Science in Society Archive


Novartis Patents Plant Immune 'Turn off'

Monsanto now has a serious contender in the stakes to become the worlds' most hated multinational. Novartis has developed and patented a genetic modification for 'turning off' the immune systems of plants. Like terminator, it renders farmers dependent on buying company chemicals.

The process involves transferring to the plant what is known as the NIM gene, which reacts with the plant's immune system, allowing it to be switched on selectively via the use of chemicals. The patent also describes plants where the entire immune system is turned off, making them highly prone to disease.

Patent documents suggest that Novartis intends to use the new GM technology on barley, cucumber, tobacco, rice, chilli, wheat, banana and tomato and cites an extensive list of more than 80 crops, including several cereals, dozens of fruit and vegetables, as well as cash crops like cotton and tea.

It is horrific that powerful multinationals are working on this sort of technology, aimed at protecting profits and foisting dependence. The UN has condemned all GM technology that uses chemicals to activate genetic traits and moreover, such GM plants will cause disastrous ecological impacts when they cross-pollinate with wild relatives in the environment.
Source: Gene Scientists disable plants immune system. By Antony Barnett, The Guardian, Oct 8th 2000

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