14 May 1999

Terminator gene pledge

BIOTECHNOLOGY giant Monsanto is pledging to delay the introduction of terminator gene technology until it has investigated any possible environmental, economic and social effects of the process.

Terminator genes introduced to plants render the seed sterile to prevent farmers saving seed for the following year. The prospect has caused particular concern among farmers and charities in the Third World, where most producers rely on farm-saved seed.

According to an article in the St Louis Post – a newspaper based in Monsantos base in the US – a statement from Monsanto said: "We believe that the concerns about gene protection technologies should be heard and carefully considered before any decisions are made to commercialise them."

The article quoted Philip Angell, Monsantos director of communications as saying: "The company has adopted a new position on the technology because the reaction to terminator in a lot of different quarters in many countries was clearly becoming the dominant discussion about biotechnology."

Mr Angell said Monsanto had consulted eminent scientists before issuing its statement, which he described as "recognition that we need some level of public acceptance to do our business."

Monsanto is not alone in developing the technology, believed to be several years from the market. &#42