy organization, announced today that it has uncovered over three dozen new patents describing a wide range of techniques that can be used for the genetic sterilization of plants and seeds. The patents reveal that engineered seed sterility is not an isolated research agenda - it's the Holy Grail of the ag biotech industry," says Pat Mooney of RAFI. The disclosure follows on the heels of a controversial patent unveiled last year, christened the "Terminator" by RAFI, that continues to generate worldwide protest and debate because it renders farm-saved seed sterile - forcing farmers to return to the commercial seed market every year. The Terminator patent is jointly owned by the US Department of Agriculture and a Monsanto subsidiary, Delta & Pine Land Co.

"The notorious Terminator patent is just the tip of the iceberg," explains RAFI's Mooney, "Every major seed and agrochemical enterprise is developing its own version of suicide seeds," he adds.

"We've uncovered dozens of patents that disclose new and more insidious techniques for genetic sterilization of plants and seeds - and even animals," says Edward Hammond of RAFI. "Novartis, AstraZeneca, and Monsanto are among the Gene Giants who have sterile seeds in the pipeline, while others like Pioneer Hi-Bred, Rhone Poulenc, and DuPont have technologies that could easily be turned into Terminators." The primary goal of several of the the newly patented techniques is to sterilize seed so that farmers cannot save and re-plant seed.



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