The Technology Protection System (TPS) is a genetic technology that prevents plants from producing viable seed. It is classified as a Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT).
The TPS system requires three key genes as well as a number of specific promoters in order to function properly. This principally relies on the Cre/LOX system. The seeds are exposed to tetracycline to activate a toxin (saporin) which kills the embryos of the seeds. Without exposure to tetracycline, the GURT genes remain inactive.
TPS was developed by Delta & Pine Land Company and the United States Department of Agriculture for the purposes of protecting the intellectual property of seed companies who develop new cultivars, as well as preventing the spread of genes from transgenic to wild plants.
Delta & Pine Land Company (now Monsanto) and the USDA are not the only companies that have produced Genetic Use Restriction Technologies; other companies have produced similar systems.
Some farmers are concerned that Genetic Use Restriction Technology may harm them, particularly in third-world countries where non-GURT crops may be contaminated with GURT genes and have reduced seed viability. Others are concerned about the ethics of the technology. GURTs are indirectly supported in Australia through Plant Breeders Rights laws, which discourage farmers from collecting and sowing the seeds of cultivars.
Many lobby groups have expressed concern about Genetic Use Restriction Technologies, however a number of them demonstrate a lack of understanding of the technology and the science behind it.
Genetic Use Restriction Technologies can benefit the environment and plant breeders, but also has the potential to be used as a monopolising mechanism by companies to ensure continued profit.
As national communities, people need to have a debate about how far this contentious technology should be used in world agriculture and whether the government, companies and farmers will be involved in, and benefit from, the introduction of TPS or a similar technology.
There is currently a moratorium on the use of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies.