Syngenta Goes Forward on Terminator Gene

Syngenta Goes Forward on Terminator Gene

Marcus Williamson
Editor, "Genetically Modifed Food - UK and World News"


Syngenta breaks promise on development of "Terminator" genetically
modified plants

Seed giant applies to field test "junkie plant" in Bracknell

25 July 2001 - The agrochemical company Syngenta has announced
that it has applied to test "Terminator" [1] gene technology in an open
field trial at Jealott's Hill International Research Centre, Bracknell,
Berkshire. [2]

The "Terminator" technology used in this case makes use of an
"inducible promoter" gene, a mechanism which can be used to switch
on or off the normal functionning of the plant. This switch can only be
enabled by the application of chemicals to the plant.

The company has created a "junkie plant", as it has been dubbed by GM
opponents. From a commercial perspective, this is known as Gene Use
Restriction Technology (GURT), a means to ensure that farmers would be
locked into Syngenta to be able to grow their crops, using seed and
chemical "promoter" from the same company.

The news, which appears as a public notice in this week's Bracknell
News, has sparked fury amongst local residents, who have established a
group named GreenWatch to oppose the company's plans.

Syngenta was formed from the agrochemical units of AstraZeneca
(formerly Zeneca) and Novartis. In a letter from the Zeneca Research
and Development director, dated 24 February 1999, the company stated :

"Zeneca is not developing any system that would stop farmers growing
second-generation seed, nor do we have any intention of doing so." [3]

The proposed trial shows that Syngenta has broken this promise and is
intending to create a plant which could not survive to a second
generation, or even grow successfully during a first generation,
without the application of the company's own chemicals.

Marcus Williamson of comments :

"These developments clearly have no role in a sustainable agriculture
policy, as promised by Margaret Beckett at DEFRA [4]. It is to be
hoped that the application for the trial will be refused."

Notes for Editors

1. "Terminator", "Traitor" or "Gene Use Restriction Technology" (GURT)
are names given to a range of technologies which create sterile seeds,
or prevent a plant from growing successfully without the application
of an external influence, such as a chemical.

2. The Syngenta public notice appears on page 48 of the 19 July 2001
edition of the "Bracknell News" newspaper. The DEFRA release reference
number is 01/R34/02.

3. Further information about "Terminator" and "Traitor" can be found
in the following documents :

"Terminator Two Years Later", 12 May 2000
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
(This contains the quotation from Zeneca indicated above)

"Switching off Farmers' Rights?", Genewatch

4. When the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(DEFRA) was established in June 2001, Margaret Beckett committed to
promoting :

* a better environment;
* thriving rural economies and communities;
* diversity and abundance of wildlife resources;
* a countryside for all to enjoy; and
* sustainable and diverse farming and food industries that work
together to meet the needs of consumers.

Details of the DEFRA aims and objectives can be found here :


Marcus Williamson, Editor
"Genetically Modifed Food - UK and World News"
Website :
E-mail :
Tel : 07768 782136

Lesley Tooze, GreenWatch
Website :'s_New.htm
E-mail :
Tel : 01344 648343

Doreen Wyatt, Greenwatch
Website :'s_New.htm
E-mail :
Tel : 01344 452893

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