Terminator Technology

‘Terminators, or GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), are a class of genetic engineering technologies which allow companies to introduce seeds whose sterile offspring cannot reproduce, preventing farmers from re-planting seeds from their harvest. The seeds could also be used to introduce specific traits which would only be triggered by the application of proprietary chemicals by the same companies.’ Greenpeace, 2006 

‘Each grain is like a mouth sealed/ Or an eye sealed./ In each mouth the whole bible of barley./ In each eye, the whole sun of barley./ From each single grain, given time,/ You could feed the earth.’ Barley, Ted Hughes

‘Terminator technology is a name give to a genetic modification which results in the seed of a crop being sterile. It has been developed by the biotechnology industry as a way of preventing seed being kept and resown. Because of the serious social and economic consequences of Terminator technology, especially on farmers who would not be able to follow their current practice of saving seed, there is an ad hoc international moratorium on its development under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). However, in February 2005, during a meeting of the CBD, a leaked memo revealed that the Canadian government was seeking to reverse this position.’ Genewatch, 2006

Terminator Technology

Anti-Seed. Not playing God, but the Devil.

Anti-Nature. Against all principles of life -

fundamental interference with organic

processes that can be patented by none.

Anti-Creation. Reversal of original force,

perversion of the true meaning of a seed.

Harnessing of the powers of Anti-Life;

destruction of natural order, Evolution.


Crushing a star between the fingers

like salt crystal; licking a snowflake

to death, her pattern erased, changed

back into water – taking the principle

of life, resetting the clock to run back-

wards; hands returning to stumps, web,

bony protuberances, warm lumps, just

swelling in sea, thickening of tissue -

two bright molecules clinging together

with ideas - dreaming of wings, arms,

intracies of fingers performing tasks.

Imagine unwriting it all, scribbling out,

deleting, erasing - until the one poem

of everything, the Word, is sterilised.

‘Syngenta, the company formed today through the merger of the agrochemical divisions of multinational corporations AstraZeneca and Novartis, will take control of over half the world’s patents that have been identified on Terminator and Traitor Technology.  A report published by GeneWatch UK, ActionAid, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Berne Declaration - Syngenta: Switching Off Farmers’ Rights? - reveals that both AstraZeneca and Novartis have been pursuing research with Terminator and Traitor Technologies throughout 1999 and 2000 which Syngenta will now inherit.’ Genewatch, 2000

‘One of the potential risks of GM crops is that the introduced genes will be passed to other non-GM crops or related wild plants. This could result in the contamination of foods or the evolution of new, more competitive weeds, causing problems for farmers or ecosystems. One response to this threat has been to develop further genetic modifications of the plant that attempt to reduce or eliminate gene flow by altering the plant’s reproductive processes. The most notorious of these is ‘Terminator technology’, where a crop produces sterile seeds, but a range of other approaches is being developed. This briefing reviews the different approaches and considers their effectiveness and practicality. This is important because ‘biological containment’ is being promoted as a biosafety issue. While biological containment systems to prevent gene flow may be presented as safety mechanisms for PR purposes, their main purpose is an economic one - to prevent farmers keeping seed for future use or to reduce possible liability claims for contamination, for example.’ Genewatch, 2005

Negative Script Seed

Written in this seed is negative script -

its poem corrupted that was first written

in the ink of stars; in gold letters tooled

upon the book of time - expected since

the start, the first black page whispering

with possibility. Such wicked principle

burns my palm, as black seed, anti-life;

her halo is black and smokey - not light

emanating from this seed - being,

existing, so unutterably perverted,

contaminated from first principle,

of fundamentally altered purpose.

Where is her growing gold poem

that should have been - this seed

and all her children in the field -

verses of corn reading under sun.

Unassuming - invisibly mutated;

Trojan horse smuggled into life,

symbol of spring re-booted with

death, spores of self-destruction.

Suicide-seed, death squad captain,

kamikaze-plant, worse than sterile;

mutated axis of everything wrong

with this technology, abomination

which cannot ever be redeemed, healed;

may spread death as a virus, man-made,

until nothing can grow or multiply - go

forth or have children; nothing happens.

