Monsanto Seeds Dominate Global Seed Market

Four years after the Department of Justice’s antitrust hearings, just three companies — Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta — control 53 percent of the global seed market.

| April 21, 2014

The public comment period for Dow's new genetically engineered, 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy closed on March 11. And despite comments from nearly 400,000 concerned individuals and farmers urging otherwise, USDA has signaled it will likely greenlight these new GE crops.

The comment period concluded on the eve of another historical date for the seed market. Four years ago today, the Department of Justice convened antitrust hearings to investigate consolidation of the seed market. There has been no follow through from these hearings, and we're still waiting for an explanation from the DOJ. In the meantime, corporations like Dow and Monsanto continue to consolidate control of global seed markets. Dow's new 2,4-D ready crops will be yet another driver of this consolidation.

While we wait to hear USDA's decision on 2,4-D crops, let's take a minute to reflect on the trajectory of the seed market and how farming has fared with just a few big companies at the helm.

Concentration Is Control

The Department of Justice (DOJ) began its antitrust investigation of the seed market for obvious reasons. As we've frequently written, the "Big 6" — the world's largest GE seed and pesticide companies — have steadily bought up smaller companies; they now control a lion's share of the market. By 2013, just three companies, Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta, controlled 53 percent of the global seed market. These giants also collaborate with each other through cross-licensing agreements and joint research projects. 

It is the job of the DOJ to investigate industry cartels and ensure they don't have a stranglehold on the market. As Tom Philpott describes it, this "market power" is:

...the might to manipulate markets to their own advantage, to the detriment of their customers, in this instance, farmers. It's only in cases of market power that the DOJ would take action.

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