Keywords: agricultural biotechnology, sterile seed technology, Terminator technology, Monsanto, Rockefeller Foundation, GM rice
Learning from the Terminator debacle
Monsanto's 1999 decision not to acquire "sterile seed technology", otherwise known as the "Terminator", was in response to widespread pressure. The technology's commercial potential was "uncertain", and the company's image and share price were taking a beating. Potential international suitors risked being scared off. Few people anywhere could find any redeeming features in it. Above all, Monsanto appears to have reversed its plans in response to a stinging rebuke from the head of the Rockefeller Foundation. Monsanto was warned of the possible negative social and economic consequences of introducing terminator technology in the third world. The foundation also wanted the way cleared for its own agricultural biotechnology agenda; the Terminator controversy risked jeopardising its own ambitious GM rice program. Since dropping the technology, Monsanto has donated the rice genome to the world, while the USDA, which funded terminator technology R&D, has established a panel that will study its potential.