Agricultural Biodiversity in Trouble as Gene Giants Spread Their Reach

New initiatives launched by gene giants Sygenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont include the false promise of cheap, post-patent GE seeds aimed to appease antitrust regulators and pass off oligopolistic practices as acts of charity.

| March 18, 2013

Soybean Pods

ETC group reveals that the Gene Giants’ post-patent generic seed scheme — and, specifically, “facilitating access” to Monsanto’s soon-to-expire Roundup Ready soybean trait — is one of the primary reasons the US Department of Justice suddenly dropped its 3-year probe of Monsanto in November 2012.

Photo By Fotolia/Ping Han

Reposted with permission from ETC Group. 

A report released by ETC Group warns that 6 multinational Gene Giants control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control 59.8 percent of commercial seeds and 76.1 percent of agrochemicals. The same 6 companies account for at least 76 percent of all private sector R&D in these two sectors.
Amid unprecedented corporate concentration, ETC Group’s report provides a critical look at new initiatives launched by the Gene Giants — including the false promise of cheap, post-patent GE seeds — aiming to appease antitrust regulators and pass off oligopolistic practices as acts of charity. Meanwhile, the world’s two richest men — Bill Gates and Mexico’s Carlos Slim — are teaming up with CIMMYT (the international public maize and wheat breeding center based in Mexico) to get bargain GE seeds and traits in the hands of farmers in the global South.
“The notion that farmers in the South will benefit from post-patent GE seeds is patently absurd,” said Silvia Ribeiro, ETC’s Latin America Director. “Under the guise of charity, the Gene Giants are devising new schemes to soften opposition to transgenics and reach new markets. In reality, the Gene Giants don’t have the capacity or the interest to supply the diversity needed in sustainable farming systems or to meet the urgent need for locally adapted varieties, especially in the face of climate change,” said Ribeiro.
In the face of soon-to-expire patents on a handful of biotech traits, the big-hearted Gene Giants claim they are making it possible to gain access to generic biotech traits through a legally-binding “accord.” The deal, which was originally drafted by Monsanto, encompasses two agreements that lay out the rules for access to generic biotech traits at patent expiration. According to ETC Group, the contracts will ultimately control the terms of access to expired traits and reinforce market power among a handful of giant seed companies.
Appeasing Antitrust Angst: ETC Group reveals that the Gene Giants’ post-patent generic seed scheme — and, specifically, “facilitating access” to Monsanto’s soon-to-expire Roundup Ready soybean trait — is one of the primary reasons the US Department of Justice suddenly dropped its 3-year probe of Monsanto in November 2012, just weeks after the Gene Giants consulted with the antitrust regulators and launched the generic seed agreement.
In January 2013 Swiss-based Syngenta, the world’s top-ranking agrochemical giant and third largest seed firm, launched a separate initiative — a new online licensing platform to “share the benefits” of a select group of the company’s patented seeds and traits. The new intellectual property (IP) platform – dubbed “the iTunes of plant breeding and innovation sharing in agriculture”— pledges to make licenses on patented seeds and traits available for free to researchers in the global South. More than a clever and calculated public relations move, Syngenta’s “iTunes” gambit may be designed expressly to mollify anti-plant-patent fervor in Europe.
“Most countries in the South don’t recognize Syngenta’s patents on seeds and traits in the first place, so the company’s offer to give free licenses to researchers in the global South is a Trojan Horse — a move that encourages developing countries to adopt GE seeds and capitulate to the supremacy of patent laws, even when there is no legal obligation to do so,” explains Neth Daño of ETC Group. “Syngenta is imposing the terms and conditions for technology transfer to the global South based on its self-appointed IP rules,” said Daño.
Antitrust regulators must not allow an oligopoly to control global agricultural inputs, says ETC Group. The world needs agricultural biodiversity to achieve the Right to Food and respond to the challenges of climate chaos. National governments and UN agencies must take urgent action.

4/28/2013 11:20:41 AM

.......if companies are not required to label GMOs then a patent should not be issued. How could you possibly infringe on what you can't possibly know, I vote with my dollar and that is what companies are afraid of, labeling.  The unforseen environmental damage is squarely on their shoulders, no protection from a government can stop this kind of damage and it rests on their patents issued by the government, and then the government.

4/22/2013 4:39:07 PM

This guy I know has a large farm and asked to me about my beez pollinating his soybeans. He uses Lannate. Read what I found. Many organophosphate and carbamate insecticides that are used on soybeans are highly toxic to wildlife; these include aldicarb (Temik), ethoprop (Mocap), chlorpyrofos (Lorsban), and methomyl (Lannate). Wildlife are exposed to insecticides when they eat granules or chemical residues on plants or in insects. Wildlife that enter fields soon after spraying may also be exposed when they inhale insecticide vapor or when insecticides contact their skin or eyes. Exposure can be substantial. For example, researchers in Virginia tested quail that had been killed by hunters and found that 60 percent of the quail had insecticides in their bodies.

bruce bakken
4/14/2013 12:47:23 AM

I work at a local elevator in north central Iowa & have been reading up on numerous items concerning crops & their "patents". while growing up on a farm 50 years ago... if we needed seed for our crops we got it from our own grain bins... now you will go to jail for doing so.

judy jones
3/30/2013 5:38:08 AM

This is what's happening in Canada RIGHT NOW! Please, we need support to stop this. Day of Action organised by the Farmers' Union, April 9th in Toronto, St Lawrence Market. Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) alfalfa could be registered for use in Eastern Canada this April! GM Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties have just been cleared for the last step before they hit the market - all they need now is a final rubber-stamp by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Alfalfa is used to produce many of the foods we eat! Alfalfa (commonly harvested as hay) is high-protein feed for animals like dairy cows, beef cattle, lambs, poultry and pigs. It's also used to build nutrients in the soil and is important for organic farming. Because alfalfa is a perennial plant that is pollinated by bees, genetically modified alfalfa will inevitably cross-pollinate with non-GM and organic alfalfa, threatening the livelihoods of family farmers across Canada. Prairie farmers have already rejected GM alfalfa because of the threat of contamination, so now the industry is trying to introduce GM alfalfa in Eastern Canada.

carissa lynn
3/27/2013 3:40:38 AM

These companies are downright scary...Pure power seekers.

t brandt
3/19/2013 7:10:14 PM

??? I don't get the argument. Farmers in poor countries are still free to use their old, "natural" seeds. Nobody is forcing them to buy or use GMO. They can invest their own $millions to develope thier own seed strains if they like. Or are you saying they should be free to parasitize the researchers just because they don't subscribe to international patent laws?

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