‘Terminator rejection - a victory for the people. A broad coalition of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society today celebrated the firm rejection of efforts to undermine the global moratorium on Terminator technologies - genetically engineered sterile seeds - at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil. "This is a momentous day for the 1.4 billion poor people worldwide, who depend on farmer-saved seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina, a world wide movement of peasant farmers, "Terminator seeds are a weapon of mass destruction and an assault on our food sovereignty." "Terminator directly threatens our life, our culture and our identity as indigenous peoples", said Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo indigenous community in Argentina, on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.’ Greenpeace, 2006

“Despite today's victory, there is no doubt that the multinational biotech industry will continue to push sterile seed technology. Terminator will rear its ugly head at the next UN CBD meeting in 2008. The only solution is a total ban on the technology once and for all.” Pat Mooney, Ban Terminator Campaign, 2006

Each seed is a negative mine

Each seed is a negative mine,

planted in the world, waiting

to explode into undefended

Nature. Imagine the principle

unleashed here; seed programmed

not to bring more life - its purpose

gone - a dead thing living, existing;

zombie-seed, perversion, now deaf

to the mother of all seed, Spring,

who will whisper in its dead ear

to no avail; seed will be as stone.

Fear the creep of the Anti-seed -

seed-shadow, devil-seed, anti-life -

germ in an open world; contaminant,

spreading with all Nature’s ingenuity

at its disposal. So who are these men

thinking they will outwit Nature -

that she will not have a trick or two

up her green sleeve after four billion

years experimenting in her laboratory;

that this will not bring consequence,

turning her own principles against

herself. Breeding sterility into seed

is an affront to Evolution - Creation.

‘Efforts led by New Zealand, Australia and Canada to overturn an international moratorium on field trails with Terminator technology (which results in sterile seed), by introducing a clause which would have allowed ‘case-by-case’ testing, have been defeated at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Curitiba, Brazil…The biotechnology industry had been promoting Terminator technology under the guise of biosafety, even though it has no effect on pollen movement. In contrast, many civil society and farmers’ organisations have fought the possible introduction of Terminator technology because of the potentially devastating effects of sterile seed on farmer’s livelihoods.’ Genewatch, 2006

The meaning of a seed is holy

The meaning of a seed is holy;

symbolic of life - the Garden.

The principle of a seed is sacred -

its existence embodies making more,

feeding the world – if but one grain

of barley prevailed, in time no-one

would hunger around the world -

their gold is processed light, love

for the world - principle of fecundity -

giving, unfailing generosity of creation.

A seed that cannot create is worse

than dead; engineered monstrosity,

black script, virus in the book of Earth -

poem perverted into reverberating curse.

To make barren that which life creates

for greater life - express genetic death,

not fruit - is an abomination, insult

to first principles of creation; God.

‘…in the year 1948, it had the good fortune to brush against a leaf, penetrate it, and be nailed there by a ray of the sun… this instantaneous work a tre - of the carbon dioxide, the light and the vegetal greenery – has not yet been described in definitive terms, and perhaps it will not be for a long time to come, so different is it from the other ‘organic’ chemistry which is cumbersome, slow and pondrous work of man: and yet this refined, minute and quick-witted chemistry was ‘invented’ two or three billion years ago by our silent sisters, the plants, which do not experiment and do not discuss…’ Primo Levi, on his “first literary dream” on the life of a carbon atom, which came to him in Auschwitz , The Periodic Table, trans, Abacus, 1986

Autumn is the Season of DNA

Autumn is the season of DNA;

of Creation’s burning prints -

absolute elements salted,

organic script distilled -

spring’s energetic green

explosion, now imploded

magically to the chemical word

of future leaf, invisible flower -

the seed bombs de-fused,

until lit by bright fingers.

The fallen gold apple

is written with apples,

tree poem; magically crunched

inside a brittle, black tear-seed.

Such sleight of hand going on

beneath the flamboyant pyres -

Nature safely writing life,

encrypting her knowledge,

before death comes,

looking victorious.

The poems of the world

secreted under our feet -

not one syllable whispering

until swarms of snowdrops,

acute of hearing, creep even

as hares are also still white -

then bluebells breathe, expressing,

exhaling colour trapped by season;

sea memory and sunlight charged

inside a brown bulb - in darkness.

Autumn is the season of DNA -

fiery, quiet mechanisms in train;

this gold burning is art - visible

flames from creation of the seed;

chemical crucible reducing elements.

If we could see these letters revealed;

one leaf, one core, one seed,

seen as fleshless holy script,

it would bring us to our knees,

it would stun us for a lifetime.

