Genetic use restriction technology (G.U.R.T.) is also sometimes referred to as the terminator gene or suicide seed. It is the use of genetic modification to produce sterile seed that will not germinate if planted. This would permit the seed seller, often a multi-national corporation, to charge as much they want. There are so many myths and misconceptions on this topic that it is hard to know where to begin. Many of these myths can probably be explained by the internet keeping a story in circulation long after it has become obsolete.

Let me start by saying that I'm opposed to the above technology both in principle and in practice.

Now for the part that I'm sure will anger some readers. To the date of this writing, no such technology has ever been commercialized. That is the best information this writer could find at the time of this writing. The original G.U.R.T. patent, developed by Delta & Pine Land Company in cooperation with the USDA, was acquired when Monsanto acquired D&PL in 2007. Monsanto pledged in 1999 not to use G.U.R.T. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) recommended an international moratorium on commercialization and field testing of G.U.R.T. in 2000. The language was strengthened and the moratorium reaffirmed in 2006. That original patent has since expired but research continues.

Does this mean that we shouldn't be concerned? Of course not! Does this mean that Monsanto/Bayer are "the good guys"? Give me a break!

I like to label statements that are personal opinion clearly as such. Personal opinion: One significant reason GURT has never been deployed commercially is that it has not been needed. These technologies are the WMD of genetic modification. The more conventional weapons such as hybrid seed are doing the job nicely. This is because farmers who have been saving seed and now opt for purchasing hybrid seed can no longer save part of the crop for next season's seed. Seeds produced by hybrid strains sold commercially are typically useless compared to the hybrid parent. In this sense hybrid seeds, from the selling company's point of view, achieve the same objective as "suicide seed". That of repeat business.

In India's State of Maharashtra, which has been suffering a multi-year drought, it is estimated that from eight to ten farmers per day on average have committed suicide over the last four years. This is clearly a tragedy and there are a lot of reasons for this trend. Expensive seed can certainly be counted among these when many of these farmers are already under tremendous debt. But it isn't "suicide seed". Again, there is no such product on the market.

Just because narrowly defined GURT isn't yet commercialized doesn't mean that this kind of genetic tampering shouldn't be of concern. With genome editing technology dropping in price this conversation is far from over.

For more information
The GURT Wiki
Based on user feedback, first paragraph has been edited for clarity. Thanks, RedOmega!

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