Spring is finally unequivocally in the air in New England and people are seriously thinking about their all things green and budding. All my gardening friends are comparing the size of their sprouts and making lengthy schedules detailing what needs to be planted when.
With growing on everyone’s minds, it was unsurprising that terminator seeds came up in a recent conversation. The term contrives an outrageous image of a seed on steroids making little quips in a funny accent – “I’ll be back.” (Of course, this is erroneous imagery since the very definition of terminator dictates that they won’t be back.)
For those of you that do not know, Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), commonly known as “terminator technology”, is the name given to methods for genetically modifying plants to cause second generation seeds to be sterile. There are two primary types: V-GURT and T-GURT.
- V-GURT: This type of GURT produces sterile seeds, meaning that a grower that had purchased seeds containing V-GURT technology could not save the seed from this crop for future planting. The technology is restricted at the plant variety level – hence the term V-GURT. Manufacturers of genetically enhanced crops use this technology to protect their products from unauthorized use.
- T-GURT: A second type of GURT modifies a crop in such a way that the genetic “enhancement” engineered into the crop does not function until the crop plant is treated with a chemical that is sold by the biotechnology company. Growers can save seeds for use each year. However, the plant does not express the enhanced trait unless it is exposed to the activator compound. The technology is restricted at the trait level – hence the term T-GURT.
I could go into a huge discussion on the myriad of evils associated with genetically modified food crops, but that is a topic for another day (when I have a heck of a lot more time!)
Today I’m just dwelling on the most aberrant idea of terminator technology. To take something that is the most fundamentally natural thing – the life cycle of a plant – and truncate it for monetary reasons, borders on perversion to me. Plants are essential for human life to exist; even the strictest carnivore needs Oxygen to breathe. (Not to mention that inevitably some lower step in the food chain requires vegetal life for sustenance.) In all honesty, the idea of patenting a specific sequence of expressed genes in plant varieties is repugnant. So much for natural selection. What comes next? Copyrighting black hair and blue eyes?
I’m not a huge seed saver, mostly because seeds are so cheap it doesn’t make much sense to invest the time and energy into it. However, I am very careful to buy only heirloom seeds from trusted, organic sources that do not genetically modify their plants. I did save a few things last year – dill, sugar pumpkins, a million rutabagas and a few other things that I’ll try planting just to see how it goes.
If anyone wants non-genetically modified, naturally grown and hand harvested Laurentian Rutabaga, New England Sugar Pumpkin, mystery tomatoes or Dill seeds e-mail me at: email@example.com and I’ll send some to you! I saved far more than I can use and would be pleased to share them around. I have no idea what the germination rate will be, but would be interested to know how it turns out for people…