Friday, March 26, 2010


Amongst the inputs for agriculture the role of quality and reliability of seeds is most critical in ensuring high productivity. Under the conventional agriculture the farmers save a part of their production for seed purpose for use in the next season. But high yielding and biotechnology based seeds do not lend themselves to repeated use in the next generation affecting the yield significantly making their dependence on the seed supplier a perennial one. As the cost of such bought out seeds increases the production cost also goes up threatening the margins of the farmer. The situation is assuming alarming proportion affecting the stability of global grain prices.

"A decade ago, salesmen from as many as 50 seed companies would compete for their dollars. Each would promise healthier plants, richer yields or a better discount. Today the Leakes have little choice: There are four seed companies in their area, and all sell seeds that include genetic traits patented and licensed by Monsanto Co., the world's largest seed firm. "There's basically nothing else available," said Leake, 48. "You have to use their seeds and pay their prices." The concerns of farmers such as Leake will take center stage in Ankeny, Iowa, on Friday as the Justice Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture kick off the first of a yearlong series of public meetings to examine whether antitrust practices in agriculture are driving food prices higher. The meetings are intended to allow producers, competitors and activists to air their concerns about the grain, poultry, dairy and livestock industries. The government is also trying to ferret out reasons for the sometimes vast gaps between what farmers are paid for producing food and the prices shoppers pay at the grocery store. Justice Department officials, who spoke on background because they said it was too early to comment about concerns raised at the meetings, said the workshops were a chance for the government to examine the changes the food sector had undergone in recent years".

While it may be fashionable to criticize the seed monopoly that exists to day, a solution to this vexed issue is still to be found. Obviously dependence on the conventional agriculture system cannot meet the increasing demand for food by the growing population and mankind has to come to terms with more advanced technologies for food production that will not destroy nature and jeopardize human safety.


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