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“Terminator” technology terminated

Our History: October 7, 1999

In the 1990s, Delta and Pine Land, a company working with and later acquired by Monsanto, devised the ultimate protection for preventing farmers from replanting seed from protected varieties. It developed what became known as “Terminator” technology which would render the seed sterile after its first year. The technology was highly controversial, and we reported in our October 7, 1999 issue that Monsanto had decided not to commercialize it.

The following week’s issue featured an interview with Rosann Wowchuk, the agriculture minister in the new NDP government that had just taken over from Gary Filmon’s Progressive Conservatives. Among the issues on her plate were the “farm financial crisis” and proposed changes to the Agricultural Income Disaster Assistance (AIDA) program, a new grain transportation report from senior Ottawa official Arthur Kroeger and a dispute over Manitoba’s share of the national industrial egg market.

We also reported on a surge in prices for high-end beef cuts, as restaurateurs were stocking up for the upcoming “party of the century” when a new one began on Jan. 1, 2000. That was despite some concerns that the steaks could be cooked when the power went out due to “Y2K” glitch — many computers or programs at the time couldn’t process a date change with a year beginning with a 2.

We devoted a two-page feature on “dormant canola.” Some farmers and agronomists had been experimenting with seeding in the fall, and they reported mixed results but some promise for the practice. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz, probably still smarting from the 1972 “Great Grain Robbery” in which the Soviet Union had cleaned out U.S. wheat supplies, had signed a long-term agreement to sell it six million tonnes. However, there was an escape clause if domestic supplies fell below 225 million tonnes.

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