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Corn+Soybean Digest

Seed Concentration Debate

Fairness, innovation and competition are what the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) wants to see within the U.S. seed industry. The group asserts that concentration and unfair trade practices have limited the availability of top seed and genetics at competitive prices and weakened the federal government’s role in regulating the industry.

OCM members met in St. Louis recently to discuss pursuing “aggressive and appropriate premarket regulation.” OCM has publicly opposed biotechnology, stacking trait technologies and concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs). In its Crop Seed Concentration Project findings, officials noted, “Monsanto’s effort to enforce licensing agreements and protect its patent rights has dramatically altered American agriculture.”

Monsanto spokesperson Lee Quarles disagrees with the findings, pointing to industry rival DuPont’s financial support of OCM. “It is disappointing that they would openly attack a company that is completely committed to agriculture and helping farmers improve yields through the development of biotech traits. Their funds would be better spent elsewhere in doing something positive for farmers,” he says.

Diana Moss, vice president, American Antitrust Institute, argues that Monsanto exhibits anticompetitive behavior in the transgenic seed industry. She cited high barriers of entry into the market and described Monsanto’s efforts to buy independent seed companies as the behavior of an “entrenched, dominant firm…trying to protect its place in the market.”

“It starts to look pretty ugly from a dominant firm perspective,” she says. “It is about as far away as you can get from how competition should work…and is the same concerns seen in the Microsoft, Intel and Kodak antitrust monopolization cases.”

Monsanto’s Quarles says, “Monsanto licenses its technology broadly to our largest competitors and to about 200 U.S. independent seed companies. We believe this approach allows farmers to purchase products from the companies they prefer. Our competitors are the largest sellers of our technologies. In corn and soybeans, that is Pioneer Hi-Bred. At the end of the day, farmers are the decision-makers. It’s our job to discover and deliver the highest yielding seed offerings each season if we want to keep their business.”

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