Vandana Shiva admits: There is No Terminator

A few weeks ago I wrote The Truth About the Terminator questioning the dubious but influential and oft-repeated claims that Monsanto’s Terminator seeds are widely used and lead directly to widespread farmer suicides in India. Yesterday it was brought to my attention that Vandana Shiva, High Priestess of the anti-GE “keep the poor poor and hungry” movement has in fact admitted in her own publication the Navdanya “Seed Kit” that so called “Terminator” technology- properly GURT or Gene Use Restriction Technology – has never been used in a commercial crop:

Terminator Seeds

Terminator seeds are genetically modified to kill their own embryos, making them sterile at harvest. This means that if farmers save the seeds of these plants at harvest for future crops, the next generation of plants will not grow. Farmers would thus need to buy new seeds every year.

After studying these seeds, molecular biologists warned of the possibility of terminator seeds spreading to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment—the gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans. Since 2001 there has been a de facto worldwide moratorium on the use of terminator technology. {Emphasis added}

Note that she repeats the lie from her 2000 book Stolen Harvest that sterile seeds could spread sterility…through seeds. So we have a situation whereby a whole movement made up of organic farmers and permaculturalists (as well as others like “alternative health” practitioners, who we should not expect too much of anyway) who one might expect to know something about the basic facts of life such as how baby plants are made, believe this, and other nonsense about GE technology, and campaign vigorously for complete bans on the technology as a result, even on occasion going so far as to pull crops up and oppose scientific trials on the basis of a non-existent threat from a non-existent trait.

This curious phenomenon is something to take deep inside and meditate on for a while. There is nowt so queer as folk, as my mother says.

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7 Comments

  1. lucibee

     /  October 16, 2012

    Interesting. I was with you, until I thought to myself, “did a molecular biologist really say that?”. So I looked it up, and sure enough they did! Turns out it was Martha Crouch, former Associate Biology Prof at Indiana University: http://www.psrast.org/terminexpl.htm

    The paper makes interesting reading, and the transfer of sterility does seem marginally feasible (although not to the extent that Shiva implies!). Dr Crouch concludes with, “But whatever the potential biological problems presented by Terminator, in my view they are small in comparison to Terminator’s economic, social, and political ramifications.”

    Another case of VS turning molehills into mountains methinks.

    Reply
    • Well spotted Lucy, interesting indeed! Crouch is associated with the anti-GE Center for Food Safety, who came up with the Agent Orange Corn scare story . The Terminator paper is also offered by the Far-Woo Vedic Books. She cites Mae Wan Ho also, so I think more activist than scientist.
      I cant see anywhere in the paper that she says there could be any risk of the Terminator genes spreading into the environment- a possible but hypothetical risk of spreading to a non-Terminator crop of the same species only- even if this is plausible, Shiva’s “the gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans” does seem to be overstating the case somewhat!!

      The possibility of cross pollination that would carry the other GE characteristics is explored (like RR) but if the Terminator gene was spread, in her example it would remain inactive unless the anti-biotic treatment was applied, which as she explains would have to be applied correctly to every seed; so no plausibility of Terminator slowly spreading general seed sterility through the plant kingdom, even if you take everything else she says at face value.

      Reply
      • Mitch W.

         /  October 24, 2012

        This Terminator scenario completely ignores the forces of evolution, which would quickly wipe out or, at the very least, severely marginalize such terminator genes. By their very action they confer a severe evolutionary disadvantage to their biological hosts.

        Reply
  2. - I just posted in another story about how having an educated public public is a 4th part of democracy.
    - Good skeptical & critical thinking skills in the public are the “terminator gene of WOO” which stops woo building up into massive movements like that of the anti-GE

    Reply
  3. Mitch W.

     /  October 24, 2012

    “…the gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a global catastrophe that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans….”

    I’m disappointed. No self respecting doomsday scenario is complete without a rip in the spacetime continuum !

    Reply
  4. Wackes Seppi

     /  January 10, 2013

    You’re wrong my friend! Vandana Shiva’s statements are totally irrational, in terms of substance and also over time.

    Just go to:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-rose-levy/deepak-chopra-and-vandann_b_1376136.html

    and read:

    “As opposed to the life proliferating activities of cow dung, GMO seeds are “terminator seeds designed to be sterile, in a deliberate creation of food scarcity for profits,” says Shiva, who has worked with and defended the rights of farmers to store seeds for three decades.”

    Terminator by a dummy is also worth a look:

    http://vimeo.com/42987406

    Reply

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