The Monopolization of the Seed Industry
It started with selective breeding…
Our ancestors mastered crop cultivation through the use of selective breeding. Fast forward to today and selective breeding has given the world an abundance of agricultural crop varieties. We’ve got wheat varieties, sunflower varieties, apple varieties, and thanks to selective breeding we’ve even got broccoli (yum)!
Humans have been using this process to develop new organisms more favorable than the last for over 30,000 years.
Selective breeding is the ultimate precursor for the biotechnology that produces genetically modified organisms or as we all know them, GMOs. Like the products of selective breeding, GMOs have the potential to improve yields and productivity on existing farmland. Farmers prefer herbicide-resistant crops because it allows them to clear their fields of unwanted crops without damaging the soil. GMO seeds also include pest-resistance, a better option than chemical pesticides as well as resistance to microbial infections. GMO crops are the easiest way for a small scale farmer to produce more in the same given area of land. In a planet that is projected to have 9.7 billion people roaming its land by 2050, an accelerated food productivity that takes up as little land possible is necessary.
Patenting the genetic make up of a potentially beneficial GMO seed has become the greatest stump in the human civilization’s ability to continue improving yields and productivity. Huge conglomerates such as Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta have bought off most small independent seed companies. Today, ten of these giant corporations own 75 percent of seed patents in the world, dictating seed market prices, terms and conditions.
Unfortunately, small scale farmers have been forced to participate in the scheme of patented seeds to stay in business. Agricultural economists, Willard Cochrane defined this exploitation as an “agricultural treadmill”. Small scale farmers get trapped in the treadmill because an increase in production results in a decrease in prices. The farmer must constantly increase production for the same revenue. In order to survive in the market, farmers are forced to buy seeds from these big corporations as opposed to producing them themselves.
Farmers around the world can no longer compete in the business without the help of the patented seeds. Biotech companies have been recognized for forcing farmers to sign contracts prohibits the small scale farmer from reproducing a patented seed. Monsanto claims that purchasing the right to use a patented seed does not mean the farmer is purchasing the right to reproduce it. By monopolizing world seed production Monsanto and other huge corporations aim to control our entire food system through the use of patents. US Secretary of the State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s stated, “Control oil and you control nations. Control food and you control the people.” Corporations controlling the seed industry may have the same agenda with their undeniably ruthless power over the resources necessary for producing crops that can end world hunger.
The Global Appeal states, “We, the undersigned farmers, researchers, breeders and civil society organizations from all over the world, restate our rejection of any patents on life, and urge policy makers and patent offices to act swiftly to stop any patents being granted on conventionally bred plants…”
A Growing Monopoly…
The pleas of the Global Appeal may never be heard. Philip H. Howard from Michigan State University states in his article, Visualizing Consolidation in the Global Seed Industry, that the concentration of who owns patented seeds will continue at a rapid pace. He predicts that this will eventually result with as little as 2 to 4 firms controlling the seed industry.
“Control oil and you control nations. Control food and you control the people.”
Bottom line is…
Should every product containing GMOs be labeled? Yes. Are all GMOs good? No, but genetically modified seeds that are should be produced without forcing our local, small scale farmers onto the “agricultural treadmill”. The agricultural industry is a risky place to seek profit even with patents out of the equation. Seeds are essential to the production of most every food humans consume. For this reason, corporations should not be allowed to treat seeds as commodities, by patenting them and monopolizing the industry.
A genetically modified organism that prevents pesticides or elongates the life of a crop is an ideal GMO for any local, small scale farmer. Those of us who support local farmers cannot allow corporations to continue harassing the little guy. If we want to continue supporting local farmers we must ban corporations from patenting worldwide beneficial seeds.
Bottom line is… GMOs are not the devil, the corporations patenting them are.