New frontier in agribusiness : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is not a question. It's a howl of outrage.

There has been a new and appalling development in agribusiness practice. Anyone interested in growing their own food should read the following extract from a longer article Read the whole piece at Seeds that won't reproduce themselves. It's dated September, 1998.

"There have been times in human history when the line between genius and insanity was so fine that it was barely perceptible. In the world of biotechnology and food, that line has just been obliterated. Announcements made over the past 90 days suggest that an ingenious scientific achievement and subsequent, related business developments threaten to terminate the natural and original human ability of people everywhere to freely grow food to feed themselves and others.

"Never before has man created such an insidiously dangerous, far-reaching and potentially "perfect" plan to control the livelihoods, food supply and even survival of all humans on the planet.

"Is this an overstatement? Read below, investigate the claims made, call the people involved and judge for yourself.

"On March 3, 1998, (5 months ago) the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Delta and Pine Land Company, a Mississippi firm and the largest cotton seed company in the world, announced that they had jointly developed and received a patent (US patent number 5,723,765) on a new agricultural biotechnology.

"Benignly titled, "Control of Plant Gene Expression", the new patent will permit its owners and licensees to create sterile seed by cleverly and selectively programming a plant's DNA to kill its own embryos.

"The patent applies to plants and seeds of all species. The result? If saved at harvest for future crops, the seed produced by these plants will not grow. Pea pods, tomatoes, peppers, heads of wheat and ears of corn will essentially become seed morgues. In one broad, brazen stroke of his hand, man will have irretrievably broken the plant - to -seed - to - plant - to - seed - cycle. THE cycle that supports most life on the planet."

-- Tom Carey (, November 03, 1998


Sorry to burst your bubble Tom, but hybrid seeds have been around for quite awhile (70+ yrs.) You can still buy non-hybrid seed which will reproduce itself. But your fears of hybrid seed are justified. We are two crop failures away from mass starvation. They are growing next years crop seed right now, so in two years you would have no seed for large scale agriculture.

-- Bill (, November 04, 1998.

And the latest thing is the "terminator seeds"(sterile seeds) and the technology has been rejected....the agri-business types were not able to fly it by. I will look up the latest on it...just read it tonight....IT AIN'T Gonna FLY!....people are not as stupid as corporations thought they were.

-- Donna Barthuley (, November 04, 1998.

Condescension doesn't become you, Bill. I'm well aware that hybrid seed is nothing new. Hybrid seed that is genetically engineered to reproduce itself is a different story altogether.

Follow the referenced thread to the next post (here) and you find this kicker:

"Europe's answer to the American Home "Monster" Terminator Technology is the Verminator, a new chemically activated seed killer. The Verminator kills seeds - in one of the invention's claims - by switching on rodent fat genes that have been bioengineered into crops. Zeneca BioSciences (UK) is vying with the "Monster" (Monsanto) to become Top Cat in the global seed industry even if it means playing cat and mouse with farmers and destroying their age-old practice of saving and breeding crop varieties.

"Zeneca, the life industry spin-off of the old ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), says it will apply for patents in 58 countries for its invention that renders it impossible for farmers to save "protected" seed from growing season to growing season (WO 94/03619). The technology, which activates a "killer" gene (or prevents the expression of genes crucial to normal plant development), weighs in whenever a chemical "trigger" is applied to seed at a desired point during plant maturation. For example, genetically engineered seed could be produced that would not germinate unless exposed to Zeneca's private chemical trigger. Or, plants growing in the field could be genetically programmed to become stunted, not properly reproduce, or not resist disease(s) unless sprayed with Zeneca's chemical formula."

It's true there are sources of non-hybridized seed varieties. At present these sources can't begin to supply the volume required for commercial agriculture. To ramp up to that point would take years.

What's been lost over the last several decades of hybridization and selection is an enormous pool of genetic diversity.

-- Tom Carey (, November 04, 1998.

---sorry --

-- Tom Carey (, November 04, 1998.

Tom, you and Texas Terri need to get together and compare notes. She did a thread on this very subject not long ago.

-- Gayla Dunbar (, November 04, 1998.

Without a text search facility on this BBS, how can anyone know what's been said before? I know, archives, archives. Opening every thread, reading every post, is not a realistic option.

-- Tom Carey (, November 04, 1998.

