Seeking to extricate itself from a contentious debate, Monsanto said yesterday that it would not sell seeds that produce sterile crops, which have been dubbed “terminator” seeds by vocal opponents around the world. The critics, who hailed yesterday’s announcement, had warned that the development of such seeds would make farmers more dependent on large agribusiness companies and the chemicals they produce, and some suggested that pollen from the crops could make neighboring fields infertile. But other companies may still continue work on the technology, and Monsanto held open the possibility that it would continue its own internal research. Major biotech companies have worried that the publicity around the terminator technology has become a public relations nightmare, and Monsanto’s move may indicate that the company is trying to defuse growing anti-biotechnology sentiment in the U.S.