(see related: Animated Charts Showing the Seed Industry Structure from Phil Howard, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University.)
On the surface, understanding the organizational structure of the seed industry may seem a pursuit into the arcane, and wonkish world of academics, and private seed breeders. This is certainly not the case!According to the ETC Group’s, November 2008 report, Who Owns Nature (PDF), 67% of the commercial seed industry is controlled by just 10 global corporations. By contrast, prior to 1950, most seeds where freely available for use by farmers, and universities, whose seed breeding research programs were held in the public domain. The rise of consolidation in the seed industry parallels the rise of biotechnology in food crops. Since 1996, when only 37% of the commercial seed business was controlled by private interests, as of 2007, that number has skyrocketed to 82%.
In a recent New York Times article, Rapid Rise in Seed Prices Draws U.S. Scrutiny, the price of corn seed, the most dominant seed crop, has risen 132% since 2001. Soybeans, another major seed crop, rose 108% over this same period of time. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating the seed industry for possible antitrust violations.