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Hells Canyon Journal
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December 9, 1998     Hells Canyon Journal
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December 9, 1998
 

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Scientist Decries Anti-germination Gene by Scott A. Yates with private companies, giv- Capital Press Staff Writer ing the company first crack at marketing any discovery. Spokane, Wash. -- A1- So far, TPS research has thoughit was named the Tech- concentrated on tobacco, (be- nology Protection System by cause it is an easy crop to its developer, opponents of manipulate) and cotton -- of this brand of genetic manipu- which Delta and Pine Land lation call it something more Co. has a 73 percent market ominous: the terminator gene. share. It's still uncertain if Working in partnership the technology will work out- with the Delta Pine and Land side the greenhouse or if it Co. since 1993, the Agricul- can be applied to all crops. ture Research Service of the An indication ARS re- U.S. Department of Agricul- searchers think it has a fu- ture patented a method to ture, however, is apatentthat turn off seed germination af- extends to all crops. Another teroneuse. Just as seed from hint, might be found in hybrid crops can't be used as Monsanto's offer to buy Delta efficiently the following year, Pine and Land Co. As the the technology protection sys- ARS's partner in the research, tern would prevent farmers of DPL is the co-patent holder of nonhybrid crops from saving the TPS technology. seed. The technology has gener- Steve Jones, Washington ated controversy worldwide. State University wheat Its proponents say the ability breeder, is an outspoken op- to protect genetic traits would ponent of the new technology, enable companies to invest It takes away a right of farm- more in seed varietal devel- ers that is as old as agricul- opment. ture itself, he said, and is only Although scientists know designed to give corporations enormous amounts about the higher profits by forcing an- genetics of plants, said Sandy nual purchases of seed. Hays, director of information Other Northwest scientists for the ARS in Beltsville, are less indignant. Robert Maryland, it still requires in- Zemetra, wheat breeder at the tensive investments to come University of Idaho, suspects up with new varieties. it will take a lot of testing "The thought was, if com- before farmers will be willing panics could protect their re- to even consider planting a search investment, maybe crop that doesn't produce a breeders would do more to viable seed. If it does become develop the new varieties an alternative, he'd recom- needed," she said, adding the mend farmers always plant system in place now doesn't traditional varieties in order provide a lot of incentive for Page 13 Hells Canyon Journal December 9, 1998 of other advantages to using germ plasm through the seed. TPS. First, TPS essentially With a seed that doesn't ger- He said opponents of the turns offthe embryo, sothere minate, that wouldn't be true. technology don't give farmers would be no possibility of He wonders whether such in the developing world credit sprouting prior to harvest in technology would narrow the fortheirintelligence.Therewill a wet year. Second, in a world germ plasm base. be a dialogue with the farmer where genetic manipulation "If you put in terminator who buys a high-priced seed is becoming the norm, put- genes, nobody can use the ge- with superior characteristics, ting TPS in seed would pre- neticbackgroundandyouelimi- He will understand what he is vent the outcrossing ofgeneti- nate the germ plasm flow that purchasing, Barton said. cally engineered traits, has been freely available to ev- This is an area of particu- One of the problems with eryone in the world," he said. lar concern for some. One sce- the technology is the possibil- Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, ce- nario is that TPS will be mis- ity that pollen from a TPS real geneticist and biotech- understood, seed will be saved crop could blow onto a non- nologist at Oregon State Uni- and the following year's crop TPS crop, rendering its seed versity, cites another draw- will not germinate, sterile as well. The ARS's back. Much of the genetic The Third World does ap- Hays acknowledged that pos- material being used by breed- pear to be a target for this sibility, but said the technol- ersin the UnitedStatestoday technology. Barton refers to ogyis designed for use on self- initially came from the devel- the less sophisticated intel- pollinating crops where there oping world. He said selling lectual property rights laws is little pollen spread. Fur- varietal traits back to those in these countries that can be thermore, she said, work is countries in terminator type seen in the software, video continuing on how to produce seed raises ethical as well as tape, music and book piracy pollen without the TPS trade questions. that occurs, transgenes. In the end, whether the Developers of seed varlet- Jack Brown, a University technology has widespread ies are reluctant to introduce of Idaho plant breeder spe- use will depend on the value superior strains into a place cializing in mustard and of the traits engineered into where you can only sell them canola, has been particularly the seed, Riera-Lizarazu said. once and never again. The vocal in pointing out the pos- That, in turn, depends on TPS system, he said, would sibilitiesofout-crossing. Nev- many variables including the be a way to speed up the intro- ertheless, when it comes to crop and its biology. duction of new plant charac- TPS, his concern is that it "It may not be all that im- teristics in those countries, would limit the availability of portant in the end," he said. rather than wait 30 years for cultivars for breeders to use. (Editor's note: this article more sophisticated intellec- Now, even if a traditional was originally printed in the tual property laws. breeder doesn't have a direct CAeITAL PRESS on Decdrnber 4, Besides the economic con- link with another breeder, he and is reprinted here by per- sideration, there are a couple still has access to the latest mission.) to retain their seed-saving companies to do such work. privilege. Gary Barton, directorof uOaORNrmzco.][ [ LaRue .11 So is the technolo,gy good or biotechnology communication TrrLE INSURANCE & ESCROWS II bad? Zemetra said it s good for at Monsanto, becomes down- FAST FRIENDLY SERVICE II Sanitary Servz companies, but a public rein- right irritated about the mis- LOCALLY OWNED & OPERATED I[ i Serving Pine Valley | tions nightmare for the ARS.information that surrounds 541"5~'3"6477 [II and the Snake River Areas I FAX 523=9372 I1 People like Jones represent TPS, starting with the nameP.O.Sox148.1r=s~st-s=~eWI I 742-6857 I a piece of that nightmare. He opponents of the technology said there should have been have given it: the terminator ~^_. r~^..t r~AL,.'_ [Terjeson Construction I more debate on the release of gene. Although Monsanto the technology to a private, announced plans to buy DPL~iin[~ I & Fine Woodworking ] company, especially since the several months ago, the sale [ " CAD & Planning [ ARS is a taxpayer-funded hasn t gone through, so .I agency. New Construction Remodel [ III Monsanto doesn t yet have a Custom Homes I How could the public's direct interest in TPS. 742-5623 I Im Remodel'l money be used to benefit largeNevertheless, Barton is The answer is the Federal I ve had so many calls from Technology Transfer Act ofpeople.who believe all th!s W Rt. l Box 192 I 1986, a law that allows the stuff," he said"The facts don t ml av I ARS to work in partnership matter. "Serving Ranchers & Farmers ~ I ~n 1-800-541-1612since 1939" 'Opp ~,bUtactual~rthree Parts- Service- Sales[ __ Hells Canyon ] genes , ceded to makethe HOLUNGSWORTHS'onta.o, OR INC. JOURNAL I tracycline. Sandy 208-549-2341 541-742-7900] Weiser, ID IIB~_L~-~. P:Q. Box 646 I -~.~ Halfway, OR 97834 [ III PLUMBING Licensed (CCB #70107) Bonded & Insured 46550 Slaughterhouse Rd. Halfway 742-6330 or 523-7465 I Pine Valley Interiors Residential Commercial Draperies Upholstery. Accessories Blinds. Fabric Samples Shades Drapery Hardware Parts. 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