Why should GM seeds be sterile?

16 May 2010

Question

I am one of those totally torn by the issue of GM crops. I understand the argument (I think) but the leap forward from annual selection and breeding of crops is over shadowed by the unnecessary control by the developers whereby they retain control of the seeds. How can that benefit man?

Answer

We put this question to Dr Jim Haseloff, from Cambridge University:

Jim - I think it's an extremely interesting question and with synthetic biology, a lot of us are struggling with this idea that are shifting towards modified biological systems that are based on parts, and that those parts might be open-source and the technology is very cheap, so there's certainly a potential for allowing access in developing countries to technology which can dial straight into important sustainable technologies. The current model for biotechnology involves protecting elements and preventing other people from using them except under license. So, this idea of protecting or removing fertility in seeds can have a bio-safety aspect, but it also can have an aspect of limiting use. So, I think this is a question not for scientists but for society.

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