The Gene Giants

                                                                             Adapted from

                     “GENE GIANTS” and the SEED INDUSTRY

In the first half of the 20th century, seeds were overwhelmingly in the hands of farmers and public-sector plant breeders. In the decades since then, the Bio Tech firms known as “Gene Giants,” have used intellectual property laws to commodify the world seed supply – a strategy that aims to control plant germplasm and maximize profits by eliminating Farmers’ Rights.

Today, the proprietary seed market accounts for a staggering share of the world’s commercial seed supply. In less than three decades, a handful of multinational corporations have engineered a fast and furious corporate enclosure of the first link in the food chain.

According to Context Network, the proprietary seed market (that is, brand- name seed that is subject to exclusive monopoly – i.e., intellectual property), now accounts for 82% of the commercial seed market worldwide. In 2007, the global proprietary seed market was US$22,000 million. (The total commercial seed market was valued at $26,700 million in 2007.) The commercial seed market, of course, does not include farmer-saved seed.

The World’s Top 10 Seed Companies
Company – 2007 seed sales (US$ millions) – % of global proprietary seed market
1.Monsanto (US) – $4,964m – 23%
2.DuPont (US) – $3,300m – 15%
3.Syngenta (Switzerland) – $2,018m – 9%
4.Groupe Limagrain (France) – $1,226m – 6%
5.Land O’ Lakes (US) – $917m – 4%
6.KWS AG (Germany) – $702m – 3%
7.Bayer Crop Science (Germany) – $524m – 2%
8.Sakata (Japan) – $396m – <2%
9.DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) – $391m – <2%
10.Takii (Japan) – $347m – <2%
Top 10 Total – $14,785m – 67% [of global proprietary seed market]
Source: ETC Group
Weed killers (herbicides) account for about one-third of the global pesticide market, and around 80% of GM seeds involve herbicide-resistance.

So, it follows that the world’s largest seed companies are also the world’s largest pesticide firms.

World’s Top 10 Pesticide Firms   
Company – Agrochemical Sales 2007 (US$ millions) – % Market Share

1.Bayer (Germany) – $7,458m – 19%
2.Syngenta (Switzerland) – $7,285m – 19%
3.BASF (Germany) – $4,297m – 11%
4.Dow AgroSciences (USA) – $3,779m – 10%
5.Monsanto (USA) – $3,599m – 9%
6.DuPont (USA) – $2,369m – 6%
7.Makhteshim Agan (Israel) – $1,895m – 5%
8.Nufarm (Australia) – $1,470m – 4%
9.Sumitomo Chemical (Japan) – $1,209m – 3%
10.Arysta Lifescience (Japan) – $1,035m – 3%
Total $34,396m – 89%
Source: Agrow World Crop Protection News, August 2008

The worldwide market for agrochemicals was US$38.6 billion in 2007 – up 8.4% over the previous year.  The top 6 companies accounted for $28.8 billion, or 75% of the total market.

Pesticide revenues are up in nearly all regions [particularly South America].

Weed killers account for about one-third of the global pesticide market, and agrochemical giants are ratcheting up R&D on new herbicides and herbicide-tolerant genes. Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant (Roundup Ready) crops have reigned supreme on the biotech scene for over a decade – creating a near-monopoly for the company’s Roundup Ready herbicide – which is now off patent.

As a result, farmers must employ more toxic chemicals to kill the resistant weeds. Commonly known as the “pesticide treadmill,” it’s a classic case of chasing a new techno-fix to mop up the mess of an older, failed technology. Agrochemical giants prefer to describe the resistance problem as a business opportunity: In the words of Syngenta’s Crop Science CEO, John Atkin: “Resistance is actually quite healthy for our market, because we have to innovate.”


Extracted from the report:

Who Owns Nature?
by the ETC Group
…or Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration

ETC Group is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights. To this end, ETC Group supports socially responsible developments of technologies useful to the poor and marginalized and it addresses international governance issues and corporate power.

ETC Group works in partnership with civil society organizations (CSOs) for cooperative and sustainable self-reliance within disadvantaged societies, by providing information and analysis of socioeconomic and technological trends and alternatives. ETC Group’s strength is in the research and analysis of technological information (particularly but not exclusively plant genetic resources, biotechnologies, and [in general] biological diversity), and in the development of strategic options related to the socioeconomic ramifications of new technologies.

ETC Group works primarily at the global and regional (continental or sub-continental) levels. ETC Group does not undertake grassroots, community, or national work. ETC Group supports partnerships with community, national, or regional CSOs but ETC does not make grants or funds available to other organizations. We do not have members.

Context Network provides business management and strategy consulting services to the world’s leading agriculture, biotechnology, biofuels and food companies, government agencies and institutions.


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