Terminator Gene Technology

  • Terminator gene technology refers to plants that have been genetically modified to render sterile seeds at harvest, it is also called Genetic Use Restriction Technology or GURT.
  • Terminator technology was developed by the multinational seed / agrochemical industry and the united-states govt. to prevent farmers from saving and re-planting harvested seed.
  • The terminator gene technology, or genetic use restriction technology (GURT), is the genetic modification of plants to make them produce sterile seeds in second generation which is also famous as a “suicide seeds”.
  • Terminator alters the expression of certain genes in plants so that plants terminate their reproductive switch, about the embryo and make themselves sterile. Such plants then produce seed that cannot germinate.
  • This technology was patented by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the seed company, Delta and Pine Land Company – a subsidiary of the seeds and agrochemical multinational Monsanto/American Home products.
  • During 2002 Monsanto acquired Delta and Pine land (DPL).
  • The technology has been appropriately named “Terminator” by the Canadian governmental organization, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), which has spearheaded an international campaign against it.
  • Monsanto described this technology as a “gene protection technology”.
  • Both the nicknames ‘terminator’ and ‘traitor’ for these technologies were coined by the Canadian-based nongovernment organization Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI; today Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, ETC).

    1. V-GURT (Varietal GURT)
    2. T-GURT (Trait GURT)

1. V-GURT (Varietal GURT)

  • It is also known as suicide/sterile seed/gene technology, or terminator technology.
  • The technology is restricted at the plant variety level, hence the term V-GURT.
  • It is designed to control plant fertility or seed development through a genetic process triggered by a chemical inducer that will allow the plant to grow and to form seeds, but will cause the embryo of each of those seeds to produce a cell toxin that will prevent its germination if replanted, thus causing second generation seeds to be sterile and allowing manufacturers to maintain their intellectual property rights and avoid concerns related to GM seed dispersal.
  • This type of GURT produces sterile seeds meaning that a farmer that had purchased seeds containing V-GURT technology could not save the seeds of this crop for future planting.
2. T-GURT (Trait GURT)

  • It is considered as the second generation of V-GURT.
  • T-GURT is also known as traitor technology.
  • The technology is restricted to registered at the trait level, hence the term T-GURT.
  • T-GURT is designed to switch on or off a trait (such as herbicide/cold/drought/stress tolerance, pest resistance, germination, flowering, ripening, colour, taste and nutritional qualities of the plant, defence mechanisms, or production of industrial or pharmaceutical compounds) using inducible promoters regulating the expression of the transgene through induced gene silencing (e.g., by antisense suppression) or by excision of the transgene using a recombinase.
  • In this case, the genetic modification is activated by a chemical treatment or by environmental factors such as heat, enabling farmers to maintain the value-added traits of seeds.
  • A second type of GURT modifies a crop in such a way that the genetic enhancement engineered into the crop does not function until the crop plant is treated with a chemical that is sold by the biotechnology company.
  • Farmers can save seeds for use each year. However, they do not get to use the enhanced trait in the crop unless they purchase the activator compound.
Advantages of Terminator technology

  • Prevent escape of transgenes into wild relatives and prevent any impact on biodiversity.
  • Reduce the propagation of Volunteer plants.
  • Farmers will use new seeds every year leads to maximum production.
  • Prohibit non V-GURT grain sprouting, which lowers the quality of grain.
  • This technology will induce private sector to make more investment in research and development of pure line varieties and open pollinated varieties because in these varieties the farmers do not change the seeds each years.
  • It can be used to limit the spread of genes from GMOs to other plants in the natural environment.
Disadvantages of Terminator technology

  • The production of sterile seeds by these plants would render the seeds useless.
  • Harvested seeds are used only for consumption. It may cause health hazards for animals as well as human beings. Because it has been treated with some chemicals before sowing.
  • There is a danger of this technology affecting unintended targets. It is possible that these plants would transfer pollen to nearby wild type crops and cause sterility in their seeds too.
  • Some genotype of a particular crop grown across the country leads to genetic vulnerability to pest and diseases.
  • Location specific and season bound varieties cannot be grown.
  • Tetracycline is a chemical use to active the toxic gene, may alter the soil fauna and flora.
The country՚s rich genetic diversity will be lost. Maximum crop field may be covered by just one genotype, and it will eliminate the farm conservation traditions and location specific varieties.


1. Eaton, D.J.F., Van Tongeren, F.W., 2002. Potential Economic Impacts of GURT Technologies at National and International Levels. 48 p.

2. FAO, 2001. Potential Impacts of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) on Agricultural Biodiversity and Agricultural Production Systems. Wageningen University Research Centre. The Netherlands.

3. Fisher, W.W., 2002. The impact of terminator gene technologies on developing countries. In: Biotechnology, Agriculture, and the Developing World (Ed.: Swanson, T.). Edward Elgar Publishing. pp.137-149.

4. Jefferson, R.A., Byth, D., Correa, C., Otero, G., Qualset, C., 1999. Genetic use restriction technologies: Technical assessment of the set of new technologies which sterilize or reduce the agronomic value of second generation seed, as exemplified by U.S. Patent No. 5,723,765, and WO 94/03619.

5. Lombardo, L., 2014. Genetic use restriction technologies: A review. Plant Biotechnol. J. 12, 995-1005.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from MPUAT-Udaipur (Raj.)