Integral to the reason that Terminator technology was developed
is the decision farmers make to save seeds or buy seeds for planting
the next season.
Saving seeds from the current harvest to plant the following season
is the traditional practice. It works especially well for self-pollinating
crops such as cotton and wheat, because inbred, self-pollinating
lines tend to reproduce true to type. The progeny seeds, when germinated,
will produce plants very much like the parent plants. The farmer
can continue to grow the same variety year after year without spending
money on new seeds. For these crops, a seed company must offer improved
varieties each year to attract repeat customers. A wealthy farmer
may choose to try new varieties from time to time, but an impoverished
farmer will buy once and save seeds from year to year.
Hybrid corn is the model for a seed crop that, by its nature, attracts
repeat customers each year. Hybrid corn seeds are the product of
a carefully orchestrated cross between two widely different parent
lines. Hybrid seeds have more desirable characteristics than either
parent line alone, and the progeny of hybrid seeds quickly lose
the combination of characteristics that make the hybrid superior.
Farmers know that if they save seeds from a hybrid corn harvest
to plant the following year, the resulting harvest will be poorer
and poorer from year to year. Of necessity, they buy new seeds each
year to obtain the combination of qualities that a hybrid seed offers.
Noting the financial success of hybrid corn, seed companies have
tried for years to develop hybrid systems in other crops, but with
only moderate success. Many varieties of major crops, such as cotton,
wheat, and soybeans, still consist of inbred, self-pollinating lines
that the farmer can buy once and then easily save from year to year.