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Satisfactory Essays
Introduction
There is an ongoing ethical debate on the topic of Variety-level Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (V-GURTs) applied to commercial proprietary genetically modified (GM) seed in the agriculture industry. The technology makes seeds infertile after one harvest and thus requires farmers to purchase seed annually rather than saving seed from a previous years’ harvest. The proponents of V-GURTs describe it as “technology protection” whereas opponents use the terms “terminator seed” and “suicide gene”. These labels have their respective positive and negative connotations reflecting the biased viewpoints on the technology. On one side of the debate you have the corporations that argue they are protecting their investment of research and development and on the other side you have the farmers wanting to be self-sustaining. The debate is important and relevant as the technology has wide spread implications to agriculture, ecology and food production worldwide in both industrialized and third world countries. I will describe the key events in this debate and argue against the use of V-GURTs based on the grounds of corporate ethical, ecological and social responsibility.
Background
According to the action group Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) seed sales in 2007 by the world’s top 10 seed companies totaled nearly $15 billion. 82% of the global commercial seed market was proprietary meaning intellectual property (IP) rights governed the use of those seeds (ETC Group, 2008). Contractual agreements between the corporations and the farmers include clauses that prohibit farmers from saving proprietary seed but like any other form of IP infringement it is difficult to enforce, requiring the corporations to sue the infringe...

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...pendency of the farmer on the seed companies. The governments of Brazil and India have already banned V-GURTs from entering their countries recognizing the negative impact it would have on their farming industries.
Conclusion
There are numerous arguments against the commercialization of V-GURTs. Firstly, the seed companies have an ethical responsibility to not profit from that which is not theirs. Secondly, they also have a responsibility to take into consideration the ecological risks weighed against the benefits. Since the benefits are largely financial and seed companies are already extremely profitable the motivation for this technology is profit maximization. The monetary benefits do not outweigh the ecological risks. Thirdly, having dominant control over the global seed industry, they have a social responsibility for their impact on the livelihood of farmers.
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