‘O all ye Green things upon the Earth, bless ye the Lord:/ praise him, and magnify him for ever’. Book of Common Prayer

Last Pansies

Stunted Dwarf pansies shiver consumptively

in their cracked plastic Woolworths trough -

racked with feverish wind - tossing,

spitting mercury from open mouths,

but still impishly grinning.

Tiny Chinese pixie faces -

seeming to know I think,

they are the last flowers;

last wired alchemists of dying light

anywhere on the scowling planet -

but already sick, spotted, jaundiced;

winter infecting their royal purple -

now fading like old velvet curtains

at a South window, rims crimping.

Should I bring them in

like ten wet kittens -

over-bred, domesticated,

plagiarised from nature -

stultifying perverted recipe,

stumpy production mutants;

but still as ten small yellow lights,

they brighten the whole seamless

grey sea/

sky bowl -

gold hearts defiantly holding

the last gleaming cups of sun.

Winter Garden Snapshot

The holly clots

with Christmas blood -

oozing from the wounds

of her own jagged fingers;

sheltering the stabbed robin,

anaemic chaffinch.

A lonely white spinster rose

in her torn Haversham gown

gags slowly

on a mouthful of snow -

mercury tears

repelled from sepia cheeks;

keeling drunkenly

on her emaciated green neck,

making snow gin

with her powers of alchemy,

white skills

and anaemic sapphire light.

Wind bleeds the holly

to machine-gunned earth,

drop by bloody


Will my heart never learn the spelling of content

Will my heart never learn the spelling of content -

dreams I thought with high romance were butterflies,

coloured scraps from heaven you could touch - hinged

on the caterpillar’s black ghost, crawl into woody moths;

on crumbling bark wings - blundering into light -

they shed their shining salty crusts of silver dust, 

like the Christmas floor when everything glittering

is packed away and brutal winter at last unmasked;

when a star dies into cold stone,

cursed with memories of light -

once so bright that men years away

will wonder, weep and wish upon it.

Will I live my own life like a stupid ghost

who did not understand this haunting was

the life - because I could not see the present

for the future, sticking its fat arse in my face,

and the hulking past that would not die

by philosophy or time, obliterating light.

Will all my gifts be half-unwrapped,

or open like the yard flower - pitiful,

struggling in the shade of ugly brush,

always looking pathetically for light;

how often will she lift her head

before comfort of that earth rest.

Evening is coming, she knows the stars

shine for her too, even imperious Moon

is listening; in her heart of hearts she knows

it is enough - bee love and sun are not all -

she has survived all this, these small stories;

even if the better poem of her is left unread,

uncelebrated, all she can do is send her seeds

wildly, cheerfully abandoned as the dandelion

parachuting her galaxy of fluffy stars;

with as much faith, optimism of earth.

The Chestnut Aches

The chestnut aches,

holding up her heavy candelabras

in the rain - struggling

white torches showing light

passage through slated air.

Only yesterday, the sky

was electric, sparkling with bright atoms;

there was wild dancing in the hedgerows -

hawthorn white, frilly, party-frocked,

campion sweet in candy pink bows -

owl eyes of yellow poppies

looking everywhere at once -

fizzy sunshine brimming

laquered buttercups - 

punky dandelions with immaculate hair,

humble soil suns, shone dazzling smiles;

broom lit strings of citric bulbs - so festive,

celebrating the whole world newly opened

for the season, shimmering still with Spring

spirit-shine - damp, silvery, smelling divine.

Now the night-coloured, old plodding crow

croaks ugly disgruntlement through the field,

bemoaning his need for a hip replacement -

when only yesterday Cuckoo amused all day,

her one joke honed to perfection - funny monotony;

scrums of swallows were insane with too much life,

rubber bands crammed under metal feathers,

tuning-fork tails perfectly pitched to Spring.

Snare drums of rain rouse

the terrible bracken crooks,

conjured from their fallen russet ghosts;

a ruthless green army raised overnight

from their own stifling tombs, occupying 

brown wake that leaves no survivors –

uncurling arthritically to attention,

marching stiffly to conquer the rest

of the hill, over the last flimsy hostage bluebells

freeing their violet spirits into air before death -

when only yesterday their kin showed everywhere;

symbolic breathing of resuscitated earth - so plain

in this veil of flowers that even humans saw.

