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Asunto:[LEA-Venezuela] I said I'd be back
Fecha:Martes, 19 de Noviembre, 2002  22:57:27 (-0400)
Autor:interfaz <interfaz @.....net>


Para saber mas de la tecnologia Terminator hay otro articulo:
To know more about terminator technology there is another article:
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2002/news02.nov.html#nov0202
---------------------------------------------------------


RE-EMERGING BIOTECHNOLOGIES: REHABILITATING THE TERMINATOR 
Zac Hanley and Kieran Elborough 
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2002/news02.jun.html#jun0203

Four years ago the US Patent Office granted USP#57237651 on `Control Of
Plant Gene Expression' to Delta and Pine Land Corporation and the USDA. The
concept embodied in this patent and others that followed was later
described and derogated as `Terminator Technology'.2 It was presented in
numerous forums as evidence that biotechnology is an immoral industry
driven by corporate greed. Reaction against Terminator solidified
opposition to genetic engineering (GE) among disparate non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups, accelerating the trend towards
coalition. This reaction was something of a surprise for many in the modern
biotechnology industry, who had thought that Terminator would provide
reassuring containment of modified DNA as well as strong protection of
their intellectual property. Instead, objectors saw Terminator as a
challenge to food sovereignty, particularly in developing nations, and an
irresponsible widespread deployment of a potential biological weapon. Now
in the new millennium the Terminator may be back, in numerous guises and
mandated by governments for sound ecological reasons. 

I said I'd be back 
Terminator and associated methods are more prosaically known as Genetic Use
Restriction Technologies (GURTs). In essence, they impose an expiry date on
a genetic enhancement, a built-in obsolescence. Some methods allow
controlled deferment of that expiry date, a strategy similar to that used
by software companies such as Microsoft supplying fully-featured programs
that require activation codes to function beyond a fixed number of uses. In
all the extant examples of GURTs, the enhancement is present in a
cultivated plant and the control over trait continuation rests with the
biotechnology company that developed the cultivar. There are two kinds:
variety-restriction GURTs (V-GURTs) render the subsequent generation
sterile, while trait-restriction GURTs (T-GURTs) ensure that the enhanced
trait is not transmitted to the subsequent generation or that the trait is
only maintained in any generation under certain conditions, e.g., on
application of a proprietary compound. In practice, farmers purchase elite
seeds that provide only one harvest; the seeds from this harvest are
sterile, absent, or non-elite and the farmer must buy either seed or
trait-maintenance compound from the company. 

Objectors to GURTs were able to win support by raising important issues and
also by calling on vivid imagery. There are indeed plausible scenarios
where some applications of GURTs might threaten developing world economies
and ecospheres. Socio-political debate is also won by imagery, and GURTs
have been associated in the public mind with Orwellian visions of state
control over individual freedoms, government-sponsored sterility programs
for `undesirables', the sowing of death in the fields, one more way for the
rich to profit from the poor, and the annihilation of bio- and cultural
diversity as side effects of the practices of a few economically advantaged
countries. This was in addition to the usual accusations against all forms
of GE of hubris and arch-reductionism, and prodigious use of the pollution
metaphor. As a result, organizations such as the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), the Consultative Group on International Agriculture
Research, and the Rockefeller Foundation all released public statements
condemning GURTs at one time or another. The consensus seemed to be that
the consequences of GURT deployment on farmers and consumers in developing
nations outweighed the benefits of protecting innovation, and as mechanisms
to control unwanted gene spread GURTs were insufficiently perfect. In fact,
most of the objections apply only to global use of V-GURTs or global use of
those T-GURTs that require trait-maintenance supplements; this distinction
is not often pointed out. 

However GURTs are now back on the agenda. In July last year a study paper
from the FAO (summarized in a recent review3) provided an update on
technological progress since the first patent and a balanced appraisal of
the projected socio-economic and environmental impacts of the various types
of GURT.4 The working group expect there to be a boom in the use of GURTs
over the next decade as various technical challenges are overcome, and as
governments encourage GURT research seeking technologies permitting GM
plant use without `gene escape' to wild relatives or landraces. The UK
government's Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment now
describes GURTs as "promising" in this regard. The New Zealand Royal
Commission on Genetic Modification recommended that `sterility
technologies'(i.e., V-GURTs) receive funding priority from government
grants. Patenting activity continues, most recently from DuPont
(USP#6297426) and Syngenta (USP#6228643). 

