The world’s seed oligopoly

December 11, 2007

Today, the top 10 companies control half of the world’s commercial seed sales. With a total worldwide market of approximately US$21,000 million [$21 billion] per annum, the commercial seed industry is relatively small compared to the global pesticide market ($35,400 million), and it’s positively puny compared to pharmaceutical sales ($466,000 million). But corporate control and ownership of seeds – the first link in the food chain – has far-reaching implications for global food security.

IMPACT: With control of seeds and agricultural research held in fewer hands, the world’s food supply is increasingly vulnerable to the whims of market maneuvers. Corporations make decisions to support the bottom line and increase shareholder returns – not to insure food security. Ultimately, seed industry oligopoly also means fewer choices for farmers. A new study by the US Department of Agriculture examines the impact of seed industry concentration on agbiotech research. The study concludes that reduced competition is associated with reduced R&D. Despite seed industry claims to the contrary, concentration in the seed industry is resulting in less innovation – not more.

PLAYERS: A fistful of transnational firms, the Gene Giants, dominates global seed sales. Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta – all among the world’s top-ranking pesticide firms – lead the pack.

POLICY: Seed industry concentration is already high on the agenda of civil society and farmers’ organizations that are working to support and maintain peasant and farmer-controlled seed systems and against policies and technologies that seek to further privatize seeds. The implications of seed industry consolidation for food security and biodiversity must also be urgently addressed by governments at the FAO Conference in November and by the UN Convention on Biodiversity (COP8) in 2006.

World’s Top 10 Seed Companies:          

        Company                       2004 seed sales (US Millions)
1.  Monsanto (US)            $2,2771 + $526 +Seminis (acquired by Monsanto 3/05) pro forma = $2,803
2.  DuPont/Pioneer (US)       $2,600
3.  Syngenta (
Switzerland)       $1,239
4.  Groupe Limagrain (
France)       $1,0442
5.  KWS AG (
Germany)             $  6223
6.  Land O’ Lakes (US)            $  5384
7.  Sakata (
Japan)            $  4165
8.  Bayer Crop Science (
Germany) $  3876
9.  Taikii (
Japan)            $  3667
10. DLF-Trifolium (
Denmark)       $  3208
11. Delta & Pine Land (US)       $  315

Oligopoly • noun: a state of limited competition, in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers.

Source: ETC Group Communiqué September/October 2005 Issue
http://www.etcgroup.org/documents/Comm90GlobalSeed.pdf

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