Report On Seed Giants’ Initiatives To Preserve Monopoly On Global Food 08/03/2013 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A report released yesterday by the non-profit ETC Group claims that six companies are seeking to control current priorities and the future direction of agricultural research. According to the report, giant seed companies are launching initiatives to preserve their IP rights and deflate antitrust concerns. According to the report [pdf], Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont currently control almost 60 percent of commercial seeds, over 70 percent of agrochemicals, and account for 76 percent of all private sector R&D in the two sectors. “Competition regulators pay closest attention to the share held by the top four companies in any market,” says the report. “Anti-combines rules assume an oligopoly if four firms have 40%+ of the market,” it says and “the world’s three leading seed and agrochemical companies have already blown past this milestone.” ETC, which focuses on potential socioeconomic and ecological issues related to new technologies, alleges that the agro-industry is launching initiatives solely aimed at expanding the patenting of seeds, the use of agricultural inputs, and trying to “confound regulators” in the broader context of expiring patents. In particular, the group mentions the Syngenta’s e-licensing platform, named TraitAbility, and launched in January (IPW, Patent/Design policy, 18 January 2013). The platform, which claims to offer a “free research licence for academic or non-for-profit parties,” according to Syngenta’s website, is merely a “move that encourages developing countries to adopt GE [genetically engineered] seeds and capitulate to the supremacy of patent laws, even when there is no legal obligation to do so,” according to Neth Daño from the ETC Group, quoted in the group press release [pdf]. The group also criticises the framework developed by leading seed companies to address the upcoming expiry of patents. Named “the Accord,” the framework includes two agreements: the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEEMA), and the Data Use and Compensation Agreement (DUCA) (IPW, Patent/Design policy, 5 February 2013). With the first of the commercial biotechnology traits going off patent in 2015, the Accord seeks to find a solution to the maintenance of global regulatory authorisations for those traits, according to industry sources. According to the report, the contracts that will be issued in the context of the Accord “will ultimately control the terms of access to expired traits and reinforce market power among a handful of giant seed companies,” said the release. The report also points to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), which it claims is trying “to get bargain GE seeds and traits in the hands of farmers in the global South.” According to its website, the CIMMYT’s mission is “to deliver the best seed, agronomy, and agricultural research to farmers in the developing world.” On 15 February, the CIMMYT inaugurated a US$25 million research complex at its headquarters in El Batan, Mexico, according to a press release. “The buildings inaugurated today are the result of the Carlos Slim Foundation’s investment in CIMMYT. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partners with CIMMYT in projects to fight hunger around the world,” it said. The ETC Group calls for antitrust regulators not to allow “an oligopoly to control global agricultural inputs,” adding that “national governments and UN agencies must take urgent action.” In particular, they ask that the United Nations Committee on World Food Security address the issue at its October meeting in Rome, and that the UN Conference on Trade and Development undertake a special investigation of the economic implications for developing countries. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Report On Seed Giants’ Initiatives To Preserve Monopoly On Global Food" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.