Does Monsanto create “Terminator” seeds?

Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo! 

Q: I've heard that Monsanto has created “Terminator” seeds so that farmers can't replant them. Is that true?

A: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.

What is a “Terminator” seed?

Through modern biotechnology, it may be possible to develop crops that will not produce viable offspring seeds. Sterile seed technology – dubbed “terminator technology” in the popular press – is one type of gene-use restriction technology in which seed produced by a crop will not grow.

Monsanto’s Commitment

Monsanto’s customers range from large family farmers in countries like the United States and Canada to small landholder farmers in countries such as the Philippines, India and South Africa. Each farmer and each culture has different needs and challenges, and we are successful only if our customers are successful. That’s why Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “terminator” – seeds. We share many of the concerns that farmers – especially small landholder farmers – have about this technology.

Seed Patents

However, when farmers choose to purchase seed with a GM trait from any seed company, they agree in advance not to save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy. As can be the case with any contract, a few people will choose not to honor the agreement. Since 1997, we've taken nine cases through a full trial, and in every case, the jury or court decided in our favor. We have never sued a farmer when trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits were present in the farmer’s fields as an accident or as a result of inadvertent means.

To learn more about why Monsanto patents its seeds, click here.