Daffodil trumpets sprung jostling, squeaking

like gossiping mice, massed for the annual sunshine

polish - good natured mob, dressed in old-fashioned,

fussy Sunday bonnets - lie crushed, already rusting.

My heart that had opened like just another flower -

laughing in wind, remembering how - punch-drunk

on that buttercupped sun, unfurled her finest poppy

colours; pumping aorta-red - scarlet, oxygen-bright,

primed for a life of abundant summer, endless light;

now returning to her bud, sucking blue stem,

winter dream-nub in the dark - to hibernation.

The only lights attending Spring’s funeral,

her untimely death - 

the chestnut aches

holding up her heavy candelabras in the rain.

‘Many of the cells of plants, though not of animals, contain chloroplasts, replete with the pigment chlorophyll, which converts solar energy into chemical energy.’ Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, Colin Tudge, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

Summer Shower

Under the garlanded window

nature dressed -

wet bees fizz,

angry as sausages -

gurgling headfirst into pink cups

filled with silver tears -

floral gin; residue,

bright liquid ghost

of the depressive soul of rain,

whose body is tears.

Squeezing fat honey-bellies

into long vaginal foxgloves;

pulling on those sweet gloves,

tight as sheaths,

sucking among queenly purple

Mediaeval sleeves –

footballer thighs rubbing,

bulbous with stolen gold;

among wind-shuddered animal petals -

fuzzy pink girly fur on fur of rosy bumbles.

Befuddled with water,

flowers drug cuddly bees

with stunning perfumes,

cause them to stumble

into cunning pollen showers,

scoring tunnel jackpots –

sugary, sexy goo,

fertilising gold dust -

and seed scriptures,

future blooms secured all round;

but soon slumming it drunk

among tough, scheming weeds,

too parsimonious with life

for much flower - beauty.

A bell jar of light lands silver in the garden,

under a freaky bruised dome of metal sky -

I go out to the crying garden -

everything weeps noisily, wetly,

abandonedly, like a toddler -

down to the last pixie handtwig,

tears welling at every witchy fingertip -

each leaf an inconsolable almond green eye;

daisies drowning in muddy puddles

like old eggs in a greasy-spoon pan.

Each last tear shines in weird, hybrid light –

of black cloud and hot sun’s summer union;

as if a small galaxy has fallen accidentally,

flooded out with so much rain – but still

holding memories of silver light,

like pearly seeds, mercury blood.

In this snivelling garden,

the ragged green smells of the vegetable kingdom

stuff themselves up my nose, rush down my throat,

bagging me with savage alchemies of light, oxygen

and growth; the thrust of the coming flower

from an explosive bud, primed in darkness -

until I too am washed, 

and all my tears shine.

The Rose’s Last Mouth

The rose opens her last red mouth

into shocked autumn blue -

her crimson kiss impressing

even the burning rowan

clutching at fried leaves -

oozing blood at every fingertip;

turning Christmassy, Old Man’s Beard,

starrily, snowflakely, incandescent -

blooding his Bonsai galaxy of fluffy stars,

soft white glowing nebula.

She dims the dying plants on fire,

down to their rusty knees -

slumping drunkenly,

though tied to stakes.

The rose mouth hurts my eyes -

so luminous her pouting lips,

too young and scented, plump,

for the coming spectral season,

sepia portrait of the garden -

brash, neon, tarty, she glows,

red light advertising her pollen;

she will pilot doddering bees -

I have seen her outlast even snow -

cupping mouthfuls, tough as a husky;

by then a wiry old lady - wine-blue,

frayed, bloody battleflag of herself;

who has loved longer than all the rest -

survived, heart-red ember of the garden,

dowager queen - though stooped, arthritic,

leaning on the long green stick of her neck.

‘How long does it take to make the woods?/ As long as it takes to make the world./ The woods is present as the world is, the presence/ of all its past and of all its time to come…It is a part of eternity, for its end and beginning/ belong to the end and beginning of all things,/ the beginning lost in the end, the end in the beginning…You must come without weapon or tool, alone,/ expecting nothing, remembering nothing,/ into the ease of sight, the brotherhood of eye and leaf.’ Wendell Berry, How long does it take to make the woods?

Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Zoo
    Gene Garden
        Terminator Technology
    Earth Poems

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