GURT, also called terminator technology, is a biotech-based strategy that prevents seeds from germinating in the next growing season unless treated chemically by the seed company prior to planting. When seeds of crop varieties (containing this kind of genetic manipulation) are purchased from the company and planted, they germinate and grow normally but produce seeds that do not germinate when saved by the farmers for sowing during the following season. Thus, healthy and high yielding plants are genetically commanded to produce ‘sterile’ seeds preventing the farmers to use them for the next season’s planting. The technology was first developed by theDelta & PineLand, a multinational seed company, and the US Department of Agriculture. If commercialized, ‘terminator’ would compel farmers to purchase fresh seeds from the company every year. It is bad for agricultural biodiversity and worse for the small and marginal farmers.
Farmers have to purchase seeds of high yielding hybrid varieties because seeds produced by the hybrid plants are not uniform and their production capacity decreases in successive seasons. Hybrid varieties are not yet popular in self-fertilised crop plants like wheat and rice whose seeds are normally replaced after five years or so and that too on exchange among the farmers. Multinational seed companies intend to prevent this traditional practice through GURTs.