Human Rights, Exploitation, and Genetic Use Restriction Technology: Sowing the Seeds of Reason in the Field of the Terminator Debate

Keith A. Bustos, University of Tennessee - Knoxville


The current debate concerning genetically modified (GM) crops is primarily focused on the negative consequences that the production and consumption of GM foods could have on people and the environment. Adding to the list of concerns is the multinational agrochemical corporations' plan to implement GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) to prohibit the unauthorized use of certain genetically modified plant varieties. Several activist groups perceive the potential implementation of GURTs to be a threat to resource-poor farmers since this technology (which the activists call Terminator Technology) may be used to wrongfully exploit resource-poor farmers in the name of economic gain. In this thesis, I argue that multinational agrochemical corporations will not necessarily be infringing upon the rights of resource-poor farmers nor with they be wrongfully exploiting such farmers through the implementation of GURTs. Given that the primary targets for implementing GURTs are currently modified plant varieties, and most resource-poor farmers are unable to afford GM seeds, multinational agrochemical corporations will not have the opportunity to form a relation with these farmers and therefore would not be able to use them as a mere means to maximizing seed industry profits. I conclude that the implementation of GURTs may be construed as immoral on some grounds, but it is not wrongfully exploitative.