Through modern biotechnology, it may be possible to develop crops that will not produce viable offspring seeds or that will produce viable seeds with specific genes switched-off. Gene Use Restriction Technology (GURT) includes a range of technologies employed at the genetic level, designed to limit the use or spread of specific genetic material in agriculture.
Sterile seed technology is a type of GURT in which seed produced by a crop will not grow. Dubbed “terminator technology” in the popular press, many have expressed concerns that sterile seed technology might pose a threat to the livelihood and way of life of small landholder farmers in developing countries. These farmers have saved seeds to plant the next crop for centuries.
Monsanto has never developed or commercialized a sterile seed product. Sharing many of the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment. We have no plans or research that would violate this commitment in any way.
It’s true that GURTs offer certain benefits. GURTs can be used to limit the use or spread of specific genetic material in agriculture. For example, technology developers can invest in beneficial traits and utilize GURT to ensure specific traits are available only to farmers wanting to pay for and use the traits. GURTs also help with the stewardship of biotech crops by offering a means to ensure that biotech genetic material is present only in intended agricultural settings.
Monsanto sees both the positive and negative aspects of GURT and understands there are some uses which would not involve sterile seeds but which would be beneficial for small landholder farmers. For instance, it may be possible to create varieties where farmers can save and plant seeds, but the offspring seed does not carry the biotech trait.
If Monsanto should decide to move forward in the area of GURTs, we would do so in consultation with experts and stakeholders, including NGOs. Our commitment to protecting smallholder farmers and our promise not to commercialize sterile seed technology will carry forward with these developments, should they occur.
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