Who owns the world’s seed varieties?

Monsanto accounts for almost one quarter of the world’s proprietary seed market. As opposed to heirloom seed which is publicly owned seed. The top 3 companies, Monsanto (US), Dupont (US) and Syngenta (Switzerland) account for 47% of the world’s proprietary seed market. (2007 seed sales). Ironically (or not) all three are primarily chemical companies, historically, that now control the supply of patented seed for international commercial food production.

In the first half of the 20th century, seeds were overwhelmingly in the hands of farmers and public-sector plant breeders. In the decades since then, Gene Giants have used intellectual property laws to commodify the world seed supply – a strategy that aims to control plant germplasm and maximize profits by eliminating Farmers’ Rights. Today, the proprietary seed market accounts for a staggering share of the world’s commercial seed supply. In less than three decades, a handful of multinational corporations have engineered a fast and furious corporate enclosure of the first link in the food chain.

According to Context Network, the proprietary seed market (that is, brand-name seed that is subject to exclusive monopoly – i.e. intellectual property), now accounts for 82% of the commercial seed market worldwide. In 2007, the global proprietary seed market was US$22,000 million. (The total commercial seed market was valued at $26,700 million in 2007.) The commercial seed market, of course, does not include farmer-saved seed.” (Extract from an ETC Group Report)

What does this mean for your average farmer or vege grower purchasing proprietary seeds from their local commercial seed supplier?

Bottom line: Patented gene technologies will not help small farmers survive climate change, but they will concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit public sector research and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.” (Extract from an ETC Group Report)

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