Time for a rethink
Why has there been a shift from widespread condemnation to cautious
appraisal, even approval? It is because GM crops are here to stay. Acreage
planted, species modified, prevalence in individual countries or economic
zones, customer preferences—these will change constantly, but GM will never
be abolished worldwide. To some this is a nightmare: the release of the
`gene genie' is likened to the explosion of the first atomic bomb.
Governments and their advisors, the biotechnology industry, and informed
consumers are more pragmatic. To them it is time to ensure genetic
engineering is subject to appropriate legislative control with due
attention being paid to public safety, the environment, national and
international agendas, and the pressing problems of the new century. In
this context it is time to reconsider technologies such as GURTs. This is
not to say that GURTs are to become ubiquitous. There are strong arguments
against this, not the least of which is ensuring food security of the many
millions who rely on locally bred seeds in developing nations. GURTs have
their place only in the portfolio of strategies needed to act responsibly
while benefiting from biotechnology. 

One objection raised against GURTs is that their use will reduce the routes
farmers have to access the best new seeds. It was thought that this might
lead to monopolies and inevitably to abuses. Much has changed in the past
few years and public education in biotechnology is continuing. With the
levels of legislative and public scrutiny, both national and international,
that are applied to all GM crops, competition within the biotechnology
industry for both profit and acceptance, and the continuing good work of
NGOs committed to the needs of farmers over corporations, seed supply
monopolies are unlikely to worsen. Moreover, GURTs will be employed first
in crops and countries where legislative redress is strongest, markets are
diverse and mature, and farmers are rich and future-oriented—e.g., American
cotton rather than African cassava. 

Detrimental effects of GURTs on agricultural diversity have also been
posited but again the arguments are speculative. With all elite germplasm,
there is pressure to replace existing local varieties rather than
interbreed with them; this is a truism that has no relevancy to GURTs in
particular but is often raised. Also, it was proposed that V-GURTs
resulting in substandard germplasm might lead to large numbers of weakened
plants diluting out local varieties, although the selection pressure for
the local varieties and high-quality hybrids would be great. T-GURTs that
impose reduced fitness alleviated by trait-maintenance compounds (sometimes
labeled `Traitor Technology' and described as making plants "chemically
dependent"2) might be particularly damaging to wild relatives and
landraces. These scenarios all presume horizontal transfer of genes, and
preventative measures are likely to become GM best practise regardless of
the use or non-use of GURTs. At the very least, techniques such as the
genome-wide dispersal of new genes to render trait transfer vanishingly
improbable, or the use of transplastomics, will become prerequisites for
approval of GE varieties. GURTs here provide even greater control and
precision. Despite the hopes of the early researchers and the nightmares of
objectors, GURTs will not change the world; the biotechnology industry
learned this in 1998 and now prophets of `genetic holocaust' must learn it
again. 

GURTs have been vilified and disowned in the past, and a de facto ban on
their commercial use resulting from a successful NGO-led campaign has been
in place for several years. This is most unfortunate, given the recent
furor over the alleged presence of genes from modified maize in Mexican
landraces. If GURT research had not been inhibited, would the transgenes in
today's elite GE maize be constrained by guaranteed pollen sterility, or be
automatically deleted from the genome at the initiation of the reproductive
growth phase? Perhaps not given the timeframes available, but if GURTs are
finally recognized as valuable tools for the biotechnology industry when
used in the appropriate context, they should provide safeguards against
similar occurrences. 

Reactions to Terminator are a microcosm of the reactions to GE in general.
Those opposed wish to ban it outright, thinking nothing good can come of
it. A moratorium is a blunt tool, or an inappropriate use of force, and its
use here signifies only that a complex issue is being treated
simplistically. Rather, each deployment of a GURT (or a GE product) should
undergo separate consideration and cost-benefit analysis (one where cost is
not measured solely in dollars). The assessment is a scientific one, not a
social or political one, and the treatment of GURTs already illustrates
where these diverge (e.g., the Indian National Science Academy recognizes
that GURTs have uses in controlling gene flow into wild relatives although
Indian farmers have uprooted and burnt crops suspected of containing
GURTs). In this way, both the industry—dependent on intellectual property
protection and keen to be credited with responsible wielding of power—and
its customers—anxious for the clear rewards without hidden punishments—can
benefit from the ingenuity of researchers who devised tools to protect the
interests of both. 

Sources 
1. Search for any US patent mentioned by patent number at
http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/srchnum.htm. 

2. See the website of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and
Concentration (formerly Rural Advancement Foundation International) at
http://www.etcgroup.org. 

3. Visser, Van der Meer, Louwaars, Beekwilder, Eaton (2001) `The Impact of
"Terminator" Technology'. Biotechnology and Development Monitor 48: 9-12
(available at http://www.biotech-monitor.nl/4804.htm). 

4. Available at
http://www.fao.org/waicent/FaoInfo/Agricult/AGP/AGPS/pgr/itwg/pdf/P1W7E.pdf.


Zac Hanley and Kieran Elborough 
biotech@...





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