Tom, I wasn't "fussing," I was serious. I thought you might truly enjoy comparing notes. Look down in the archived threads under Government, then look for "America Destroyed By Design."

-- Gayla Dunbar (, November 04, 1998.

Sorry for the attack. Hybrid seed gave the farmers greater yields and resistance, but the trade off was inability to reproduce. Y2K shows us how much we have traded for the ease of modern life. Bigger, better, faster ... Without looking at the implications. Y2K will hit us like a freight train and this is one train that will be on time.

-- Bill (, November 04, 1998.

What tenuous link does this have with computer programming.

-- Richard Dale (, November 04, 1998.

(Starting from the top...)

In my initial post, I messed up the 'bold' tags, "NOT" disappeared, and the sense was reversed. (I gotta stay alert....) What I tried to post was "Hybrid seed that is genetically engineered NOT to reproduce itself is a different story altogether."

(And I'll add to that now:) Inherently different from the hybrids already in use, which do produce viable seed, but just don't breed true.

Donna: what did you read, and where did you read it? If on the Net, could you provide the link? It's not often that agribiz loses out!

Gayla: I didn't think you were fussing; actually I was. I simply knew no practical way to find the thread you mentioned. Thanks for the note, and I will get to it directly.

Bill: no worries. I should have made clear that I knew the difference between hybrid and open-pollinated seed. You're right-- we've given away way too much in the interest of profit, convenience and mass production. Basically because we've overstocked the range. As laid out bluntly in Garret Hardin's The Tragedy of the Commons.

A prescient quote from Hardin's essay:

"In economic affairs, [Adam Smith's] The Wealth of Nations (1776) popularized the "invisible hand," the idea that an individual who "intends only his own gain," is, as it were, "led by an invisible hand to promotethe public interest." Adam Smith did not assert that this was invariably true, and perhaps neither did any of his followers. But he contributed to a dominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered with positive action based on rational analysis, namely, the tendency to assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, be the best decisions for an entire society."

Precisely the assumption that led to the present problem.

Richard: the reference is not to "computer programming," but to vital adaptations likely to be required if the Y2K rollover leaves this country without a functioning infrastructure for any extended period of time. Our enormous industrial "farms" may not be able to produce the food we need, and our transportation system may not be able to deliver it. Some folks will want to grow their own. Some will even be able to.

-- Tom Carey (, November 04, 1998.

What many of you are missing is that seed from hybrid crops can be used a second and third year. They will usually revert to one of the parent stock by in one to several seasons and not produce as heavily, but they do produce. Terminator seed will not produce AT ALL after the original season. With hybrids we may not completely starve, but with terminator seeds we definitely would. This is all about control. The seed companies want to control the crops and their profits. If the farmer has to buy seed every year, then the seed companies have bigger profits. We are also in danger of losing the original seed stock that gave us hybrids.

Another issue is the vicious circle that seed and chemical companies have started with seeds that are "Roundup Ready". This is being passed to weeds growing near these seeds and the weeds are adapting and becoming resistent to herbicides so more and stronger has to be applied, which pollutes our groundwater and makes farmers and their families one of the largest groups prone to cancers.

Are the seed and chemical companies destroying our environment and families in the name of profits. YES! ! !

(No, I am not a tree hugger. We farm.)

-- beckie (, November 04, 1998.

The answer is organic farming. This is expensive, and difficult. But it will get cheaper and easier only if we do the work, and share information. It may not be feasable for some farmers to switch entirely over to organics, but, given the genetic sterilization and engineered dependencies noted above, it is surely prudent to begin experimenting on a small scale. The cancer problem will only get worse if we do nothing.

I've written before about despotism. Read up on the global elite's desire for population control, continuing movement in eugenics (efforts to breed humans for strength, intelligence, or other desirable traits). Control of the world's food supply through genetic manipulation fits this picture. You are losing your freedom. You are losing your planet. Corporations can "own" genes and whole organisms now, including human genes. Dirt-poor farmers in India have been sued for growing rice for seed, as they have for thousands of years, because a corp now "owns" that organism. How long before my wife and I get sued by Monsanto for "copyright infringement" for having a son?


-- E. Coli (, November 04, 1998.

I don't know about paying copyright to have a kid E. But it is kind of obscene when a corporation is allowed to hold a patent on something that belongs to every human on the planet.

As for the seeds - join one of the antique cultivars groups and ignore the big seed companies.

-- Paul Davis (, November 04, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