n. A sterile seed produced by a genetically modified plant to prevent farmers from reusing the seed for future crops.
The announcement recently by Monsanto, the giant American chemical company, that it will disavow use of the "terminator" seed sterility technology is a welcome step toward assuaging some of these concerns, particularly in developing countries. Terminator technology prevents plants from producing fertile seeds, forcing farmers to buy more seed from a multinational corporation rather than using seed from the previous year's crop.
And last week, the Monsanto Co., the Missouri-based leader in agricultural biotechnology, was forced to back off plans to market so-called terminator seeds. Such seeds are infertile and can't be replanted, but they produce bumper crops without requiring the use of pesticides.
The ancient right of farmers to save their seed and breed their plants may soon become a thing of the past. "Terminator" seeds, deliberately disabled from germinating when replanted, are threatening a farming practice as old as agriculture itself.
Thanks to Wired magazine's Jargon Watcher Gareth Branwyn for permission to use this phrase (which he described as the "agricultural equivalent of copyright protection").